It’s a sad weekend for college football fans everywhere, as legendary football coach Vince Dooley passed away at the age of 90 on Friday evening.
Dooley, who was head coach at the University of Georgia from 1964 to 1988 and served as the school’s athletic director from 1979 to 2004, coached the Bulldogs to the national championship during the 1980 season. During Dooley’s tenure as head coach, the Dawgs won six Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships as well.
“Legendary former University of Georgia football coach and director of athletics Vince Dooley died peacefully at his home in the presence of his wife and their four children Friday afternoon at the age of 90,” the university said in a statement. “A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as the Georgia and Alabama Sports Halls of Fame, Dooley is Georgia’s winningest football coach with 201 victories, six SEC titles and the 1980 national championship in his 25 years leading the Bulldogs (1964-88). He was also the recipient of numerous awards for his service as director of athletics over a 25 year tenure (1979-2004).”
It is impossible to quantify what Coach Dooley has meant to the University of Georgia. He embodied everything that UGA represents and made where this program stands today possible. Dawg Nation, we celebrate and honor the life of a DGD! Thank you, Coach. pic.twitter.com/0MGmFxo3dh
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) October 28, 2022
Vincent Joseph Dooley was born Sept. 4, 1932, in Mobile, Ala., and received a scholarship to play football at Auburn University, where he played quarterback. After graduating from Auburn, he spent two years in the Marine Corps and worked as an assistant coach under Auburn Head Coach “Shug” Jordan before UGA came calling.
It didn’t take long for Dooley to see success as Georgia’s head coach, as the Bulldogs won the first SEC championship of Dooley’s career in 1966. Of course, the year that fans remember most is 1980, when the Dawgs won the national championship. After that season, Dooley’s alma mater tried to lure him back to coach the Auburn Tigers, but he stayed at UGA.
After retiring as head coach, Dooley stayed on for another decade-and-a-half as athletic director. After that, he stayed in Athens and wrote books, taught horticulture classes, and continued to serve as an ambassador to the University of Georgia. The university erected a statue of Dooley outside the football practice facility in 2008 and named the field at Sanford Stadium after him in 2019.
Through it all, Dooley remained humble.
“I can’t say that I was the most well-received coach who has ever been hired,” ESPN reported Dooley saying in 2019. “When I look at those credentials, there’s no way as an administrator that I would’ve hired myself. A 31-year-old freshman coach at a rival school? Now suppose you had to hire somebody at an institution like Georgia and say this is the coach.”
Seth Emerson wrote in The Athletic, “He spent half his life burnishing his legend, then the other half acting like he wasn’t one.”
“He was so accessible that people might have taken him for granted,” Emerson continued. “There was no mystery to Vince Dooley. There was no allure, at least not on the level that there should have been. But he deserves to be remembered as a giant. Because that’s what Vince Dooley was at Georgia, in all three stages of his life in Athens.”
Coach Dooley waded into political waters. He flirted with running for the Senate as a Democrat in 1986 back when the Democrats in Georgia were fairly conservative. Later on, there were rumors that the GOP tried to recruit him to run for office. His wife Barbara did a stint in conservative talk radio in Athens a few years back, and Dooley appeared with Donald Trump at a rally. He also filmed a commercial for Senate candidate Herschel Walker just a couple of weeks ago, and the ad made its debut last week.
Dooley continued to sign autographs at every UGA home game up until he came down with COVID-19 earlier this month. When he had recovered, he said that he was ready to go back to greeting fans at the bookstore every home Saturday, but he wasn’t able to. He died peacefully at home. He was survived by his wife Barbara, four children, and 11 grandchildren.
Tributes to Dooley have poured in from all over the South.
“Vince Dooley was one of my favorite people in the world and a wonderful friend to the entire Saban Family,” said University of Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban in a statement. “Vince represented the University of Georgia and all of college football with tremendous integrity and class as both a coach and athletics director. No place was that more evident than his impact on the young men he led over a lifetime as a coach. Terry and I are deeply saddened to learn of his passing and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Barbara and their entire family. He will be missed by many.”
Our family is heartbroken by the death of Coach Dooley. He was one of a kind with an unmatched love for UGA! He and Barbara embraced my family from day one. He will be missed in our community, university, and in college athletics.
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) October 28, 2022
In loving memory of Vince Dooley, former Auburn player and coach and one of the most iconic figures in the history of the SEC.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dooley family and our friends at the University of Georgia. pic.twitter.com/9LpCe3OyTa
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) October 28, 2022
Thank you Coach Dooley, for being one of the greatest men I have ever known. You mean more to me than you’ll ever know. I am the man I am because of you. Thank you for everything. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/NVB4dDTkKY
— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) October 28, 2022
My lasting image of Vince Dooley will be this, him standing on the field in Indianapolis as the Georgia team celebrated around him. Smiling. Confetti on his shoulders. Then being embraced by Kirby Smart. It was perfect. Godspeed, Coach. pic.twitter.com/rqPdmjP71S
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) October 28, 2022
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) October 28, 2022
Legendary Georgia football coach Vince Dooley has died at the age of 90.
• 1980 National Championship
• Six SEC championships
• Winningest football coach in Georgia history
One of the all-time greats. pic.twitter.com/7S1u7q9YDN
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 28, 2022
Absolutely heartbreaking to hear about the passing of Vince Dooley. He was one of the kindest people I have ever met. The world was a better place with Vince here but I know he is in a better place.
— David Pollack (@davidpollack47) October 28, 2022
Sorry to hear the news of coach Dooleys passing. Obviously one of the greatest coaches of all time. But also the man who hired me and mentored me in my first head coaching opportunity at Georgia. I owe a lot to Coach. May God bless Barbara and the rest of the Dooley family!
— Mark Richt (@MarkRicht) October 28, 2022
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) October 28, 2022
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 29, 2022
Vince Dooley was truly a “Damn Good Dawg.” Rest in Peace, Coach.