THOMASVILLE — Editor’s Note: Former Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley was in Thomasville on Wednesday to speak at a United Way luncheon, as well as sign autographs at the Everett-Milton YMCA. Times-Enterprise sports editor Clint Thompson spoke with Dooley about the University of Georgia, the Bulldogs’ slow start and his son, Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley.
Times-Enterprise: Thomasville has a rich connection as far as sending players to the University of Georgia. Is it just because football is such a big part of this community?
Dooley: It sure is. It goes all the way back to Jimmy Harper, who was a great official in the conference, his daddy was a coach there in Thomasville. Then Mike Bobo, who is the offensive coordinator, played down there. His dad (George) coached there. There’s a lot of connections.
Times-Enterprise: Georgia has gotten off to a slow start this year. Are you confident that they can get it turned around this year?
Dooley: Any coach that stays in the business long enough is going to go through some tough times. Certainly, Bobby Bowden right there at Florida State, despite all the incredible success he had, he had some tough times. Joe Paterno, if you recall about four years ago, he had three losing seasons in four years. Bear Bryant did it. I certainly did it at Georgia. One year, I started 0-3. At least Mark (Richt) has a better record right now than I did ... Sometimes coaches are victims of their own success. Coach Richt is kind of that way. He’s had an incredible run at Georgia. I’m confident he will analyze the problem and solve it.
Times-Enterprise: You were in Athens a long time. You know how the fans are and how they love their Bulldogs. But they also love to win. Should Richt be concerned at all that he might not get the opportunity (to turn it around) if he keeps going like this? Or do you think with Richt’s past history, they’ll give him time to turn it around?
Dooley: I think it’s a very emotional game. People have great passion, which is the upside. The downside is that during the course of the season, you don’t have a lot of patience from week to week. Those are fans. I guess that’s in a lot of ways we want because all they want to do is win every game, which is what we’d like to do as well ... I think people in the responsible positions will certainly go the extra mile with coach Richt, particularly, because he’s the type of person you want to represent your university.
Times-Enterprise: How thrilled were you that your son (Derek) was able to get that job with the Tennessee Volunteers?
Dooley: There’s some mixed emotions. We’re very proud of him. We’re glad he’s in the conference. In a perfect world, I would wish he had maybe gone to a team out west ... and not be so close. On the other hand, he would’ve said, ‘Dad, don’t you remember, you came from Auburn’, which is right across the Chattahoochee, so I couldn’t argue with him. He’ll have to make the best of that. He’s got a really tough job ... As I’ve said many times, I can assure you, I won’t be wearing that orange of Tennessee.
Times-Enterprise: On Oct. 9, when Tennessee comes to Athens, I’m sure there’s going to be some mixed emotions there?
Dooley: They’ve got these high-tech cameras that can find you anywhere in the stadium. They’ve found Peyton Manning every time he’s gone to a football game. They’re not going to find me because I’m going to be home watching it on television ...
I will be pulling for my son. After all he is my son but I’m certainly not going to do it in Sanford Stadium where I made my livelihood.