Interview with UGA Athletic Director Vince Dooley

Editor's Note: Contributing Editor Tim Gardner recently conducted an exclusive interview with University of Georgia athletic director and coaching legend Vince Dooley. Read on for Coach Dooley's thoughts on a multitude of issues and topics. "Your 1980 Georgia Bulldogs compiled an undefeated season (12-0) and were consensus National Champions. Your 1968 team also had an unbeaten regular season and was declared National Champion by one poll. These championships certainly have to be two of the pinnacle highlights of your coaching career. Are these teams usually where your fondest coaching memories start?"

Coach Dooley: "Both the 1980 and the 1968 teams were undefeated, and consequently hold a very special place in my coaching memories. Both were Southeastern Conference champions, but the 1980 team was untied and unbeaten and were declared consensus National Champions which separated it from the ‘68 team which had two ties.

"The 1980 team will be celebrating its 20th reunion this year (Ole Miss game weekend, November 18), and we expect a large number of players to return including Herschel Walker and Terry Hoage, both consensus All Americans." "Besides the national championship victory over Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, what are some of the wins that gave you the most satisfaction as Georgia's head football coach?"

Coach Dooley: "In addition to the national championship victory over Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, the victory over Texas in the ‘84 Cotton Bowl was very special since we were a vast underdog and Texas would have been the national champions had we not won. Our team finished third or fourth in the country that year. A couple of special highlight games early in my career include beating Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1965, the former Big Ten champion that went on to the Rose Bowl, along with defeating defending national champion Alabama in 1965 who went on to become national champions again that same year.

"All of the games against Auburn that we won and which clinched championships for us such as the ‘66 Auburn game are special, of course. The Florida game in ‘66 was also special because it was so instrumental in our winning the SEC Championship.

"Two of the great games that we played were against our arch rival, Georgia Tech. In 1971 our team came back and drove 68 yards to score with 14 seconds left to beat Tech on national television. Also, in 1978, in a game where the lead changed hands several times, we ended up scoring and going for two to beat Georgia Tech 29-28. There were many, many more special wins, but those certainly are some that come to mind right away." "You've been an advocate of a one-game, college Super Bowl. Some may contend that with the BCS system that such a game exists. But under the current set-up, does the National Championship game de-value the other BCS and Bowl games?"

Coach Dooley: "The BCS system is a step toward a one game college super bowl which I believe is the next step. However, while the BCS system does provide a national championship game, it does devalue the other BCS and bowl games. There is evidence of that based on ratings and crowds." "You are the immediate Past Chairman of the NCAA Football Rules Committee. What key legislation did you help get passed to better the college game during your tenure as Chairman that you are most proud of?"

Coach Dooley: "Most of the legislation that I dealt with centered around non-contact fouls regarding sportsmanship. We did enact a strong measure against fighting, and we passed legislation that prevented excessive "look at me" types of celebration which was bringing much discredit to the game." "You've defined coaching as a "Series of Crises". What exactly do you mean by that?"

Coach Dooley: "Certainly, coaching is surviving a series of crises, and I have had exceptional experience along those lines, both on and off the field.

"There were two or three times when our fans were very disgruntled. One was in the late ‘60s after we had won two SEC Championships and we had a break even season in 1970. We came back, however, and survived the crisis by going 11-1, winning the Gator Bowl and being ranked 7th in the country.

"Another crisis occurred in 1974 when we went for about three years just winning seven or eight games a season, and in 1974 we ended up losing in the Tangerine (now the Citrus) Bowl which gave us a break even record. We responded by going to the Cotton Bowl in 1975 and winning the SEC Championship in 1976. Another was in 1979, again having a mediocre 6-5 record, but we responded by winning the National Championship and made a run of 43-4-1 which was the best four-year record in college football at the time.

"Crises also came off the field. The Jan Kemp crisis was very damaging to the University of Georgia, but we were able to respond to that crisis and survived it." "What was the greatest reward you received from coaching?"

Coach Dooley: "Without a doubt, it was very satisfying that during the course of my career we were highly respected as a football team and were regarded as well-coached and a fighting team. In most cases, we were "in" every game that we played for all four quarters and played hard and maintained good morale." "What is the greatest satisfaction you receive from being Director of Athletics at the University of Georgia?"

Coach Dooley: "The greatest satisfaction from being Director of Athletics comes from working toward the goal of putting a program together in which all the sports have an opportunity to compete at the highest level. The fact that our teams have won six national championships in the last two years, and other teams have been "knocking on the door" several times such as our women's basketball team. We also have recently hired some excellent coaches which should help us to be competitive at the highest level in all of our sports." "What is the toughest job you have as Director of Athletics?"

Coach Dooley: "The toughest job facing a Director of Athletics is making a decision to change the leadership in a particular program. It is extremely tough, particularly if you have great respect for a coach who has worked hard and the situation just has not worked out. It is a different atmosphere in college athletics today as opposed to a generation ago. Because of high salaries, everyone expects for us to be able to compete at a level which will win us a reasonable amount of games year in and year out, and to operate a program that will bring credit to the State and the University." "What is the status of the construction projects on the Athletic Association's drawing board?"

Coach Dooley: "The new SkySuites are complete, and all of the units are sold. Their owners are already enjoying the amenities they afford since our first game was Saturday, September 2.

"The Academic Achievement Center is slated to begin construction in November. Prior to that time, we are working to raise the additional funds we need to completely pay for the facility. The Indoor Practice Facility will be our next project after the Academic Achievement Center." "The University of Georgia Athletic Association has received a great deal of criticism over the new football parking plan for home games. What are your thoughts on this issue and what is your response to those who are critical of the plan?"

Coach Dooley: "The new football parking plan has caused a lot of concern for our fans and supporters, and understandably so. We certainly did not desire to disrupt the long time traditions of tailgating that so many have established. However, because of ongoing construction on the University campus and in Athens, we have no choice but to restructure the parking plan. We lost two key lots which had previously been restricted to donors. Therefore, we had to relocate these fans to other locations.

"There is also a great concern for safety and the ability to enable emergency vehicles to reach various areas on campus. This year will be the first year for the new plan, and it will be a "trial" of sorts with revisions and improvements being made in the future." "Many college coaches and administrators have expressed concern that information which should remain confidential is being posted on many web sites that cover their teams-especially on message boards. What are your general thoughts about independent web sites that cover athletic teams?"

Coach Dooley: "Web sites are a concern, and there is a worry over the lack of control of information and breach of confidentiality on these sites." "This is shaping up to be a very exciting and highly productive year for Georgia Athletics. While you always seek perfection, what are your realistic expectations for the various Bulldog teams this school year?"

Coach Dooley: "This is indeed shaping up to be a very exciting year for Georgia Athletics. We are coming off two national championships, women's swimming and women's tennis from this past year and four from the year before that, women's swimming, men's golf, men's tennis and gymnastics. We have hired some outstanding new coaches to lead our women's golf, soccer, softball and volleyball programs, and the future looks bright indeed." "You've had a longtime interest in politics and you've flirted with running for the United States Senate and Governor of Georgia. However, each time you decided not to run and to remain with the University of Georgia. Is there a chance you will still seek public office?"

Coach Dooley: "I will probably not seek public office at this time. At one point, I did seriously consider it. My mind wanted to do it, but my heart was not totally in it, and I think a career in politics would require one's total self involved in order to be successful. I have always had my heart and soul totally in athletics." "During the last ten years or so of your coaching career there was speculation that you would be retiring at any moment. The same has held true for much of your stint as athletic director. Your current contract expires in the summer of 2001. What are your future plans involving your job at the University of Georgia?"

Coach Dooley: "As to my future plans, I like what I am doing, and hope to be able to continue for another four years at least. I serve at the pleasure of the President of the University, however, and that will be his decision. I continue to have a lot of energy, and there are a lot of things I would like to accomplish in Georgia athletics, such as building our athletic programs and facilities, and I would like to be able to see what we have started through to fruition." "What do you think about the prospects of the 2000 Georgia Football team? Can the Bulldogs be as good as projected?"

Coach Dooley: "The football team is very capable of being as good as projected provided we can minimize injuries and the 'ball bounces properly'." "What are the most immediate challenges for the Georgia athletic program?"

Coach Dooley: "The most immediate challenge to the University of Georgia athletic program is the football season. The team needs to beat the likes of Tennessee and Florida, as well as paying back some of our other rivals."

Photos courtesy of UGA Sports Communications

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