Ever since Vince Dooley retired at the University of Georgia, there has been support to have the legendary coach’s name placed on the football stadium.
That honor will finally happen at UGA’s first home game of the season on Sept. 7, as the playing surface will officially be named “Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.”
Dooley, who will turn 86 years old next month, was Georgia’s coach for 25 seasons, and led the Bulldogs to six SEC titles, along with the 1980 national championship. He also served as the school’s athletics director from 1979 to 2004.
Many Georgia fans feel like Dooley’s distinction should’ve happened long ago. It apparently got delayed due to some political opposition within the Board of Regents.
However, Dooley made it clear this week during an interview with DawgNation that he was very appreciative of the looming tribute and that he respected the process. It was some rare insight by the Hall of Fame coach, who has remained mostly tight-lipped about the topic over the years.
“If there were some people that had some concerns, then I respected that,” Dooley said. “I knew that there was a lot of people that wanted it to happen. And I appreciated that – very quietly. I didn’t think it was right for me ever to say anything about that.
“I thought maybe one day it would happen. I thought to myself, on some occasions, I might not be around when it happened. But at the same time, I thought it would (happen). So I never lost that confidence that perhaps something would happen one day.”
That “one day” happened last May, when UGA President Jere Morehead and athletics director Greg McGarity showed up at Dooley’s house to deliver the news. As usual, Dooley had a funny story to share about the moment:
“I tell the story that I was very appreciative and moved by it. My wife, Barbara, who is much more emotional, was more than just appreciative. I mean, she started shouting and crying, and hugging Dr. Morehead and Greg. She didn’t hug me, I might add.”
One person who played a pivotal role in finally securing Dooley’s honor was Gov. Brian Kemp, who is close to the Dooley family. Kemp is an Athens native, and roomed with Dooley’s son, Daniel, in college.
“There’s no question I knew Governor Kemp when he was a little fella, running around with (my son),” the elder Dooley said with a smile. “ The greatest compliment to (Kemp) was … that my wife Barbara said that whenever she found out that Daniel was going out with Brian Kemp, she never had to worry about him getting into trouble.
“Brian’s mother might’ve been worried about Brian getting trouble with Daniel, but not the other way around. (Kemp) was good company, and a good person with good character at a very early age.”
One final thing: Dooley wanted it to be known that there were plenty of other people than himself that deserved credit for earning the field-naming accomplishment.
“When you say ‘so many people’ (wanted this, that’s) the phrase we should use to say why it happened. It happened because of so many great football players. It happened because of so many great fans. It happened because of so many people who performed – the coaches, the staff people, the trainers, (and) managers.
“They have all shared in this honor, (along with) my family. What I am proud about is hopefully for generations to come, they will be proud of that. But I know that everybody shares in it. So I think it is a terrific thing.
“I am personally proud. But I also know that it wouldn’t have happened without all those other people. Therefore, they are part of being honored as well.”