Dean Legge / Dawg Post

Vince Dooley's Unexpected Legacy at UGA

ATHENS - About seven years ago I had a conversation with a long-time and loyal UGA staffer about the coaches at Georgia.

The gist of the conversation was that Georgia was very lucky it had the coaches it had at the time. UGA was also very luck that those coaches loved the institution. I didn’t really think or consider the conversation very much other than to put it in my memory bank. But now I am having a more difficult time erasing the the reality of that conversation so many years ago. 

UGA was set up for success a long time ago, and the coaches who were in place then (it was close to the end of Damon Evans’ time in Athens when I had this chat) were winning at a pretty amazing clip. 

It was a different era in Athens. Multiple national titles in an academic year was the norm. 

From 1999 until 2008, UGA won 17 NCAA national titles. From 2009 until the close of this academic year UGA won four. None of those totals include indoor national titles for tennis or any equestrian titles as they are not NCAA titles - national titles for sure, but not NCAA national titles. 

From 1999 until 2008 UGA won 39 SEC titles. From 2009 until the close of this academic year UGA won 19.

Now that’s a ten-year period vs. an eight year period, but the drop off is as obvious as it is concerning. I doubt many folks would argue that UGA will win 13 national titles and 20 SEC titles in the next two years to square up the numbers. 

While we can’t judge success on winning national titles alone, it is noticeable that winning in Athens has fallen off. It is concerning, too, that three of UGA’s “biggest” sports - Football, Baseball and Men’s Basketball - have struggled to find their footing for quite some time. Two of the three coaches in those sports have been terminated since Greg McGarity has arrived, and the one survivor, Mark Fox, hasn’t won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. An argument could be made that Men’s Basketball at UGA is an uphill battle (that’s hard to argue), but no Power 5 coach has been at his institution as coach as long as Mark Fox has been at Georgia without winning an NCAA Tournament game. Everyone else has either won a NCAA Tournament game, been fired or hasn’t been at their school seven years. 

But I digress… Baseball has had five losing seasons in a row; Men’s Basketball hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in a decade and a half; and Football hasn’t won the SEC title in more than a decade. 

As stated above, UGA has won four national titles and 19 SEC titles in the last eight seasons. All of those coaches were hired more than a decade ago. In other words, if you were good before Vince Dooley left, you are good now. If you have been hired after Dooley left, well…  

That most folks rightly remember Dooley for winning the 1980 football title is understandable. That’s what he will be remembered for the most during his decades at UGA. But Dooley (perhaps unexpectedly) set up UGA for one of the best runs in all of athletics the school has ever seen. 

Dooley may be long gone, but his unexpectedly legacy of coaches like Jeff Wallace, Manny Diaz, Chris Haack, Lu Harris-Champer and Jack Bauerle remains.

What has happened to UGA’s athletic department? Its not money. Since 2004 UGA’s athletic budget has tripled. TRIPLED. From around $45 million to just over $123 million. Money has never been a problem at Georgia. Never has been - never will be.

Someone or something needs to explain why winning titles has suddenly become so difficult at UGA. Its an explanation many would like to hear.

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