Vince Dooley and USC's Most Important Day

GamecockAnthem discussed with Coach Vince Dooley the most important event in South Carolina history and his role in it, as well as the colorful history of Carolina-Georgia football, Steve Spurrier's impact on USC, and this week's upcoming game. This eye-opening interview is sure to capture the attention of Gamecock and Bulldog fans.

The most important event in South Carolina football history did not occur on the football field. And the man who helped make it happen wasn't even a Gamecock, he was a Georgia Bulldog. On Sept. 25, 1990, South Carolina accepted an invitation to become a member of the Southeastern Conference. The man who was USC's advocate in making that day come to pass was Georgia legend Vince Dooley.

GamecockAnthem: What did you see in the South Carolina program that caused you to advocate for USC to become a member of the SEC?

Dooley: I think the fan base more so than any thing. A lot of other reasons, but primarily the reason was the tremendous fan base and the loyalty of the fans to their school.

GamecockAnthem: Tell us about your role in USC becoming part of the SEC.

Dooley: I was an advocate and expressed my opinion in our meetings. I had watched South Carolina more than any other school because for so many years we played them every year. We had a pretty good history with South Carolina and I watched their fans over a long period of time, and so I just spoke in favor of SC primarily for that reason.

GamecockAnthem: What other schools were being considered at the time?

Dooley: A lot of schools were in the mixture at one time: any where from Texas to Texas A&M, to Florida State, Memphis. Just about any school in the Southeast that played Division 1-A football was quote a candidate.

GamecockAnthem: Tell us about the decision to split the conference into two divisions, and the impact that has had on the SEC.

Dooley: The big reason was to enable us to play a championship game, which it did. We were pioneers in that respect, and the result of that both from a financial standpoint, because now every team gets a million plus dollars a year from the conference; and secondly from an exposure standpoint, nationally it was a huge success.

What has also made it interesting it happened more so this last year than any other year was it that teams that in the past would normally be out of the race for the championship were still in it because of winning their division. Case in point - Georgia's championship last year. I never thought I'd see the day that we would get beat by Florida and Auburn and still win the SEC championship, but that's exactly what happened last year. We had a chance to play in the championship game and then won the championship. Florida State may be an extreme example of that – they lost three conference games in a row and ended up winning the ACC championship. I think it provides hope more so than before with the championship game.

GamecockAnthem: How has it affected SEC teams competing for a national championship?

Dooley: That point has often been raised. The league is very, very tough, and playing as many games as we play you could make a case for that. I think on the other hand a team that really goes through - and Auburn is a case in point of that from two years ago - Auburn was a real contender for the (national) championship. The team that will go through that schedule and survive it is a worthy contender for the national championship, I can assure you.

GamecockAnthem: What impact do you think Steve Spurrier is having and will have at USC?

I think he's added a great deal of excitement to the conference, and Steve is a very good coach. I think he's even a better coach in some respects then when he was when he was a Florida. He's matured a lot, and you grow as a coach. I think he's done that. His team has already shown that they can compete with some of the top teams in the conference. So, it will certainly have a positive impact.

GamecockAnthem: Do you think he can win an SEC championship at USC?

Dooley: Yes. I think if anybody can, it will be Spurrier. I think that at some point in time for a school that has not they someday will, percentage wise, and I think that Steve would give South Carolina it's best chance to win a championship.

GamecockAnthem: What do you think about this year's contest between Georgia and South Carolina?

Dooley: It will be like all the other contests between Georgia and South Carolina - a real contest. It's a good time for South Carolina to play Georgia, I don't know if it's a good time for Georgia to play South Carolina. And traditionally South Carolina has always played Georgia extremely well, even when we had some of our best teams. To go back to '59, the only game they lost was to South Carolina. Our '66 and '68 teams both were SEC champions and just barely survived in a ball game with USC. In '78 the only game we lost was to South Carolina. So then you can go back in more recent years to when South Carolina has won when they were not supposed to win. I think the point is that South Carolina has traditionally played Georgia tough. And I think Steve Spurrier will apt to make that game even tougher.

Note: Dooley retired in 1988, two years before Spurrier became coach at Florida.

GamecockAnthem: What do you remember about Steve Spurrier as a player?

Dooley: (laughing) Well, he was a Heisman Trophy winner. He was an excellent player."

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories