Bulldogs will welcome fans to ‘Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium’ in 2019

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Fans from all walks of life come together at Sanford Stadium, sharing a devotion to their beloved Dawgs. (AJC file)

ATHENS — If you’ve always thought Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium might have a nice ring to it, then you’ll be happy to hear what’s about to happen with Georgia’s Bulldogs’ football venue.

UGA President Jere Morehead has forwarded a motion to the University System of Board of Regents to name the football field that sits between the hedges after Vincent J. Dooley. Pending that board’s approval — it next meets May 14 in Atlanta — it will officially become Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.

The Regents still have to vote on the proposal, and their approval would have to be seconded by the UGA Athletic Association, but it’s already a done deal. A dedication ceremony is planned for Sept. 7 before the Bulldogs’ home opener against Murray State.

“Coach Dooley’s many contributions to this university can be seen across campus,” Morehead said in a University of Georgia release distributed late Thursday morning. “From Georgia athletics, where he achieved unrivaled success, to the learning environment, where today many academic programs and initiatives bear his name, such as the Dooley Library Endowment Fund to the Dooley Professorship in Horticulture. The university community will continue to benefit from his service and dedication for generations to come.”

Dooley said he was working in his garden in the back yard of his Milledge Circle home when he received a call from Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity, who wanted to know if he could come by “to run something by me.” McGarity and Morehead arrived and delivered the news to Dooley and his wife Barbara in their kitchen Thursday morning.

“It was a complete surprise,” Dooley said. “I told him to come on by, I was in the garden working. When he arrived with the president, I knew something was up.”

You can read more about Dooley’s reaction on DawgNation.

Dooley was the Bulldogs’ football coach from 1964-1988 and the schools’ director of athletics from 1979 to 2004. Georgia won a national championship in 1980 and six SEC championships under Dooley’s leadership as football coach. He remains the Bulldogs’ winningest football coach of all time with a career record of 201-77-10.

The movement to honor Dooley by placing his name on the stadium in some way may have as much to do with his successes as an athletic administrator, however. Between his appointment as head coach in December of 1963 and resignation as athletic director in 2004, he oversaw every expansion of the stadium that took place over his 40 years of service to the university. That saw the stadium grow from 39,000 seats to 92,746, which Sanford Stadium sits today.

“I can think of no better way to open the 2019 home football schedule than dedicating Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium,” McGarity said. “The event will be a moment for the entire Bulldog Nation to collectively say ‘thank you’ to a man who has devoted much of his life to making the Georgia athletics program one of the strongest in the nation.”

“I am pleased that we will have an opportunity to recognize Coach Dooley as we launch the next football season,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart. “We will use this exciting development to galvanize private support around our capital fundraising efforts to expand Butts-Mehre for our football program.”

Because the proposed naming applies to an exterior campus facility, it will require formal approval by the University of Georgia as well as the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents.

“I have immense respect and appreciation for Coach Dooley and all that he has accomplished at the University of Georgia,” said USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “The Board of Regents and I look forward to reviewing the proposal to name Dooley Field during our May meeting.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Athens) is believed to be behind the fast-tracking of this long-proposed movement. The Kemps and Dooleys families are very close and the Dooleys were passionate supporters of his campaign for governor last year. Some political maneuverings reported in January by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution could be related to this development.

Kemp informed longtime Regent Don Leebern of Columbus two weeks ago that he would not be re-appointed for a seventh term. Kemp overturned the initial reappointments of Leebern, Richard Tucker and Dean Alford by the previous administation after taking office in January. Tucker was chairman of the regents’ facilities committee and Leebern was vice-chairman.

Tucker has not yet been told whether he will be re-appointed.

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