ALPHARETTA, Ga. – College football legend Vince Dooley was the guest speaker at the Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast Aug. 13.
Dooley was the University of Georgia’s football coach from 1964-2004 and athletic director from 1979-2004. He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
When Dooley came to UGA in 1964 as head football coach, he was young and relatively unknown. More than 40 years later, he left as one of the most recognizable names in college football.
“I was 31 and a freshman coach at a rival school,” he said. “By my third year, we won a championship.”
He said his secret was surrounding himself with good people and getting them to work well together.
The changes to the sport – and society as a whole –since he first started coaching are great. With the recent news that universities will begin having playoffs, Dooley noted he was on a committee with the NCAA more than 20 years ago charged with finding ways to improve the game. One of their recommendations was to start playoffs.
There are challenges with the changing face of college football. The NCAA is ceding power to the Big 5 leagues, players are unionizing and the first court ruling has determined players must be paid.
But Dooley said he always sees a silver lining.
“From these crises come opportunities,” he said, citing the big changes when he first started – the NCAA reorganization and the effect of Title IX on university sports.
“The change in college football is amazing,” he said.
Recently, 84 schools have changed conferences since Nebraska first did it. That has split up many traditional rivalries.
One rivalry that has not been split is UGA-Auburn.
Dooley showed off his love of history, saying the first Georgia-Auburn game took place in 1892. Georgia players came out with their mascot – a red-and-black goat – and met Auburn at Piedmont Park. Auburn won 10-0. Georgia’s players had the mascot for dinner.
Since then – 117 years later – the two teams have been head-to-head.
Dooley is now retired. He has authored several books and is now a consultant, a role he said he enjoys.
“You give your opinion and don’t have to make any decisions,” he said.
He is helping Kennesaw State University get its own football program started.
“Despite the costs of football, schools are still adding football programs,” he said. “There have bene 39 schools in the past few years.
“Football gives an institution a sense of pride, belonging and culture,” he said.
The next big event for the Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce is Alpharetta Restaurant Week, Sept. 6-18. For more information, visit www.alpharettachamber.com.