UNC Athletic Communications

Former UNC Coach Bill Dooley Passes Away

No one coached Tar Heel football longer than Bill Dooley.

CHAPEL HILL – Bill Dooley, the head football coach at the University of North Carolina from 1967-77, passed away this morning in Wilmington, N.C. He was 82 years old and died of natural causes.

The Dooley family issued the following statement: “Coach Bill Dooley passed away this morning. He will be missed by his family and friends and will be remembered by all of us whose lives he has touched so deeply.”

Dooley led the Tar Heels for 11 seasons, the longest tenure of any head football coach in UNC history, and posted a record of 69-53-2, which set the school record for career wins. Subsequently, only Dick Crum ever surpassed Dooley’s win total at Carolina (Crum won 72 from 1978-87). Mack Brown also won 69 games from 1988-97.

“Coach Dooley was a great coach and an even better man who made a lasting impact on this university and on college football as a whole,” says Carolina head coach Larry Fedora. “He touched the lives of the young men who played for him in a profound and special way. He proved that Carolina was a program that could produce a winning tradition and his legacy is something we strive to uphold each and every day. Our thoughts are with Marie and the entire Dooley family in this very difficult time.”

Known as the “Trench Fighter,” Dooley is the only Carolina football coach to win multiple Atlantic Coast Conference championships. He led the Tar Heels to ACC titles in 1971, 1972 and 1977. The Tar Heels set the school record for wins in a season by going 11-1 in 1972. He became the head coach and director of athletics at Virginia Tech in 1978.

Carolina played in six postseason bowl games under Dooley – the 1970 Peach, 1971 Gator, 1972 Sun, 1974 Sun, 1976 Peach and 1977 Liberty. The Tar Heels finished in the Associated Press top 20 twice (12th in 1972 and 17th in 1977) and three times finished in the UPI top 20 (18th in 1971, tied for 14th in 1972 and 14th in 1977).

Dooley is credited by many football observers for raising the level of play across the ACC. Former Virginia coach Don Lawrence said: “The ACC is tougher now than it has ever been. I hate to admit it, but Bill Dooley is responsible for it all. He came into this league and worked around the clock to build a fine program. Now everyone else started working overtime to catch up. Dooley turned ACC football around.”

Five Tar Heels earned first-team All-America honors while playing for Dooley – Don McCauley in 1970, Ron Rusnak in 1972, Ken Huff and Charles Waddell in 1974, and Dee Hardison in 1977. McCauley was the ACC Player of the Year in 1969 and 1970, breaking the NCAA single-season rushing record as a senior with 1,720 yards. Mike Voight, another of UNC’s 1,000-yard rushers under Dooley, was ACC Player of the Year in 1975 and 1976. A year later, freshman Amos Lawrence was the league’s top rookie after rushing for 1,211 yards. Five different Tar Heels rushed for 1,000 or more yards in a season a total of eight times from 1969-77. Dooley recruited and coached future All-Pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor for one season.

Dooley was the ACC Coach of the Year in 1971 when he led the Tar Heels to a 9-3 record and the ACC championship.

Dooley came to Chapel Hill at age 33 from the University of Georgia, where he was the chief offensive assistant for three seasons to his brother, Vince, who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Bulldogs.

He also was head coach at Virginia Tech from 1978-86 where he posted a record of 63-38-1, and at Wake Forest from 1987-92. He led the Deacons to a 29-36-2 mark in six seasons in Winston-Salem. Combined, Dooley was a head coach for 26 years and won 161 games.

Born in 1934 in Mobile, Ala., Dooley earned All-SEC honors as a lineman in 1955 at Mississippi State.

He is survived by his wife, Marie Dooley; four sons – Jim Dooley of Chapel Hill; Billy Dooley of Atlanta; Sean Dooley and his wife, Courtney; and Ashton Dooley, both of Wilmington; and two granddaughters – Hayden and Caroline Dooley, also of Wilmington.

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