Dooley died at his home Friday surrounded by family, according to a spokesperson for the University of Georgia Athletics Department. Dooley's 201 wins are the most of any Georgia football coach. The field inside Sanford Stadium is named for Dooley.
Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Dooley played football at Auburn. And after a stint in the Marine Corps, he headed back to the Plains where he started his coaching career as an assistant with the Tigers.
But it was the decision of University of Georgia athletic director Joel Eaves made in late 1963 that would change Dooley's life and the Bulldog nation for the next four-plus decades. Eaves choose an unknown Dooley, the freshman team coach at rival Auburn to take over the head job at UGA.
Former Georgia Bulldogs head coach Vince Dooley is honored for his birthday before the game between the Oregon Ducks and the Georgia Bulldogs on September 3, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
"When you go back and start thinking about things, you think about how in the world I got here in the first place. I was such a young coach which was kind of miraculous. It shocked a lot of Georgia people. I think they were expecting some named coach," said Dooley.
Success came quickly for Dooley. In his third season, 1966 the Bulldogs won the Southeastern Conference Championship. The first of his six SEC titles.Dooley's most successful Bulldog team came in 1980.That Bulldog offensive line along with freshman running back Herschel Walker helped Georgia win the National Championship in January 1981.
Dooley would coach the Bulldog football team through the 1988 season finishing with a 201-77-10 record becoming just the 9th coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 200 win mark.
Dooley added the title of UGA Athletic Director starting in 1979 and under his watch UGA teams won 23 national championships across a number of different sports.
Dooley retired in 2004 after spending 25 years as head football coach and 25 as athletic director.
"You go through a series of crises if you stay at one place this long. It was great that we were able to do that and raise a family in one place. It's very satifying," said Dooley.
Following his retirement, Dooley and his wife Barbara stayed in Athens and he dove into his passions. One being his garden and another civil war history. He wrote books on both topics.UGA honored Dooley with a statue on campus and in 2019 they named the field at Sanford Stadium after him.
"I was happy that it happened. I thought eventually it might happen. When I came the stadium was less than 43,000 and when I left it was just less than 93,000. There were 50 thousand seats added during my time here as both football coach and athletic director," said Dooley.
Vince Dooley. An Auburn Tiger turned Damn Good Dawg.
"I hope they'll say that I did a good job and tried to do it in the right way," said Dooley.
Herschel Walker, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 as a running back under Dooley, shared his grief in a statement:
"My heart breaks at Coach Vince Dooley's passing. Coach Dooley was like a second father to me and his family became my family. Coach put his trust in me and I put my trust in him. He taught me about the values of hard work and perseverance. There is no one who loved America more than Coach Dooley, and he proudly served his country in the United States Marine Corps. Without Coach Dooley, there is no Herschel Walker. He helped make me the man I am today and I will never be able to thank him enough for everything he did for me. Julie and I are praying for Barbara Dooley and Coach's entire family during this difficult time."
University of Georgia alumni, athletes and football figures paid respects to Dooley when news of his death broke:
Many in the FOX 5 Atlanta newsroom had personal connections with the legendary coach:
Dooley was recently hospitalized with a "mild case" of COVID-19. He was released several days later.