Last Saturday while the Bulldog nation sweated out a 35-32 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers that should not have been as hard as our scholar-athletes made it, former head football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley’s first team at UGA was recognized on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
As nice as that was, more — much more — needs to be done to honor the legendary Hall of Fame coach.
Dooley is the winningest coach in UGA history with 201 wins, six SEC titles and a national championship. In the decade before his arrival, UGA had only three winning seasons. In his 25 years at Georgia, Dooley had only one losing season.
In 2003, I suggested Sanford Stadium be renamed Sanford-Dooley or Dooley-Sanford Stadium. As I recall, Mark Bradley, the respected sports columnist at the Atlanta newspapers, made the same suggestion. Alas, some petty political types got their shorts in a wad over the thought of hyphenating Sanford Stadium.
Such a gesture would not have been without precedent. Alabama renamed its stadium for Bear Bryant (323 wins, including 232 while leading the Crimson Tide for 25 years.) Ole Miss did the same for Johnny Vaught (190 wins in 23 years) as did Auburn for Shug Jordan (176 wins in 25 years), Tennessee for Bob Neyland (173 wins in 22 years) and Georgia Tech for Bobby Dodd (165 wins in 22 years.)
All were great coaches who brought honor to their universities on and off the field, but none more so than Dooley.
Eleven years later, I have a new thought for your consideration. Why not Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium? Surely, the provincial-minded tut-tuts who abhor hyphens can have no objection to naming the playing field for Dooley.
By the way, there is precedent for that, too. The U.S. Military Academy plays football in Michie Stadium, which happens to be five years older than Sanford Stadium. In 1999, the academy named its football field Blaik Field in honor of Earl “Red” Blaik, the head coach at West Point from 1941 to 1958, who won three national championships there. So will somebody tell me why we can’t do that at Sanford Stadium? What is wrong with Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium? If West Point can do it, why can’t we?
During Dooley’s time as head football coach at UGA, as many as a thousand or so young men come came under his tutelage. Many went on to become prominent citizens in our state — lawyers, doctors, businessmen, coaches, teachers and not a few professional athletes. I suspect a lot of them would tell you today they owe much of their success to lessons learned from their coach.
I contend it is these former players who should be the catalyst for making Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium a reality. I don’t know whose approval it takes or how long the process, but they could find out with a phone call or two.
Among those who played for Dooley are such luminaries as Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the driving force behind the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games; Coca-Cola executive Frank Ros, captain of the 1980 national championship team; Mack Guest, a trucking company executive and president of the Georgia lettermen’s organization; Herschel Walker, who needs no introduction; former quarterback Buck Belue and legendary kicker Kevin Butler, both now broadcasters; retired State Court Judge Kent Lawrence; prominent surgeons Tommy Lawhorne in Columbus and Dr. Tommy Lyons in Atlanta; attorneys Tom Nash in Savannah and Kirby Moore in Macon.
The list goes on and on, but you get the drift. These are highly successful people who along with their teammates could be a formidable force in getting the playing field at Sanford Stadium named for their 82-year-old coach. I have no doubt UGA supporters across the state would enthusiastically join them in their efforts and would roll any opposition to the idea like a cheap cigar. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that. (Wink! Wink!)
Dooley’s former players need to get to work right now to ensure the stadium in which they spent memorable Saturdays will carry their coach’s name for generations to come. The rest of us can help.
The proper thing to do is to rename the facility Dooley-Sanford Stadium. An acceptable alternative is Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. What is not acceptable is to do nothing.
Vince Dooley gave us his best efforts. It’s time we do the same for him.