Friday, April 12

Auburn football letterman Vince Dooley, College Football Hall of Famer, passes away


Football

By: Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. – College Football Hall of Fame inductee Vince Dooley, who played and coached at Auburn before becoming the winningest coach in Georgia history, passed away Friday at the age of 90.

“It takes a very special man, a special coach, to be revered and loved by two fanbases,” said former Auburn athletic director and sports information director David Housel. “Vince Dooley was such a man.

“Yes he was Georgia’s most successful coach, but he was still loved, cared about and admired here at Auburn, because he’s one of us.”

Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, where he starred at McGill-Toolen High School, Dooley played quarterback at Auburn from 1951-53, captaining the Tigers as a senior. A 1954 Auburn University business management graduate, Dooley earned his master’s degree from Auburn in history in 1963.

An assistant coach for Shug Jordan at Auburn for eight seasons from 1956-63, Dooley helped the Tigers win the program’s first national championship in 1957.

In December 1963, at age 32, Dooley moved to the University of Georgia, hired by AD Joel Eaves, Auburn’s former basketball coach. There, he was sometimes head football coach, sometimes director of athletics, sometimes both. He was elected to both the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

“I think Auburn people were happy that he got a good job,” said Housel about Dooley’s departure for UGA. “I don’t think there was any animosity; a lot of competitiveness.”

When Dooley first brought his Bulldogs to the Plains, in 1964, many of his former Auburn associates turned out before the game to welcome him back to campus.

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“It wasn’t about football,” Housel said. “It was about friendship.”

The winningest football coach in Georgia history, Dooley amassed a 201-77-10 record during his 25 seasons leading the Bulldog program from 1964-88. His teams appeared in 20 bowls, claimed six SEC titles and the 1980 national championship. He was named NCAA National Coach of the Year by every major poll in 1980 and was named SEC Coach of the Year seven times.

Dooley served as Georgia’s athletic director from 1979-2004, handling both head coaching and AD duties for a decade in an era when that was not uncommon.

Dooley often returned to his alma mater, having been part of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry as a player, coach and administrator for six decades. On October 8, 2021, he attended Auburn’s ceremony unveiling statues of stadium namesakes Jordan, Cliff Hare and Pat Dye.

“He represented the very best of all of college football, but in particular the Auburn-Georgia rivalry,” Housel said. “Mutual admiration, respect, but he never lost his competitiveness. He was not going against an enemy when he played Auburn. He was going against an opponent.

“He never forgot what Auburn contributed to his life. He and Coach Dye had great mutual respect for one another. He was one of us. He was one of our best, and he was one of their best, too, and you can’ t say that about many people. We lost a great one. We’ll not see his like again.”

Vince Dooley returned to Auburn for statue unveilings in October 2021

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer

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