As college football rivalries go, the one between UGA and Tennessee doesn’t have a lot of history (they didn’t play for many years) and it has never had the intensity of Georgia-Florida, or the sibling-like feel of Georgia-Auburn and the season-ending meeting with Tech.
And yet the rivalry with the Vols is the only one in modern memory that saw UGA fans tear down the goal posts in Athens after a win, and it produced one of Larry Munson’s most memorable calls in Knoxville.
I got to thinking about the nature of that rivalry after my son raised the question of how having Vince Dooley’s son Derek as the UT head coach might change how UGA fans view Tennessee.
Certainly, Dooley, who grew up in Athens, played and got his undergrad degree at Virginia and received his law degree from UGA, won’t be the obvious villain in fans’ eyes that loudmouthed Lane Kiffin aspired to be. By all appearances to date, he’s a classy guy who’s more likely to take the higher road like his dad did.
There’s a certain residual affection for Derek Dooley among many in the Bulldog Nation. During his time at Louisiana Tech, I heard quite a few Georgia fans pulling for him to succeed, and his name was even floated from time to time as a likely successor to Mark Richt one day.
But Dooley reportedly is a tenacious recruiter (he was LSU’s recruiting coordinator under Nick Saban), and if he goes so far as to, say, pry a prized five-star commitment away from UGA, that certainly wouldn’t endear him to fans of the Dogs.
Of course, he’d only be doing his job in that regard and I don’t think any reasonable UGA fan could really work up a hate for him over even that.
Still, it is going to be “strange,” as his father said, when Dooley brings his team to play Between the Hedges. “Dooley’s Vols” just doesn’t sound right.
And there’ll be a lot of media hoopla, no doubt centering on what his parents will be wearing and for whom they’ll be cheering. Vince has said Barbara will wear orange and cheer loudly for her youngest son, whereas he’ll have “mixed emotions” and will pull “quietly” for Derek in his private box at Sanford Stadium. Even that has upset some Georgia fans who seem to think the elder Dooley should put his former employer over his own child.
But while the “Dooley” name fronting the Vols might give the annual game against Georgia a bit of the “Bowden Bowl” flavor, overall I’d say having Derek Dooley at UT will cool the rivalry off a bit from what it might have been with Kiffin at the helm. And certainly the young Dooley won’t be as easy a target for ridicule as Kiffin would have been or Phil “the Great Pumpkin” Fulmer was.
What do you think? Will you view Tennessee any differently with a Dooley as coach? And is it high treason for Vince to pull, even quietly, for his son to beat the Dogs?