This time, a Dooley is trying to beat the Dawgs
Derek Dooley says it’s no big deal. His father knows better.
So Vince Dooley is sitting this one out.
The retired Georgia coach will naturally be cheering for his son
when Tennessee faces the Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.
But the thought of a Dooley pulling for the visiting team between
the hedges – well, that was just a little too awkward even for a
proud dad whose son followed in his footsteps.
For the first time, Vince Dooley will take in a Georgia home
game from his couch, just a few miles away, rooting for the Vols
where no one can see.
”I’m going to sit down and just watch the game on television,”
he said in a telephone interview Thursday. ”It’s really a lot
easier in a lot of ways.”
Dooley coached the Bulldogs for 25 years, leading them to six
Southeastern Conference titles and the national championship in
1980. After retiring as a coach, he continued to serve as athletic
director until being forced into retirement by university president
Michael Adams in 2004.
Now 78, Dooley is still a popular figure at Georgia and that’s
where his loyalties remain. But his son Derek was hired this year
to coach at SEC East rival Tennessee, making it inevitable that one
day out of every year Vince would be favoring orange over red and
”I pull for my family. If I don’t pull for my family, I won’t
be married very long,” he joked.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he understands why the man who
hired him nearly a decade ago and usually attends every home game
wouldn’t want to be around for this one.
”I think that was a smart move,” Richt said. ”He doesn’t want
to go into Sanford Stadium and root against Georgia. And he doesn’t
want to ever root against his son. So he can’t win.”
Derek Dooley said the whole thing is overblown.
”A lot of people are trying to make something out of this,”
the 42-year-old coach said. ”I left Athens when I was 18. I know
I’m not old, but that was a long time ago. I’ve worn a lot of
colors since that time.”
For instance, he coached on Nick Saban’s staff at LSU, which
gave him three chances to go against his father’s old team. The
Tigers won twice, including a blowout win in the 2003 conference
championship game. The Bulldogs won in a rout when the teams played
in 2004 at Sanford Stadium.
Derek figures it was more emotional returning to Tiger Stadium
last week to face LSU than anything he’ll feel this Saturday. He
spent five very important years of his life in Baton Rouge,
learning the ropes under one of college football’s best
Heck, Derek already has gone against his father’s team as a
player. In 1987, Derek was a freshman receiver at Virginia when the
Cavaliers defeated a Dooley-coached Georgia squad 30-22.
”I’ve coached there already as an opponent,” Dooley said from
Knoxville. ”I’ve played there as an opponent. There won’t be any
nostalgia. Probably more at LSU than there would be at Georgia.
It’s a very different place than when I grew up.”
That won’t make it any easier for his father.
”In a perfect world, I’d rather him be farther away and not in
the same conference. I wish he had been in the far West and not so
close,” Vince said. ”But it is what it is. We’ll make the make
the best of it. I am very proud of him.”
Both teams are desperate for a win.
The Bulldogs (1-4, 0-3 SEC) are mired in a four-game losing
streak, their longest since 1990. Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) is coming
off a bitter loss to LSU, giving up the winning touchdown with no
time on the clock after giving the Tigers an extra play by having
too many defenders on the field.
Vince Dooley knows his son has a difficult rebuilding job after
taking over a once-powerhouse program that is on its third coach in
”He’s got a tough road, a real tough road,” the father said.
”They had a great opportunity to win last week. I doubt they’ll
have too many of those opportunities. They’re down in quality and
Derek grew up at his father’s side, often sitting in on the
post-game news conferences. Vince would have preferred that his son
go into another line of work, and that seemed likely when he
graduated from Virginia with a degree in government and foreign
affairs, then earned a law degree from Georgia.
The younger Dooley practiced law in Atlanta for nearly two years
before the family business called.
”I tried to steer him in another direction,” Vince said. ”He
went to law school and did a good job. I thought he might go into
public service. I thought he would be very good at it. But you’ve
got to follow your own passions, and that’s what he ended up
Derek looks at his childhood in Athens from an entirely
different perspective. It was a great experience, but he’s all
grown up now.
”The Athens that I knew and the Georgia that I knew was my dad
coaching as a kid. And that’s it,” he said. ”When he stopped
coaching and when I went to college, that ended.”
Of course, going into coaching is putting a strain on his mother
– especially the last two games. The galling loss to LSU was
preceded by a double-overtime win over UAB.
But, unlike her husband, Barbara Dooley intends to be at Sanford
Stadium with the rest of the family, putting away her Georgia
colors for one week to cheer on her youngest son.
”She keeps asking me, ‘Why an I putting myself through this
again? I went through this for 25 years here with you, and now I’m
going through it again,”’ Vince said with a chuckle. ”You can
imagine being a wife for all those games. Now your baby son is
involved in the same thing.”