Los Angeles—In a Hall of Fame coaching and administrative career that covered five decades, Vince Dooley has seen everything.
Everything, that is, but the Rose Bowl game.
As a player, coach, and longtime director of athletics, Dooley has been to just about every bowl you can name. But he has never attended the Granddaddy of Them All.
All that will change on the first day of January, 2018, when Dooley leaves the Intercontinental Hotel at 5:30 a.m. At age 85, he could not be more excited.
“I’ve never seen the Parade and I’ve never seen the game and I have decided that I’m going to do it all,” said Dooley, who in 25 seasons as head coach won six SEC championships) and a national championship (1980) at Georgia. “Since I got here (on Friday) there are Georgia people everywhere I go.”
It is the second once-in-lifetime trip the Georgia people have made this season. Over 40,000 made the journey to South Bend, Ind., to see the Bulldogs beat Notre Dame 20-19 back on Sept. 9. Early estimates have as many as 50,000 Georgia fans at Monday’s game.
“The Georgia people love to travel but they especially love to travel some place they have never been before,” said Dooley. “I can’t tell you how many people have told me they are coming to this game. It is history. It is something that will probably not happen again in their lifetime.”
When these kinds of moments come along, it’s hard not to think about those who loved Georgia and are no longer with us. Coach Dooley was close to all of these people:
Dan Magill: Considered to be greatest Bulldog of all time. He was the school’s long time sports information director, creator of the Bulldog club, one of the best college tennis coaches in the history of the sport. He was at Sanford Stadium as a nine-year old when the stadium was dedicated with a game against Yale in 1929. No single person devoted more of his heart and soul to the University of Georgia than the great Magill.
“He could hold court and tell us story after story,” said Dooley. “He would love everything about this trip.”
Magill died in 2014 at the age of 93.
Erk Russell: Was Dooley’s long-time defensive coordinator (1964-1980) who went on to building a national championship program at Georgia Southern. In my career I have never met a better motivator of people. If you were a sportswriter or an insurance salesman, once you talked to Coach Russell you would run through a brick wall for the man.
“The people out here have never seen anybody like Erk,” said Coach Dooley. “When he started butting heads people wouldn’t know what to think of that.”
Russell died in 2006 at age 80.
Lewis Grizzard: The long-time humorist and columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He made no secret of this love for Georgia football. Lewis died from complications from heart surgery in 1994. He was only 48 years old.
“He would have taught the folks out here how to tailgate,” said Dooley. “Nobody did it better or loved his university more.”
Larry Munson: Munson was the radio voice of Georgia football for 43 years. He was the ultimate fan and did not mind showing it on the air. He would call Georgia “we” and the opponent “them.” In 1982, as Georgia was clinching an SEC championship against Auburn, Munson screamed “Look at the Sugar falling out of the sky! Look at the Sugar falling out of the sky.”
“Larry had his own way of doing just about everything,” said Dooley. “I would have loved to hear him call this game.
Munson called Georgia games until 2009 when age took its toll on that magnificent, gravelly voice. Munson died in 2011 at the age of 89.
Dooley, who has four adult children and 11 grandchildren, is happy to see that so many Georgia people have brought their kids.
“This is the kind of trip that people are going to remember the rest of their lives,” he said. “I’m just happy that I’m still around to be a part of it.”
And who is going to win the game between Georgia and Oklahoma? Coach Dooley likes Georgia, where he won 201 career games.
“We bounced back after losing to Auburn (on Nov. 11) and have been on a nice run,” said Dooley. “If we keep playing like that we have a good shot.”