Minutes after the name “Dooley Field” was officially unveiled at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, before Georgia kicked off vs. Murray State, Vince Dooley reflected back on his hiring in 1963.
He kept it honest -- looking back on his credentials at the time, as a former Auburn player and assistant coach for the Tigers, the move was unexpected.
“You can’t say that I was the most well-received coach that had ever been hired. … As I look at those credentials, there’s no way that as an administrator, that I would have hired myself,” said Dooley, who had watched the unveiling surrounded by family and captains from every team he coached at Georgia over the years. “31-year-old, freshman coach at a rival school.”
Dooley knows a thing or two about making good hires (during his tenure as athletic director from 1979-2004, Georgia teams won 23 national championships and 78 SEC team championships).
But his own hiring by athletic director Joel Eaves, despite his lower profile at the time, turned out to be a stellar one, as he turned into the football coach with the most wins in school history with a record of 201-77-10, with a national championship in 1980 and six SEC championships to his name. He coached football for Georgia until Jan. 1, 1989.
Dooley’s footprint on Georgia athletics is far-reaching, with his legacy already solidified. But naming the field in his honor takes it a step further for the former coach and administrator, who has received many national honors including the John Wooden Citizen Cup Award and the Bear Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It was a moving experience, a moving day,” Dooley said. “I’m thankful for all of the people that were a part of making it happen, and all the people that share in this, which is the greatest thrill of all. The players, family, cheerleaders, band, the managers, the trainers. Some very special people in Bulldog nation.”
More than any accomplishment, Dooley hopes he set a good example for players over the years.
But Dooley, who recently turned 87, will be grateful when things settle down for him as focus shifts back to the team.
“Everybody has been gracious, been so nice, have said so many nice things,” Dooley said. “But I told some close friends, it’s all been great, but I’ll be glad when it’s over, to focus all the attention back to where it should be, on the football team. And it will happen. It may not happen the next week, like it should, but the following week at Notre Dame, it’s going to be total focus, and I’ll be fading away in the sunlight in my garden.”
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