CORAL GABLES, Fla. — These things seem to happen in threes. Let’s hope that’s the case here.
Bill Dooley died Tuesday at the age of 82. His death follows in close succession those of two other damn, good Dogs in Marion Campbell and Jack Davis. And Bill Dooley was a damn, good Dog, both for his alma mater of Mississippi State and for Georgia.
Around Athens and Atlanta, Bill Dooley is best known for being Vince Dooley’s brother and an assistant coach on those successful teams of the mid-1960s. He coached offensive line for the Bulldogs and helped them build a winning foundation as UGA recorded 23 victories in the first three seasons after winning just 10 in the previous three.
But his football roots are actually much deeper — or more significant — up at North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Dooley left his brother’s shadow at Georgia and cast a pretty bright light of his own with the Tar Heels. He won three ACC titles at UNC, including the school’s first outright championship in 1971. As fate would have it, Bill Dooley faced off with his brother in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s eve after that season. A very, very good Georgia team prevailed 7-3.
The two teams haven’t played since. Gary Stokan and the good folks over at Peach Bowl Inc., who organize the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, planned to commemorate the 45th anniversary of that moment by having the brothers Dooley on the field for the coin toss when North Carolina and Georgia meet for the first time since then on Sept. 3 in the Georgia Dome. I assume Bill’s wife Marie and/or one or all of his four sons will stand in for him now.
Bill Dooley is still a big deal at UNC. He left as the winningest coach in school history. Though he since was passed, he remains tied with Mack Brown for second. He went to Virginia Tech from there and also assumed the title of athletic director, like his brother at Georgia. He also left Virginia Tech as the Hokies’ winningest coach before being overtaken by Frank Beamer many years later.
Bill Dooley retired from Wake Forest, where he coached from 1987-92. He went 8-4 that last year, which was a pretty big deal in Winston-Salem in those days. Bill Dooley and his wife finally settled in Wilmington, N.C.
I didn’t know Bill Dooley well personally and I’m not old enough to share any funny anecdotes. I’ll leave that up to Loran Smith and Vince and others that will surely weigh in over the coming hours and days. I just know if you talk to anybody who was around in those exciting years when Vince and Bill and Erk swoop in and got Georgia turned around, Bill is given a lot of credit for helping make that happen.
So Bulldogs everywhere should toast Bill Dooley today. They’ll be doing the same in Chapel Hill, Blacksburg, Winston-Salem, Starkville and Mobile, Ala., where the Dooley train got started.