Vince Dooley’s complicated legacy

Bill King wants to discuss Vince Dooley’s legacy.  I hate to be that guy, because I’m genuinely happy the man is receiving an honor he appreciates, it’s driven by a bunch of his former players who pushed hard for the recognition and it’s a genuine slap in the face of Michael Adams.  Those are all good things in my book.

That being said, when you give me a header like “Vince Dooley’s legacy at UGA is one that fans of all ages should embrace”, my internal contrarian bristles.  His story is more complicated than that simple one-liner.  Dooley’s record as a head coach deserves commendation.  He resurrected a program that was in the dumps.  His career records of 200 wins, six SEC championships and a natty are nothing to be sneered at; in fact, given the school’s track record, they’re very much worthy of applause.

It’s his tenure as athletic director that’s less embraceable, if you ask me.  Dooley is the man who originally built the Butts-Mehre template we fondly refer to here as the Georgia Way.  His hiring/firing track record was mediocre at best (which still makes it a step up from McGarity’s, true) and at worst, was bad enough to have a significant portion of the fan base calling for his head repeatedly throughout the last five years of the nineties.

We’ve thoroughly re-hashed the events surrounding the debacle that led to the hire of Ray Goff as Dooley’s successor.  Whatever your version of that time may be, there’s little argument that Dooley left no strategy or framework in place to guide the athletic department in the wake of his departure, mainly because he wasn’t fully convinced he wanted to run for political office and wanted to leave an escape hatch open for his return in the event he bailed on that.

There are also the academic scandal bookends that framed his tenure, personified by Jan Kemp and Jim Harrick, Jr.  Remarkably, King finds the way Adams and Dooley cut the basketball players loose, despite that most of them had nothing to do with what the coaches did, to be something admirable.  That nobody on the administrative side paid any sort of a price for the Harricks’ misbehavior was shameful, if not particularly surprising.  I don’t find any of that worthy of celebration.

To each his own, I suppose.  I’ll certainly stand and applaud Coach Dooley when he receives this honor at the first home game.  I’m just not going to whitewash his resume.  If you’re mileage varies, I understand.

25 Comments

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25 responses to “Vince Dooley’s complicated legacy

  1. S.A.W.B.

    I always thought Dooley-Russell Field had a nice ring to it.

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    • Kalamazoodawg

      I was hoping someone was going to bring up Erk. How King failed to mention him is beyond me. Dooley’s success hinged more on Erk than Herschel.

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      • Whiskeydawg

        Yes. I’ve said this to many friends over the years; Georgia should have hired Erk Russell to replace Dooley. I don’t think Steve Spurrier would have enjoyed the cocktail party quite so much.

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  2. mwo

    I agree with your points completely. I have a couple of friends from high school who played for Coach Dooley. They said he was a real bastard on the practice field, and they were used to coaches being hard asses. Lot different from his public persona.

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  3. Mikey

    should embrace Yeah “His career records of 200 wins, six SEC championships and a natty are nothing to be sneered at; in fact, given the school’s track record, they’re very much worthy of applause.” Coach Dooley and I know him he deserves this

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  4. Cosimo Medici

    Vince Dooley was a good but not great football coach. He was an unmitigated disaster as an athletic director – simply incompetent. I don’t care how many national titles were won in tennis/gymnastics/golf, etc under his watch. Yes I’m still bitter.

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    • Gaskilldawg

      The college football hall of fame disagrees with your assessment of Dooley as a coach. When he retired he was the second winningest SEC coach in history. Only Bear Bryant had won more SEC Championships as of January 1, 1989. Only one other UGA coach finished his UGA career with a better winning percentage.

      Certainly no UGA coach won more games, SEC championships or national championships than Dooley. He may not be your definition of a “ great coach” but he accomplished more than anyone else on the home sidelines.

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  5. FarmerDawg

    If not for Adams you don’t get the Harricks?

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  6. 81Dog

    Far as being the AD goes, I think Coach Dooley’s style was very much influenced by his predecessor, (and a great man in) Joel Eaves. Plus, Dooley was a child of the Depression from a very simple background, and a Marine. Being careful with one’s resources with al that in one’s background is almost unavoidable. Peak AD Dooley was pretty good, if you go by Sears Cup (or whatever it is now) standings. Not to say he was flawless, of course, but he was really pretty good.

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  7. Just dont become Auburn

    4 words. Glen Mason. Ron Jirsa.
    4 more. Jan Kemp. Lazy recruiter.

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  8. Rampdawg

    What I really liked about Dooley, was him virtually snatching victory from the jaws of defeat time and time against the Gators.

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  9. Russ

    Can’t really argue. I didn’t follow the AD that closely when Dooley was running the show but I guess what you say makes sense. I do think it didn’t seem to be as cutthroat back then but I’m sure I was just naive.

    Anyhoo…I’m glad to see Dooley get the honor and I hope it raises Il Douchebag’s blood pressure.

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  10. CB

    In the wake of UNC’s paper classes I’m not exactly sure what Harrick did wrong. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I only recall basketball classes with easy test questions.

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    • Ricky McDurden

      It really wasn’t that bad, nowhere close to the UNC scandal. But in typical Georgia Way fashion the administration belly flopped onto the sword. A lot of it had to do with Adams and UGA still being an up and coming academic institution at the time and this type of scandal hurting the image they were trying to cultivate (ironic compared to UNC). The decision to withdraw the team from the postseason, though, is a complete blight on Dooley’s record as AD and hallmarks the over willingness UGA still seems to have to plead guilty to any NCAA accusations lobbed at them.

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  11. stoopnagle

    Where is Herschel’s statue?

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  12. No Axe To Grind

    At least Dooley knew what a good offensive was worth, unlike a certain other UGA coach.

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  13. It was weird to me that King would cite the 2003 basketball decision as an example of Dooley’s greatness as an AD.

    Dooley an Adams inflated the magnitude of the situation, made UGA the butt of late night comedians’ jokes, took an outstanding group of young men out of the SEC and NCAA tournament, and UGA GOT NOTHING in return. We still got probation and a severely weakened reputation among high school basketball and AAU basketball coaches. UGA got no benefit.

    If that is among th top things Dooley did as AD King should have not said a word. It is as if King bragged about his coaching by citing that tremendous 7-4 season in 1972.

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  14. Bill Glennon

    Dooley was a great football coach. His teams always played hard, and he got the best out of them. It’s not fair to say he owes his entire legacy to Erk and Herschel as some claim, but its not unfair to point out that these two figures loom large in his legend.

    As a AD, however, “Mediocre” is very charitable. Dooley glided on his football reputation and the hirings of Liz Murphey, the women’s AD. He would have been run out of town otherwise. Consider the following disasters while he was AD:

    Jan Kemp (The University President was forced out, not Dooley)
    Ray Goff (and the failure to hire Erk)
    Glenn Mason
    Jim Donnan
    Ron Jirsa
    Jim Harrick (although Adams should be blamed for this one)

    The successes during his tenure: Men’s tennis, women’s swimming, women’s bball were not his doing. He did hire Youclan, but he Georgia Way’d her out the door. She wasn’t polite enough.

    You’re right about his biggest legacy in my mind–he was a devout “Georgia Way” cult leader. From the 68 Orange Bowl through Harrick, Dooley never missed a chance to throw the athletic program under the bus so he could martyr himself as the paragon of ethical leadership. The problem is that no one cared, from Bear Bryant to Pat Dye to Steve Spurrier, to Phil Fulmer to Nick Saban. No one else gave a shit. They all thought we were suckers.

    I guess Bill King needs something to justify all that devotion that led to no tangible reward.

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  15. Otto

    It is the period after the draft, spring game and signing day and well before media days and fall camp, soooo….. what else do we want to talk about Richt’s legacy?

    I have no problem with Vince Dooley Field, Butts has Butts-Mehre, the other coach with a Natty deserves something. Yes I agree Dooley’s time as AD is a mixed bag.

    Hopefully Smart gets a complex named after him for the Titles he hopefully wins.

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  16. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    “Dooley is the man who originally built the Butts-Mehre template we fondly refer to here as the Georgia Way. “

    The Georgia Way was in place before Dooley was ever at UGA. In fact, his hire was AD Joel Eaves operating in the Georgia Way. Eaves had an Auburn connection, asked a few people he knew about who they thought might make a head coach at UGA (and it is hard to overstate how bad the program was at the time) and that is how a relatively unknown assistant coach from Auburn came to be the Head Coach at UGA. Eaves (and we) lucked out.

    I also think that you are a little bit over critical of his AD tenure. Granting every shortcoming in that regard you mention as true, the fact is that the overall athletic department success was much better. Nobody who is an AD bats 1.000, but I believe the school had better rankings in the Sears Cup (or whatever they call it nowadays) than before him, and probably since he was AD.

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  17. CEPH

    Dooley beat the teams he was supposed to beat but when he played a team with a 50% winning record or better he only won one out of three. He should have won three nationals but bad coaching decisions prevailed. Matt Robinson said when Pittsburgh got ahead esrly there was nothing but total confusion on the sidelines.

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  18. Mick Jagger

    I certainly appreciate what Dooley did, i just hate dual named stadiums (stadii?). They remind me of Tech or Auburn.

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  19. Anonymous

    You might want to look back at your “which still makes it a step up from McGarity’s” take. In the end, I think McGarity’s coaching hiring record will go down as quite good. In the end, you won’t give him credit for the good hires or claim it was luck because you just will not be able ever to admit that he did a good job at anything.

    Smart, Strickland, and Kyprianou were great hires. I think the Crean hire will end up being a great hire. Joni Taylor and a couple of the other women’s sports teams have been OK. Durante as HC of the Gymnastics team was the one bad hire with the Kupets hire still being evaluated.

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