Legendary University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley dies at 90

ATHENS, Ga. — Former University of Georgia coach and Athletic Director Vince Dooley -- the heart of the Bulldog Nation -- has died.

Dooley died Friday at his home in Athens. He was 90 years old.

“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).”

Dooley was hospitalized with a mild case of COVID-19 in early October, but was released on Oct. 12.

Dooley told Channel 2 Action News at the time that he fully intended to attend this weekend’s UGA/Florida football game.

His cause of death has not been released.

Current UGA coach Kirby Smart tweeted that he was devastated at losing Dooley.

“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,” Smart wrote.

Dooley may have been born in Alabama and educated at Auburn, but he lived and died a Georgia Bulldog.

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His death ends what many considered to be the golden age of UGA sports.

Georgia hired the virtual unknown to be its head coach back in 1963.

Dooley resisted coaching at first, thinking it “an insecure business.” He had an offer to go into banking when he left the Marine Corps, and only after some hesitation did he take a job on Shug Jordan’s staff at Auburn. Even then he was readying himself.

He spent five years tutoring quarterbacks and then asked to take charge of the freshman team, just to see if he could actually coach.


Over the next 25 years, he won six SEC titles and one national championship.

That came in 1980, with freshman tailback Herschel Walker leading the way.

It was Georgia’s first national championship since 1942.

When Lindsay Scott caught the famous 93-yard touchdown pass from Buck Belue to beat Florida in Jacksonville that same year, Dooley ran step for step with Scott for nearly 40 yards.

Years later, Dooley became athletic director and, under his guidance, UGA’s sports programs rose to national prominence.

The school won 20 national championships and 77 SEC titles.

He fought for women’s athletics, oversaw seven Sanford Stadium expansion projects and was instrumental in bringing the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games to Athens.

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Dooley and his wife, Barbara, raised two sons, Daniel and Derek, and two daughters, Deanna and Denise. They were a football family, living in a football town.

Football was all-consuming for Dooley. It separated him from his family. During the season, he would eat one meal a week at home and then flit back to the office. Barbara Dooley acknowledges that she basically raised the children by herself. “We just knew,” Deanna said, “that he couldn’t be at all our stuff.”

Summer vacations were focused to a fault. Determined to cram everything possible into a fortnight, Dooley would stop at every historical marker. “It was fun,” his son Daniel Dooley said, “and then it became not fun. We’d be saying, ‘OK, Dad. Just get us to the beach.’”

Dooley had considered running for governor as a conservative Democrat in 1990, and he hired a political consultant. But he kept waking up feeling there “was something wrong,” he said. “Mentally, I wanted to do it.” Emotionally, he decided, he did not.

Dooley retired in June 2004 at the age of 71 after a very controversial power struggle with the university’s president.

He wasn’t ready to leave UGA when he did, and said, “We always say, and it’s so true, that the highs are never as high as the lows are low.”

He remained the face of Georgia football and a staple in the Athens community

Dooley will always be Georgia, and the Bulldog Nation wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mark Bradley with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.


Gallery: https://www.ajc.com/news/talking-business-with-uga-legend-vince-dooley/M5L9JGGD6tpm4CYn3mGrsO/

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