After three miserable 3 – win football seasons, University of Georgia President O. C. Aderhold decided in November 1963 it was time for some big changes.
Dr. Aderhold hired Joel Eaves as Athletic Director and placed him squarely in charge of Georgia Athletics. Coach Eaves first decision was to hire an unknown and unproven assistant from Auburn as head football coach – Vince Dooley.
Onlineathens.com Lee Shearer recalled Dooley’s response to Coach Eves offer, “Well, if you’re foolish enough to stick your neck out, I’m foolish enough to come.”
During the Georgia Tennessee football game on September 27, the Bulldog nation will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Coach Vince Dooley’s first team, the 1964 Sun Bowl Champions. Recognition will include a Redcoat Band halftime show simply titled, 1964, featuring popular tunes from Dooley’s first year on campus and a halftime ceremony that will reunite Coach Dooley with his first team on the Sanford Stadium turf.
In 25 seasons, Coach Dooley amassed a career record of 201 wins, 77 losses and 10 ties, a 715 winning percentage.
Dooley’s first team won 6 and lost 3 with a tie before beating Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl. The 1964 team also launched an era of remarkable success against arch rival Georgia Tech. Before Dooley arrived Georgia held a slim 26 – 25 (5 ties) all – time advantage over the Jackets. Since Dooley’s arrival, the series record shows an overwhelming 64 – 37 (5 ties) advantage to the Bulldogs.
In the summer 2005 edition of the Huddle, the Georgia football letterman’s newsletter, Coach Dooley reflected on the changes since he arrived on Athens in 1964.
In my first year as head coach in 1964, the capacity of the stadium was 43,621 permanent seats. I am proud to say that today the capacity is 92,746, including 77 SkySuites that have been added since the decade of the 1990’s.
The wooden seats were old and splitting and many a fan wrote in complaining of getting splinters! The worst part of the stadium at the time,however, was the old light poles anchored on the field that caused many of our fans to have to look around the poles to followthe game. The first thing we did was to cover the splintering seats with a plastic surface that really helped. We also took down the old light posts and moved them to the practice field.
Coach Dooley also reflected on six special memories:
The first is the Georgia Tech game that we won my first year, which broke a losing streak with Tech and sent us to the Sun Bowl. At that particular time after three losing seasons, most Georgia people felt as if we had won the national championship.
The following year in the 1965 opening game, we beat No. 1-ranked Alabama in a tremendous upset by scoring late on the so-called “flea flicker” – Kirby Moore to Pat Hodgson to Bob Taylor for a 70-yard touchdown play. Moore then hit Hodgson for the winning two-point conversion and the victory.
In 1976, the year of our fourth SEC championship, it was an Alabama game again that provided the highlights as we shut out the Crimson Tide 21-0. I will never forget the 15,000 people who sat out on the railroad track the night before in order to earn “squatter’s rights” to see the game from that vantage point in the west end zone. I don’t believe there has never been a celebration quite like the one in Athens following that game.
The most exciting game I can recall is when we beat Georgia Tech 29-28 in 1978. We were down 20-0, made a great comeback, and after the lead changed hands four times, we won on a last-minute touchdown and two-point play.
The 1981 Auburn game in which our team clinched the SEC championship was another very special remembrance. It was the first time that Georgia had ever won back-to-back SEC championships, and the first and only time in my career that we won the crown in Athens. All of the previous championship games that we won were in Auburn.
Finally how can I forget the ’88 game, my last “between the hedges,” when we beat Georgia Tech. That was the 200th win for the teams I coached.
Lee Shearer quoted Vince Dooley’s explanation for his success, “We had good morale among our staff because I let my coaches coach and I wasn’t a totally hands-on coach. I had good coaches. … I gave them credit, I took the blame. All of those traits, fortunately, I had at an early age. I didn’t think about it, I just thought that was the normal thing to do.”
Apparently the right thing to do as well.