It’s a good thing they were losing.

Part of the mythology surrounding Herschel Walker’s Georgia career has been that Vince Dooley wasn’t sold on his ability during his fall practice as a freshman.  We’ve been assured that’s why he wasn’t inserted into the starting lineup for the opener at Tennessee.

Except that’s not really the case at all.

… Down 15-0 in Knoxville at the half, Dooley’s bring-Herschel-along-slowly plan was out the window. Georgia and Dooley needed to win – fans are an unsympathetic bunch when you are coming off a 5-6 season.

“That’s when (offensive coordinator) George Haffner told me to tell Coach Dooley that we were going to play Herschel,” Cavan said. “I am just thankful we were down 15-0, because Coach Dooley at that time said: ‘I don’t care… do what you have to do.’”

Dooley’s plan was abruptly out of the way, but Cavan had been trying to convince Dooley of Walker’s importance weeks before the trip to Knoxville.

“I remember sitting in the staff room two weeks before the game saying: ‘I really think we are going to have to play Herschel.’

Dooley knew Walker’s talents were hard to deny, according to Cavan, but he wasn’t ready to put Walker in the starting spotlight just yet.

“I remember that Coach Dooley said: ‘I agree, but we are not going to start him. We are going to see how the game goes,’” Cavan recalled.

So much for that “I’m afraid Herschel is just a big, stiff back” stuff.



Filed under Georgia Football

15 responses to “It’s a good thing they were losing.

  1. charlottedawg

    Senator or any older dawg fan with some perspective, 2 questions. 1) Do you feel like Dooley is remembered for being a better coach and AD than he actually was due to A)the passage of time and B)the way Adams removed him? 2) Do you feel like when viewed in the context of Georgia’s entire football history, Richt’s a better coach than Dooley was, even if Richt hasn’t yet won a NC? My answers to both questions are a soft yes but I’m a younger fan who wasn’t around in the Dooley days. Would love to get some older fans’ thoughts.


    • Bulldawg165

      That Dooley is a bit overrated as a coach is a position I’ve long held. His only NC is the result of one of the greatest players in college football history growing up practically down the street. Sure, he had to recruit him, but that’s not too hard when you’re the flagship university in the state he grew up in. I’m a younger Dawg fan as well though so I too am interested in how the older, more seasoned and knowledgeable Dawg fans might feel about the matter.


      • Sanford222View

        Herschel’s recruitment was not easy. He did even commit until long after Signing Day had passed and was strongly considering Clemson as well.

        As far as Dooley being over rated it is hard to say as it was a different era and the game was so different. The top coaches weren’t using complicated/high powered offensive schemes. It was a “run the ball and play stifling defense” type of game. He was pretty good at getting the most out of his teams it seemed to me. Georgia was known for winning games it shouldn’t back then. Dooley won a lot of games in the SEC, 6 SEC Titles, and was in contention for several other National Titles besides the one he did win in 1980. That is hard to argue with.

        I am probably not old enough to give a complete opinion though as I was in middle school and high school during the end of his career. I was only 10 when Georgia won the National Title.


      • Slaw Dawg

        Bulldawg165, with all due respect, I have to tell you I have always found the “he only won the NC because of Herschel” argument to be absurd. I yield to no one in my respect and admiration for Mr. Walker. I was fortunate enough to be a student in those days, got to watch him play in person, even had a class with him–model student, sat in the front row, always on time, always polite. And it is beyond dispute that the 1980 Dawgs won the national title in part because of Herschel Walker. But no way do we win the Clemson game without Scott Woerner (punt return TD and 98 yard interception return), or the Ole Miss game without Barry Young and Carnie Norris (who had to pick up at RB after Herschel hurt his ankle the previous game), or the SC game without Rex Robinson and his 57 yard field goal. And you may have heard about a play in the Florida game, in which Nat Hudson threw a block that allowed Buck Belue to toss a pass to a guy named Scott, who did something with the ball. And while it’s true that we wouldn’t have beaten Notre Dame without Herschel, it’s equally true that we wouldn’t have won it without inspired, relentless defense and special teams (which included a blocked field goal).

        In fact, let’s talk about that D for a minute. Go back and watch any available game start to finish from 1980. You will, I promise you, find no let up in those guys from first minute to last. Woerner, Jimmy Payne, Meat Cleaver Weaver, Jiff Hipp, Freddie Gilbert, Frank Ros, etc. They pitched 3 shutouts and held TCU to a field goal. They took the ball away 44 times, as against 21 give aways–think about that while considering we had 32 takeaways last year in 14 games! Maybe all you know about the UT game is Herschel’s “My God, a Freshman!” touchdown, but our first points (and margin of victory) were off a safety, and our D had to stop UT underneath our goal posts near game’s end to seal the win. In the ND game, they had 4 takeaways–3 interceptions and a fumble. Herschel intercepted none of those passes, jumped on none of those fumbles.

        I could talk about the OLine, too, but Herschel has already done that, repeatedly giving them credit for his success.

        The 4 quarters of non-stop getting after it, the excellent special teams, the high turnover margin, the discipline and definitely the hard hitting running game, did not sprout up overnight when Herschel Walker came to town. They were all trademarks of former Marine and Master of History Vincent J. Dooley, and that 1980 title has his handiwork written all over it, absolutely no doubt about it!


    • AusDawg85

      I would not put much into the comparisons. What Dooley did for UGA was great. Same for Richt. Different era’s and each can be commended for their own accomplishments. Wally Butts would agree, I’m sure.


      • Macallanlover

        I agree, you don’t have to pick and choose a winner, belittling the other in the process. I personally think Richt is a better coach but both have made major contributions to UGA’s success. Dooley was simply a beneficiary of coaching before the internet and the rise of incredibly rude, vocal fans.

        For those asking about Dooley’s perception among fans during his era, as with all coaches it varied widely among fans and largely depended on what year you asked. Dooley’s greatest strength was recognizing that period’s conservative offenses called for a stout defense and great special teams (keep it close and kick a FG late to win 16-14). He was great at that, and hiring Erk was definitely his best decision. Recruiting HW was a no-brainer so I don’t give much credit for that, any coach would have pursued him. The major knock was the lack of diversity in offense during the Dooley era, we had no answer when we were down more than one score, nor did we even pretend to. That was very frustrating to a large group of fans and seemed to be responsible for 90% of the complaints. In a period of boring offenses, UGA was the poster child for CFB and it was pretty silly since we had access to great athletic talent in the Southeast.


        • Cojones

          Agree with above and will add to it. I heard several alums and some students complain that Dooley was no good simply because he was from Auburn. Beginning in the 60s, Dooley slowly won some over by winning big games when we had no chance. Jake Scott, Bill Stanfill, Dr Thomas Lawhorne and Varnado played D for those teams and commanded the accolades given then and now into history. But there were some “old boys” who thought Dooley was not only a less-than-great coach, but a dumb one to boot (time management in a couple of SC games come to mind).

          I never disliked Dooley nor his coaching. He and Erk worked team-like for every victory and I dismissed the grousing as people who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Yes, if the internet existed as used today, I believe that Dooley would be held in the same perspective as Richt is held by fans. Some don’t like Richt because he came from FSU and helped Bobby Bowden to become the winningest coach in CFB. Both Richt and Dooley effused moral fiber and team discipline accordingly. Dooley even held Jake out of one game because he missed bedcheck after a home victory in which Jake, more than anyone, accounted for the victory.

          The era of Richt is essentially no different than that of Dooley, except Richt is ahead in East and SEC championship pace, but with no NC. That’s probably about to change.

          They both are good and honorable coaches who we are proud of and venerate. Neither is perfect.


          • Macallanlover

            Plus one for being so updated on the new, all-time wins leader in CFB. Shows us old dawgs can learn new tricks! I have to admit I didn’t think the NCAA would vacate that many wins but it was masterful to find a logical way to clean the record books up and not have Paterno as the leader.

            I never liked the way we won under Dooley, but I had to admit I liked winning so I had mixed feelings on Dooley. At a time when Royal and Bryant were running those exciting option offenses, I must say I was envious. It just looked faster and more explosive than what we did but UGA held their own. I wasn’t sorry to see him go although I resent him to this day for not having a succession plan that could avoided the debacle we we faced over the next dozen years. Georgia was at the top and riding a lot of momentum during the 80s so the 90s were unnecessary, imo. And that is on Dooley.


    • Biggus Rickus

      Dooley took over at a time when Georgia football was downright bad. The ’50s and early ’60s are by far the worst era in Georgia football history. From ’49-’63 they were 71-75-10, and that includes a miraculous 10-1 season in ’59. Georgia Tech was the dominant program in the state, and it wasn’t even close. Dooley changed that. He immediately took back the Tech series, winning the first five matchups. His second team knocked off Bama and Michigan to start the season before injuries derailed them. His third team was a weird 7-6 loss on a Friday night in Miami from winning the national title. He took a moribund program and breathed life into it. By the time he retired it was considered at least a second-tier power nationally by everyone. The guy wasn’t Bear Bryant, but he was a damn good coach.

      That said, I think Richt is better on the whole.


  2. Tybeedawg

    Minor correction to Dean’s article: Georgia won 6 and lost 5 in 1979, the year prior to Walker’s freshman year.

    We were 5-6 in 1977, the last year of the Junkyard Dawgs defense (I think this was Dooley’s only losing season).


  3. 81Dog

    there was NOTHING easy about Herschel’s recruitment. As noted above, it went on for weeks past signing day. Southern Cal (the reigning Tailback U of that era, and a perennial NC contender) was all over him. Clemson was all over him; the story (perhaps not true, but certainly having the ring of truth) at the time of a Clemson booster arranging a meeting with Herschel and offering him a grocery sack full of cash was well known in the weeks prior to his final decision. It may seem, in hindsight, that he was a lock to go to UGA, but at the time, even for the pre-internet, purely word of mouth era, the buzz over his recruitment, the rumors of shady offers, and the excitement once he signed, were unprecedented as far as I could tell. It was a work of art to sign him, as opposed to having him fall in anyone’s lap.

    Coach Dooley certainly wasnt the greatest coach who ever lived, but he was consistently good before Herschel arrived. His teams were never as good before (the Bear Bryant heyday, after all) or after (when two of the greatest cheaters ever, Johnny Majors and Pat Dye, were the flavor of the moment) Herschel’s era, but he was a top flight coach.


  4. Marshall

    I’ll have to agree with most of the commentors here. Dooley was a very good coach. Perhaps his greatest asset is what Erk always said about him–he hired good coaches and let them coach. And as SlawDawg noted, 1980 does not happen without a multitude of players (Woener was as valuable as anyone on that team). But back to Dooley–winning 3 SEC crowns prior to 1980 during the reign of the Bearspeaks volumes in my opinion.


    • Cojones

      Good point; and throw in a few OOC victories over the likes of Michigan and UCLA at the height of their power and you get an added fizz.


  5. Dawg19

    I’m late, as usual, with this. Enjoy…