College Football Great Vince Dooley, Who Coached Herschel Walker to a Heisman Trophy, Dies at 90

Beloved College Football Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley passed away on Friday at the age of 90.

In addition to his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Dooley was also a member of the Georgia and Alabama Sports Halls of Fame.

He began his coaching career as the offensive coordinator at Auburn University before being hired as University of Georgia’s head coach.  During his 25 seasons at Georgia as the winningest coach in Georgia history, he led teams to six SEC championships and in 1980, a National Championship.  When he retired, he was the second-winningest coach in SEC history, behind famed Alabama head coach Bear Bryant.

Today was the annual Florida-Georgia game, something Dooley never missed.

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The Ledger-Enquirer reports:

At the annual Georgia-Florida rivalry game in Jacksonville, you expect rowdiness, crazy tailgating setups and excitement for the SEC East matchup that’s often intense, regardless of the teams’ rankings. All that still came to pass – however, beloved former Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley’s death the Friday before the game added an undercurrent of deeper emotion for Georgia fans. It also provided an occasion to remember Dooley’s legacy as Georgia’s football coach with the most wins (201) who brought the school six SEC titles and the 1980 national championship. “There’s a different just feel about it,” Danise Taylor, a Georgia fan from Jesup who had met Dooley last year, said of Saturday’s Georgia-Florida game. “It was almost like it was God’s timing, almost, so that we can celebrate him (Saturday). I feel like he deserves it.”

Many Georgia fans heard the news while making their way down to Jacksonville on Friday, adding a somber tone to the trip. “The passion and what he brought to Georgia, it’s just remarkable,” Burnice Howard, a Georgia fan from Atlanta, said. “It was just a sad day, as we were coming down, to hear the news of Vince Dooley dying, passed away, it’s just unbelievable. It hurts the whole dawg nation. It hurts college football as a whole because of what he brought to college football and the university of Georgia. … It makes the day extremely emotional for this to be the first Georgia-Florida game that he’s not going to be present for.”

Tributes poured in for the beloved coach including one from Georgia Senate Candidate and fellow Bulldog great Herschel Walker.  Dooley coached Walker to a Heisman Trophy  in 1982.

Walker said in a statement shared in the Athens-Banner Herald, “I am honored and humbled that Coach Dooley filmed a commercial in September endorsing me. It has already aired in the last couple of weeks and was scheduled to be shown during the Georgia-Florida game. After the news of his passing, my first thought was to no longer run the ad because my respect for and friendship with Coach Dooley is more important than politics. I reach out to the family to express my thoughts and give my condolences and Mrs. Dooley assured me that Coach would want the commercial to continue to air. I will honor her wishes. There would be no Herschel Walker without Vince Dooley.”

Paul Finebaum shared his thoughts on Dooley on the Paul Finebaum Show.

“To call him legendary really doesn’t quite do him justice because of the impact he had on so many young men and women connected to Georgia….but on so many other people that he met and that he influenced. Vince Dooley grew up in Mobile, Alabama. Went to school at Auburn where he was the quarterback and team captain under Shug Jordan and then he spent many years on the coaching staff, that was after he served in the Marine Corps. He was lured to Georgia as one of the youngest coaches ever in college football.  He was 32 years old when he went to UGA and was very successful. But in 1980, he was carried off the field after winning the National Championship in the Sugar Bowl. He coached for a number of more years, not retiring until he was 88.  His record though, during that stretch, was 41-4-1 during the early ’80’s. 43-4-1 from 1980-1983. The reaction to his death today has brought out so many tweets and statements. From Auburn football where he played.”

“From Kirby Smart to Mark Richt, we’ve shared so many of this with you.  At a time like this it’s almost impossible not to get emotional as we share with you the Kirby Smart…how about that picture after the National Championship game….41 years passed between those two. As I said, it’s impossible not to get emotional because of his impact. But Vince Dooley was just so much more than a football coach. He was one of the finest people any of us here have ever met….and one of the smartest.  To say he will be missed is cliche, but his loss is profound. And the college football world, tonight, is heartbroken.”

 



Margaret Flavin