Vince Dooley, the Hall of Fame University of Georgia football coach who brought a national championship to Athens in 1980, died Friday at age 90.
Dooley died peacefully at his home this afternoon in the presence of his wife, Barbara, and their four children, according to a UGA obituary.
“I join the entire Bulldog Nation in expressing our sadness over the loss of our legendary and treasured athletic leader and dear friend,” UGA President Jere Morehead said in a statement. “I first had the opportunity to spend significant time with Coach Dooley when I served as Faculty Athletics Representative 20 years ago. I have always been grateful for the many ways he worked to make the University of Georgia a stronger and better institution. My fondest memory is going to his home to tell him we planned to name Dooley Field in his honor. He will be missed by all who had the opportunity to know and learn from him. We extend our deepest sympathy to Barbara and all members of the Dooley family.”
Other tributes are already pouring in from the Bulldog Nation:
Born in Mobile, AL, in 1932, Dooley played football and basketball at Auburn before joining the Marines, then returned to Auburn as an assistant football coach.
Georgia hired him as its head coach in 1963, when he was just 31—a position he would hold for 25 years. Besides the aforementioned national title, Dooley’s teams won six SEC championships and played in 20 bowl games, and he coached 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
“Anybody in coaching that wins a national championship has reached the mountaintop, but the continuity of success is what set Vince apart,” longtime sideline reporter and friend Loran Smith told the AJC. “He’s one of very few coaches that had great success as both a coach and an administrator.”
Dooley was named athletic director in 1979, then stepped down from coaching in 1988. He was forced out in a power struggle with then-UGA President Michael Adams in 2004. During his tenure as athletic director, UGA built numerous new athletic facilities and excelled in several sports, but struggled in football under his coaching successors until the arrival of Mark Richt in 2001. His legacy was also tainted by the Jan Kemp tutoring scandal in the early 1980s that led to President Fred Davison’s resignation, as well as academic fraud under basketball coach Jim Harrick in the early 2000s.
In addition to his professional achievements, Dooley was a fixture in the Athens community, living in the same Five Points home for nearly 60 years, and was well-known for his interest in gardening, the arts and Civil War history, in addition to supporting too many charitable causes to name.
He also dabbled in politics, and was recruited by both parties to run for U.S. Senate or governor. Barbara Dooley eventually ran for Congress in 2002, losing in the Republican primary. Vince never ran, but he did often endorse conservative candidates like Gov. Brian Kemp, state Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) and Walker, who’s running for Senate this year.
Dooley was hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia earlier this month. A cause of death has not been announced.
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