Vince Dooley: Joy from Georgia’s rise, pain from son’s firing

Some of Vince Dooley's joy over Georgia's resurgence took a hit with his son's firing. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Vince Dooley's joy for Georgia's resurgence took a hit with his son's firing. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

On Sunday, when everybody associated with Georgia football was still basking in the afterglow of the season’s 10th victory and the anticipation of a dramatic flip at the top in the BCS standings, the Dooleys of Athens received a phone call from their son, Derek.

“I knew it was going to happen,” Vince Dooley said. “I felt for sure it was going to happen. Then on Sunday when he contacted us and told us, it was difficult. You hurt for your family. You hurt for your son.”

Seldom do the extreme highs and lows of competitive athletics collide like this.

Dooley hired Mark Richt and watched him win two SEC championships in his first five seasons. He saw the program slip back for a couple of seasons and Richt try to navigate through “crises” while four other SEC schools won six national championships and so many called for the coach’s head. Now the Bulldogs are more than relevant again. A second consecutive SEC title game berth awaits, a No. 3 national ranking provides a tease for something even greater and Richt has been listed as a national coach-of-the-year candidate.

“Coaching has always been about surviving a series of crises,” Dooley said Tuesday. “In Mark’s case, he had a charmed life. He didn’t have a lot of criticism until a couple of years ago. So I’m very pleased to see how he’s responded to that. He needed to right the ship and get back to the high standards again, and he’s done that. That doesn’t mean he won’t have another series of crises to deal with again one day. He will. Because once you get up there, you’ll always have crises.”

Derek Dooley told Vince that coaching the final game would be a distraction for the team. (AP photo)

Derek Dooley told Vince that coaching the final game would be a distraction for the team. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Tennessee allowed Derek Dooley three years of crises, then they fired him. It didn’t matter that the program was in a crises when the younger Dooley was hired. Lane Kiffin had bolted, and the school pointed to a burning building and told Dooley, “Fix it. Fast.” That was too great a feat for any coach to accomplish, let alone one making the leap from Louisiana Tech to the SEC, his genes notwithstanding.

But Vince Dooley understands the reality of coaching today: A man doesn’t go 4-19 in the SEC at programs like Tennessee and survive.

“I knew the situation,” he said. “They came very close in some big ballgames that unfortunately they didn’t win. I know [Tennessee athletic director] Dave Hart personally. He anguished over this. But in light of the situation I understand the decision. Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech in his first six seasons had 24 wins and 40 losses. In his sixth year he won two games. But until this season he was one of the winningest coaches in football. Coaches don’t get that

kind of time any more.”

Dooley said he had only one question for his son: Why was he not going to coach Tennessee’s final game at Kentucky?

“Derek said he requested that because he felt he would be distraction,” Dooley said. “He said all of the speculation about his job was a distraction before the Vanderbilt game and he felt that hurt the team (a 41-18 loss), so he didn’t want that to happen again. Once he said that, I admired his decision. I felt it was important to get that out because it’s not like they didn’t want him around.”

Barbara Dooley has taken firing the hardest, Vince said. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Barbara Dooley has taken firing the hardest, Vince said. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Anybody close to Georgia football knows how much Vince and Barbara wanted their son to succeed. Dad would catch Tennessee’s game on television in press boxes around the SEC while traveling with the Bulldogs. Mom attended games in Knoxville, dressed in orange. When the schools met, Barbara never was conflicted.

“That’s my baby, and I’m pulling for Tennessee. If the Georgia people don’t understand that, then I just don’t get it,” she once said.

Barbara politely declined to speak Tuesday.

“It’s been difficult, especially on my wife, who takes things harder than I do,” Vince said. “That’s her baby. I told her it will take a while for the pain to go away. She’s hurting more than [Derek]. He’s handling it better than she is.”

Three more victories would heal a lot of wounds. Georgia has three games left: It’s a local rival (Georgia Tech), the SEC championship (Alabama) and a bowl game (in the Utopian experience of two more wins, it’s the BCS Championship game in Miami).

Dooley has been down this road before. He knows Richt is concerned that players’ minds might be on matters not related to the Georgia Tech game. That’s a danger, regardless of what the fans, the alumni, the media and the oddsmakers say.

Dooley, who hired Richt, happy that the coach has "righted the ship" at Georgia. (Joey Ivansco/AJC)

Dooley, who hired Richt, happy that the coach has "righted the ship" at Georgia. (Joey Ivansco/AJC)

“Back in 1980 when we were undefeated before the Georgia Tech game, I had a player from the 1927 team talk to the players how they were in the same situation and ended up losing to Georgia Tech in the final game,” Dooley said. “It can happen — it has happened. You have people see that Tech maybe doesn’t have the direction Georgia does and you find yourself looking beyond this week, and that rubs off on players. As a coach, that worries you.”

With Vince Dooley, you always get a story. If it’s not about the Georgia team that went 9-0 in 1927 before losing to Tech 12-0, it’s about Charley Trippi coming back from World War II in 1945. Trippi was invoked when Dooley was asked about the Dogs’ early-season struggles with injuries and suspensions, even after four players returned.

“When Charley Trippi came out of the military, all the players expected he was going to be some Superman, and when he came back the rest of the team just sort of watched him,” he said. “They played LSU, and they just annihilated Trippi. It took a while for that team to respond to crisis. But they eventually did, and so did this team. I know it was devastating playing South Carolina and laying an egg there, and then playing poorly at Kentucky, although I did that plenty of times. But going down and beating Florida was big, and now here they are. I’m really pleased for the whole program and particularly for Mark, since [hiring him] was one of my last decisions.”

He’ll try to focus on that and let time heal everything else.

By Jeff Schultz

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467 comments Add your comment

Buckeye

November 20th, 2012
12:45 pm

tom brown,

Where you at?

Buckeye

November 20th, 2012
12:46 pm

tom brown,

No worries. I’m taking this column off.

Hold your applause tom brown

Southside Dawg

November 20th, 2012
12:54 pm

Tennessee should have given Derek one more year.

banshee29

November 20th, 2012
12:59 pm

The last name can’t save a job….good man but he was hired to win, which he did not do. Close doesn’t cut it in the south.

Southside Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:02 pm

I don’t believe any coach could have won any more games with what Tennessee has for talent. Dooley oversaw a program which was in complete shambles and unfortunately he won’t be around to realize the fruits of his efforts. it’s sad.

YO Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:03 pm

Yeah, I agree with Southside. That would have given us one more year with a sure win over the Vols.

GTBob

November 20th, 2012
1:04 pm

Now the Bulldogs are more than relevant again.

One win over a decent team in the last 4 years and UGA is more than relevant? No wonder Richt keeps his job so easily. He doesn’t have to do anything.

ScoutDawg

November 20th, 2012
1:07 pm

Hey Suckeye, good luck in the Championship game. Oh yeah…

banshee29

November 20th, 2012
1:07 pm

Oh bob…so tech is not a decent team you say?

AP

November 20th, 2012
1:08 pm

Get Derek on staff in Athens!!

Old Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:09 pm

Just as we’ve come to expect from the Dooley’s: they handle the good and the bad with a great deal of class.

Big Henry

November 20th, 2012
1:09 pm

Derek Dooley is a class act who was put in an impossible situation. The Dooleys obviously did a good job raising him and I’m sure he’ll bounce back. His huge buyout should make his firing a little easier to take.

Montana Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:10 pm

Class act by Mom, Son and Dad…lucky to have them associated with UGA

Old Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:10 pm

Enter your comments here

eyeswideopen

November 20th, 2012
1:10 pm

The next coach gets three years to turn things around…..duh,Dooley was closer than that he had the ship going in the right direction,Tenn fired a great coach….now who are they going to get..?

ARdawg

November 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

No doubt, it’s the pants Stupid!!

GTBob

November 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

Oh bob…so tech is not a decent team you say?

When was the last time we were decent? Maybe in 2009. Ok, ill give you two decent wins in the past 4 years.

hs henderson

November 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

nepotism got punted to the curb

Oconee Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:12 pm

Thanks for giving Derek the $5 million dollars. He does not deserve to coach a screwed up program like you thugs for paying all the low class coaches you fired. Pay them!!!!!!! You people from rocky top need to learn a lesson. Derek Dooley is the finest young coach in the US of A. Pay him!!!!
$5 million dollars. You people are stupid or dumb could be both. GO DAWGS……………………………

Right On Time

November 20th, 2012
1:12 pm

GTBob,

#3 and in a better position than all but 1 team in the country. I would
say that is relevant.

Point taken about the last 4 years, though.

Coach Ralph Fontaine

November 20th, 2012
1:12 pm

At least Barbara will not have to wear that God Awful orange again, hope she burns it all. Thats a fine woman to support her son that way.

Northside Dawg

November 20th, 2012
1:13 pm

I wonder if Southside Dawg is a follower of the Warner Robins Demons?

GTBob

November 20th, 2012
1:18 pm

#3 and in a better position than all but 1 team in the country. I would
say that is relevant.

There is only one team on your schedule that you beat that you could have reasonably lost to. I guess the new definition of relevance is just not messing up against bad teams.

Ron Burgundy

November 20th, 2012
1:20 pm

How is a tema that lost by 28 points to anotehr team in teh hunt for a national championship? It is one thing if it was a tournament but don’t you have to look at the one loss teams losses and margin of loss?

Has there ever been a team that lost by more than 20 points during the season who won a national championship? The system is broken my friends if UGA palys for a national championship.

Bryan G.

November 20th, 2012
1:21 pm

GTBob – It’s easy to be relevant when you’re not losing to BYU and MTSU on your home field.

Dum-Bass

November 20th, 2012
1:21 pm

Interesting article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. U of T is in big financial trouble. The athletic program is $4M in the hole with only $2M in reserve. That used to be an outstanding program with dollars aplenty. Now they owe DD $5M for his boyout for his last 4 yrs. and will be paying him $102,000 per month for 48 mos. It will take a lot to turn that program around and a coach with a lot of perseverance.

Bryan G.

November 20th, 2012
1:22 pm

There are 117 teams that wish they are where UGA is right now. That seems pretty relevant to me. Only 3 teams in D-1A/FBS/whatever can win out and win a National Championship. If that isn’t relevant, relevance is overrated.

rawdawg

November 20th, 2012
1:22 pm

GTBob – its a shame that Tech is never relevant, otherwise Richt would get more credit for his annual beat down of the bugs!

Dum-Bass

November 20th, 2012
1:23 pm

“Haha, “boyout”, freudian slip in last post, but guess it does fit. He is still a “boy”(baby) according to his mom.

don

November 20th, 2012
1:24 pm

It’d be nice to find a place to put him in at UGA. Derek’s a good coach and a good man. I realize we are limited for coaches, but maybe someone will want to head elsewhere like Searles did for Texas. Perhaps…

Bob

November 20th, 2012
1:24 pm

Coach Dooley is a fine man and was a great coach, and Derek appears to be a fine young man as well. But I think for Tennessee to hire him, with a losing record in his only prior head coaching job, was a stretch at best. I just don’t think he was ready for it. Same thing with Gene Chizik – losing record at Iowa State, he leaves and then they begin winning. If not for Newton and Fairlely at Auburn he would not have won the national championship, and would already have been gone.

supsalemgr

November 20th, 2012
1:25 pm

Like Middle Tennessee GT Bob?

Kyle

November 20th, 2012
1:26 pm

I too am afraid this team is thinking past Tech….I sure hope not…..

GTBob

November 20th, 2012
1:26 pm

GTBob – It’s easy to be relevant when you’re not losing to BYU and MTSU on your home field.

MTSU and BYU would have been two of the toughest games on UGA’s schedule this year.

gt4ever

November 20th, 2012
1:27 pm

Only at GT do you get more than enough time to destroy a program.. He will find another payday… College football is full of job openings…

gt4ever

November 20th, 2012
1:28 pm

@GTBob

Are your serious? MTSU SUCKS!

GTBob

November 20th, 2012
1:28 pm

If that isn’t relevant, relevance is overrated.

The only problem is nobody thinks you can beat Alabama and no one thinks you are actually the third best team in the country.

joe jenkins

November 20th, 2012
1:29 pm

gtbob…just shutup!! i’m sure derrek dooley will find a job somewhere else….maybe Georgia state

Ostrich Racer

November 20th, 2012
1:30 pm

GTBob — As a Bulldog, I wish we had made stronger showings against Kentucky and Vandy, but it could be worse. At least we’re not looking at the prospect of putting up a “Division Champions” banner with “6 wins*, 8 losses” on it.

(*If you count Presbyterian.)

beanster

November 20th, 2012
1:31 pm

$100K per month for 4 years. I could get used to that.

gt4ever

November 20th, 2012
1:31 pm

and BYU is not that good… We got smoked by both! I could forgive the BYU loss, but we should NEVER get beat by any team called MTSU.

Shouldn't have done all that acid in the 70's

November 20th, 2012
1:31 pm

All things taken into account, whether it sucks or not, he’s still worth millions and I’d trade places gladly. Go wipe your tears with hundred dollar bills. Simply put, fair or unfair, as life ALWAYS IS, you had your chance, you blew it, now dust off and get along with life. I feel no more pity for you than anybody else who as lost a job and probably less because you can support your family for life whether or not you ever work again.

Steve

November 20th, 2012
1:32 pm

Are you people still responding to GTBob? IGNORE him. He is a little boy in his mommys basement with nothing else to do. He also does not understand the sport.

LawDawg

November 20th, 2012
1:33 pm

Yeah, getting a $5 million severance package from a job you should never have had in the first place? That is my definition of “devastating”.

Anyway, Dooley signed his own death warrant when he changed his defensive scheme in a must-win year. The 3-4 takes at least a full year to implement even with legit talent. That, combined with the collection of a complete roster full of train wrecks (Patterson, DaRick, the armed robbers, etc.) certainly did not help.

beanster

November 20th, 2012
1:33 pm

“no one thinks you are actually the third best team in the country.”

That’s right. No one. No one except for all of the coaches around the country including one who believes UGA is #1. That’s hardly anybody. You’re right Bobby.

LawDawg

November 20th, 2012
1:34 pm

GTBob – “no one” thinks UGA can win? You might want to check out ESPN, sweetheart.

Humbug

November 20th, 2012
1:35 pm

Keep the legends growing. Hire Derek Dooly at UGA and train him to take over when Richt leaves. Even if Richt is here till he dies it will give Derek a better chance at another school.

LawDawg

November 20th, 2012
1:35 pm

Ostrich Racer : ummm…how much stronger could our performance against Vandy have been? 58-3 seems pretty dominant to me.

GTBob

November 20th, 2012
1:36 pm

Sorry I was gone for 5 minutes guys. I had to go upstairs and help my mom replace a light bulb, now I’m back at my spot in the basement ready to agitate all the Bulldog fans.

Thomas Brown

November 20th, 2012
1:37 pm

http://www.usg.edu/research/documents/enrollment_reports/Fall_2012_Report_complete.pdf

______
Ladies
______

29 % Georgie tek
58 % University of Georgia

______________
Non-US Citizens
______________

25 % Georgie tek
0.0667 University of Georgia

_______________
Georgia Residents
_______________

52 % Georgie tek
82 % University of Georgia

_____________________________
Out of Country – Tuition WAIVED
_____________________________

10.06 % Georgie tek
0.0318 University of Georgia

_____
Black
_____

5 % Georgie tek
8 % University of Georgia

_____
White
_____

54 % Georgie tek
72 % University of Georgia

_____
Asian
_____

31 % Georgie tek
8 % University of Georgia