Vince Dooley always likes to make a trip to Gainesville. The former Georgia football head coach and athletic director made his third trip to Gainesville on Friday since he started his book tour three years ago, this time at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center to promote his new book "The 34 Most Memorable Plays in Georgia Football History."
During his visit, Dooley spoke with Times sports writer Bill Murphy about Georgia’s 2008 season that started with a preseason No. 1 ranking, the looming decision Bulldogs players Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno face regarding the NFL draft, the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry, and what he believes is the top play in Georgia football history.
Question: What do you enjoy most about visiting Gainesville?
Answer: There’s always something new here that I haven’t seen. I haven’t seen this art gallery before, so I’m glad to be here and take a tour. I haven’t seen (General) Longstreet’s statue before, so I went over to see it. I had actually seen the cemetery. I’ve had an interest in the Civil War, and have seen most major battle fields before. There’s always something new to see when you come to Gainesville.
Q: Georgia’s season was obviously a bit of a disappointment. What was your take on it?A: I think first of all we were overrated to start with and that’s tough to be picked to be No. 1 in the country. We’ve never been picked to be the No. 1 team in the country. It’s almost impossible to live up to that. You have to be No. 1 just to break even. I use Alabama as a contrast. They entered the season at No. 25 in the nation and they end up being No. 1 for a long period of time and are going to finish with a great season. They got beat by, who knows, maybe the eventual national champions (Florida). That SEC title game was one of the best games I’ve seen in a long, long time. The difference was one guy — Tebow. He’s just an incredible performer.
But we didn’t play as well as we needed this season and (Georgia) coach (Mark) Richt knows that better than anybody. If you stay in coaching any place long enough, you’re going to face some disappointments. You have to be able to address the problems and then do something about it. Certainly some fundamentals we need to do better, like tackling, you can’t conceal that. I know through my career, there are some series of times you have to re-evaluate where you are and do something about it.Q: You were the head coach for 25 seasons. When you go through a disappointing season, what’s the best thing to do as a head coach?
A: You have to totally analyze your program. You have to get the input, which you do every year, from the coaching staff, and you take their input and determine what’s got to be done and then you have a plan. Usually, you go back and it involves fundamentals, just an age old problem and somehow you forget ’em.
Q: How big is the Georgia-Georgia Tech series when both teams are competitive?A: It will always be the biggest rivalry (for Georgia). It’s as big as Auburn or Florida and they’re both big. But a rivalry is one that can’t all be one-sided. It’s been more of a rivalry for Tech now. Now it’s back to where it ought to be. Now we have to get Florida back to being more of a rivalry. Paul Johnson has done a great job with Georgia Tech and he’ll get it back to being more of a rivalry game. That, in turn, will make coach Richt a better coach and Georgia a better football team.
Q: There’s a lot of talk about Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford declaring early for the NFL. What is your take on that decision to leave early?
A: Well, it was all hidden when I was coaching, you didn’t know it was going on. Now it’s all pretty wide open. Yeah, I think the decision is tough if in fact what I understand is true, that this may be the last year of those big bonuses and salary cap. That may be a factor in the decision.
Q: Since this book is about the 34 most memorable plays, which one is No. 1 in your opinion?
A: I said this about the book, and it was a fun book to do, you could argue what the second, third, fourth or 34th most memorable, but there is almost no arguing the most memorable. That has to be the Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott touchdown pass (in the 1980 Georgia/Florida game). Because not only did it win the Florida game, but it also led to the national championship.