This is Georgia-Florida weekend. The Gators had won eight of nine in Jacksonville before Dooley was hired to replace Johnny Griffith. (That house on Milledge Circle? It was vacated by Griffith.) Dooley’s Bulldogs were 17-7-1 against the hated Gators. In 1975, Georgia won on an end-around pass by Richard Appleby. Ten years later, the Bulldogs would overwhelm Florida, ranked No. 1 for the first time ever, 24-3.
That came on a day when Georgia’s quarterback attempted only seven passes. When they can’t stop your running, why throw? The Bulldogs’ national championship was claimed when Buck Belue completed but one pass against Notre Dame. (In Belue’s defense, the completion iced the game.) Dooley took Herschel Walker and won three SEC titles. Georgia’s record over those three seasons: 33-3. Its record in Year 1 post-Herschel: 10-1-1. The man could coach.
The man, though, wasn’t just a coach. He wasn’t a glad-hander – he didn’t play golf – but he could talk until the cows came home. He wasn’t a lecturer, either. If you had something worth saying, he was happy to hear it. He laughed at your jokes. He was an ardent lender of books. (As we speak, two of his rest on the Bradley bookshelf.) He liked watching basketball – he played guard at Auburn.
He had a clear idea of who he was and what he meant to UGA, but he was sheepish about compliments. When he announced his retirement from coaching in 1988, a guy writing for the AJC gushed to the extent that Dooley said, at his press briefing the next day, “I thought I was reading my obituary.” The same fingers are typing these words.
Vincent Joseph Dooley died Friday. He was 90. Not many people have lived fuller lives. Not many have had a deeper hunger for knowledge. I’m sorry he’s gone, but sorrow will fade. What won’t is the honor of having known the man. Reader’s Digest used to run a feature entitled: “My Most Memorable Character.” Vince was mine.