I have said it before and I say it again: If the field at Sanford Stadium is not named for Coach Vincent J. Dooley while he is still around to enjoy the honor, it will be a travesty and an insult to a man who well deserves the recognition.
Alas, football fans can be among the most short-sighted of all forms of life. They are a “what have you done for me lately?” crowd. None worse than the anonymous twits that tweet on Twitter about what recruit may be going where as though civilization as we know it may rise or fall on the decision. Most of them couldn’t locate the campus library if you drew them a map with crayons.
For the information of these social media misfits, it was Vince Dooley who brought Georgia football back from a long period of mediocrity and set the stage for the program’s current expectations for success. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Dooley has won more games than any coach in UGA history (201), six SEC titles and a national championship in his 25-year career. He also ran a fiscally-responsible athletic department during his time as athletic director.
In the meantime, the University of Alabama plays its home games at Bryant (as in Bear)-Denny Stadium; Auburn at Jordan (as in Shug)-Hare Stadium; Tennessee at Neyland (as in General Robert) Stadium; Ole Miss at Vaught (as in Johnny) Stadium, Georgia Tech at (Bobby) Dodd Stadium and the biggest insult of all, the Florida Gators call their home field Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Vince Dooley? A statue on campus. A nice gesture, but not nearly enough.
If Dooley is guilty of anything, he is not a back-slapping schmoozer. He was and is a straight arrow. As such, he ran afoul of a vengeful member of the Board of Regents and an egomaniacal university president who didn’t like the fact that they could not tell him what to do. Their pettiness continues to hang over the university like an ever-present fog and no one seems willing to do anything about it.
The big mystery to me has been the lack of advocacy by the football lettermen who played for Coach Dooley over the years. I would estimate the number to be near a thousand. Who among them can say they are not better men for the experience? The list includes physicians, attorneys, jurists, business executives, educators, military leaders and the greatest running back in the history of college football. I have written, called and goaded them to take some action on his behalf.
With one exception, my inquiries have been ignored. One former player who was a scholar-athlete in the best sense of the word has given it the old college try only to be rebuffed at every turn. What about the rest of the lettermen? Do they have a problem with the field at Sanford Stadium being called Vince Dooley Field? Is a statue on campus good enough for them? Do they think they don’t have enough clout to make it happen? (I can answer that last one: You bet they do.)
I have always been a bit cynical about relationships. When I could employ consultants in my former corporate life, they laughed too hard at my jokes and couldn’t buy me enough lunches. When I retired, I never heard from them again. During my Olympic days when I could dispense much-sought-after credentials, I had more friends than I could stir with a stick. They, too, have vanished. Today, with a newspaper column that spans the state, I have a whole new set of relationships that will be gone with the wind as soon as I am.
Through all of these iterations, Vince Dooley has remained my friend. I could fill this page with kindnesses he has done for me and for my family through the years for no reason other than friendship. (No, I never asked for tickets. I have excellent seats, thank you.)
I admire him as a true Renaissance Man — a master gardener, a serious historian, an author, family man and a pretty darned good football coach. He has achieved it all, except the one honor he so richly deserves. Somebody needs to get off their ungrateful rumps and get the field at Sanford Stadium named for Vince Dooley right now. He has earned it, he deserves it and it should have happened a long time ago. Shame, shame that it has not.