“Retired” is a misnomer for Vince Dooley. There was the late-April trip to Italy with wife Barbara, which was very retired-like. But then there was also the last half of this past week:
A speaking gig at a “Planned Giving” luncheon at the Buckhead Club in Atlanta on Wednesday; a consulting appointment at Kennesaw University Wednesday afternoon; the Athletes for a Better World awards gala at the Fox Theatre Wednesday night; a Thursday trip to East Lansing, Mich., to accept the Duffy Daugherty Award for lifetime achievement at Michigan State University; a Friday drive to Anniston, Ala., to speak at the Anniston Botanical Gardens and Museum; a Saturday book signing followed by attending the UGA Terry College of Business alumni gala. Then, on Sunday, Dooley will appear at the Atlanta Braves game for the annual presentation of the Vince Dooley Awards and Scholarships.
So while Dooley is technically retired from his 40-year vocation as UGA’s football coach and athletic director, simply being Vince Dooley remains a full-time job.
We caught up with Dooley while he drove through Atlanta between appointments earlier this week to get his feelings on becoming the 2012 recipient of the Daugherty Award – named for the late Michigan State coach, it is present annually to individuals making outstanding contributions to amateur football — to ask him to share his thoughts on current events in college athletics.
Q: Congratulations on winning Daugherty Award. How do you feel about that?
A: “I knew Duffy well. He was a wonderful coach and a wonderful Irishman, somebody you truly enjoyed being around. One of the trips I made as a young coach was up to East Lansing to watch Michigan State practice after they won a national championship. He and Bud Wilkinson used to give the Coach of the Year coaching clinics every year. If you were named Coach of the Year, which I was fortunate to do a couple of times, they would get you to travel around with them to give clinics at different schools across the country. As a reward you they’d take you on a trip overseas. We went to Scotland one year and went to the Far East another time. We played golf and just had a good time. He was such a pleasure to be around.”
Q: Why do you stay so busy?
A: “The thing is, I don’t have the excuses that I used to have [laughs]. It’s been an adjustment but it’s been a fun adjustment. I had a driver for 40 years while I was coaching and athletic director. Now I do my own driving, so I’ve learned more about the state of Georgia driving around these last six years than I did in the previous 40.
Q: It looks like there is a lot of momentum nationally for a “Plus-One” format to decide a nationa champion in football. What are your feelings on the subject?
A: “I have always advocated that model. The ‘plus-one’ is a just new name they’ve given it. I just called it ‘a national championship game after the bowl games.’ I tried to introduce that but it didn’t go anywhere. It just got so much resistance back in those days from the Big Ten and the Pac-10. I think it can solve 85 percent of the BCS problems just by having that game alone. Now they’re talking about the addition of the four teams. I was on a committee with the NCAA about 20 other people numerous years ago and we discussed a four-team playoff integrated with the bowl games. The NCAA had about a four-inch book with all the details we discussed over three days. Out of that came the BCS.”
Q: Are you concerned by all the major conferences moving toward expansion, which has resulted in some leagues dismantling and others being re-configured and such?
A: ‘Well, I think it’s just a market place that has to adjust itself as it goes along. I came on at a time when we had 12 teams in the SEC, which included Georgia Tech and Tulane. So I saw the SEC go from 12 to 10 and then back up to 12 and now up to 14. Even back at that time we had conversations with Texas and Texas A&M. A&M was very interested but wouldn’t do it unless Texas would be a part of it, which it would not.”
Q: So are you happy see your vision finally coming to fruition?A: “Sometimes the NCAA works very, very slowly, which is good in a lot t cases but sometimes they should speed up a little bit. Something’s going to happen soon. I think they realized the BCS always is going to have some problems and sometimes it’s a major problem. Auburn certainly deserved to have a shot couple of years ago, and they certainly would have if we had a plus-one back then. Georgia might have had a shot in 2002 or ’07. But if you have an undefeated team you should definitely have a shot. So I think whatever comes out of all this will be beneficial.”
Q: You had a reputation as a stern disciplinarian during your days as a coach. How do you think Mark Richt is doing in that regard?
A: “I think Coach Richt has done a good job addressing disicpline through the policies he has and taking action. But, on the other hand, it’s not all of the sudden happening; it’s happened before. Issues are being dealt with, but I do think there are more instances of it now and they certainly are more public than ever. Of course, even back when I was coach, if there was a disciplinary action, people would find out. Reporters would always find out. But you can’t let that affect the actions you take.”
Q: Your son Derek Dooley has certainly had his share of challenges as head coach at Tennessee. Is it hard for you to watch all that from afar?
A: “It is very hard, but no worse than sitting in the stands and watching the games. You can’t do anything. You’re just sitting there. You can’t make any decisions. In the past when things went wrong I could make a decision. So that’s the tough part of it. But I don’t even go to the Georgia games. I just watch them at home on TV. I do the same thing when I go up to Knoxville; I watch from his house.
“He’s had to go through some difficult times. He inherited a really tough situation. We knew it was tough but I think it’s tougher than he realized or I realized. . . . I think he’s done a very good job under the circumstances. . . . I think he’s heading in the right direction, but it’s not going to be an overnight thing like everybody wants. That’s the way it is in coaching. You either catch it early or catch it late. Mark is a good example of someone who caught it late. He came in and set a new standard and everything went great. Then he had a couple of off years and people got on him. If you stay in the business and you survive it, you’re going to go through that at times. Derek’s just going through it early. He’s got a lot of good things going for him. We were hoping he’d go in another direction. But he loves what he’s doing.”