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Vince Dooley: A Conversation

[Hosted by Susan Hoffman]

His career unfolded over 40 years on the UGA campus where he made the “Dawgs” a national phenomenon. Known best as a sports icon, Vince Dooley is also passionate about history and gardening, flirted with running for political office and has opinions on many topics. He sat down with Susan Hoffman for a lively and candid discussion of his life, influences and career.

Vincent Joseph Dooley was born in Mobile, Alabama, on September 4, 1932, the fourth of Nellie and William Dooley's five children. As a young boy, he realized that athletics could save him from a life working in the shipyards. He became a basketball stat at Mobile's McGill Catholic High School but also played quarterback on the football team, leading them to the Mobile City championship in 1949.

Dooley’s athletic abilities brought him offers to attend several universities. He chose Alabama's Auburn University where they promised he could play both basketball and football. A knee injury during his junior year brought Dooley’s basketball career to an end but he continued to excel at football under coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan. He also discovered a real joy in the academic side of college life.

After graduating with a degree in business management, Dooley spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, an experience that would characterize his coaching style for the next thirty-two years.

In 1956, Dooley had options to remain in the Marines, return home to a banking career, become a high school coach or return to his alma mater as an assistant football coach. Auburn won out and Dooley spent the next seven years there in the football program while also earning a Masters degree in history.

In December 1963, his life—and athletics at the University of Georgia—changed forever when he accepted the position as head football coach of the Bulldogs. For the next twenty-five years, he led the team to national prominence, winning 201 games, 6 southeastern conference championships and a Sugar Bowl.

When Joel Eaves retired as athletic director in 1979, Dooley was appointed his successor, and the Georgia Athletic Association became a powerhouse. Dooley expanded the program and proved to be a consummate fundraiser.
In 2004, Dooley ended his forty-year tenure at Georgia. His career there had been marked by success, honors and some controversy. Far from retired, Dooley keeps busy pursuing his many passions, including his family, history, gardening and, of course, sports.

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