Vince Dooley Memorial Service: Bulldog nation gathers to celebrate life of legendary Georgia coach

Family, former players, and University of Georgia football fans gathered in Athens Friday night to celebrate the life of legendary Georgia Bulldogs football coach Vince Dooley Friday.

 Dooley passed away peacefully at his home in Athens late last month. He was 90 years old. 

The celebration featured speeches by Jeff Dantzler, head coach Kirby Smart, Gov. Brian Kemp, and others, along with  tribute videos, and music from the UGA Redcoat Marching Band.

Former UGA head coach, Vince Dooley walks the sidelines prior to the Chick-fil-A Kick-Off Game between the Oregon Ducks and Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 3, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)


Dooley was hospitalized in October for what was described as a mild case of COVID-19, but he pronounced himself fully recovered and ready to attend his regular book-signing session at the campus bookstore before an Oct. 15 game against Vanderbilt.

Dooley had a career record of 201-77-10 while coaching the Bulldogs from 1964 to 1988, a stretch that included six Southeastern Conference titles, 20 bowl games and just one losing season.

Dooley is the fourth-winningest coach in SEC history, trailing only Bear Bryant, Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier.

After retiring from coaching, Dooley continued as the school’s AD, a job he held from 1979 until 2004. The field at Sanford Stadium was dedicated in his honor during the 2019 football season.

Josh Brooks, the school’s current athletic director, said the big-money program he now guides "is what it is today because of Vince Dooley."


Dooley’s death came just one day before Georgia, the defending national champion and ranked No. 1 in the country, faces one of its biggest rivals, the Florida Gators, in the annual "Cocktail Party" game at Jacksonville, Florida.

Dooley dominated that series during his coaching career, going 17-7-1 against the Gators. The most famous victory came in 1980, when Lindsay Scott hauled in a 93-yard touchdown pass from Buck Belue in the closing minute.

The improbable 26-21 triumph propelled Georgia to a perfect season and their first consensus national title.

As a graduate of Auburn, one of Georgia’s most hated rivals, he had no head coaching experience when he was hired by the Bulldogs at the age of 32.

It was not a popular hire, as Dooley often noted through the years.

"My qualifications were such there’s no way I would’ve hired myself," Dooley conceded in a 2014 interview with the school newspaper, The Red & Black.

After he retired in 2004, Dooley never left Athens and remained a fixture around the football program, often sitting in on news conferences conducted by the last coach he hired, Mark Richt, and Smart.

"Obviously one of the greatest coaches of all time," Richt said. "But also the man who hired me and mentored me in my first head coaching opportunity at Georgia. I owe a lot to Coach."

In addition to his wife and son Derek, survivors include children Deanna, Daniel and Denise.

The family requested memorials in lieu of flowers be sent to:

  • University of Georgia Libraries, 320 South Jackson Street, Athens, GA 30602;
  • Georgia Historical Society Vincent J. Dooley Distinguished Fellows Program, One Baltimore Place NW, Suite G300, Atlanta, GA 30308;
  • Champions Community Foundation, 2850 Old Alabama Road, Johns Creek, GA 30022;
  • The Catholic Center at the University of Georgia, 1344 S. Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA 30605

The Associated Press contributed to this report.