Originally created 06/27/04

A farewell conversation

Q: Forty years ago this summer, you began your first preseason coaching at Georgia. What during your time living and working here sticks with you the most after all of these years?

A: The growth of loving a community, knowing a community, knowing a people, being a part of it and my family being a part of it.

(My wife) Barbara has been very much a part of this community, maybe more so than I have. We've all been involved in various committees. We've done a lot of charity work here. Barbara has been very much involved in the community. She ran for office - unsuccessfully - yet she stuck it out there. She has also been on the Chamber of Commerce and on the United Way. We've both done that.

She's got a radio show. It's the community involvement and knowing the people and getting to know the people both at the university and in the community.

Q: You came here as an unknown freshman coach. Did you like it better in the days of anonymity or today, when you are recognized and cherished by so many?

A: I don't know about the word cherished, but I think you'd rather have had success than the unknown. The unknown came at the right time. I was young, it was challenging and you wanted to do well and provide a good program. I still do.

Q: What is the state of the University of Georgia athletic department these days?

A: I think it's in excellent shape. I'm pleased that Damon (Evans) is going to be the one that I pass the torch to because it will keep the nucleus and base of the program intact, which has been good. It's just been a very good program. If you go around the country, you'll find out that it's highly regarded around the country. Damon ... will develop his own ideas with the idea of taking it to an even a greater level. He'll not only maintain, I think, the consistency that we have of being good, but try to raise that bar even higher.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for the athletic association in the next five to 10 years?

A: The challenges somehow remain the same. Not just at the University of Georgia, but they are national challenges. You've got the challenge of this great passion and love for the game - especially in football and basketball to an extent - and you've got a university that has university missions and trying to deal with an athletic program that has this great support, this great passion and also trying to balance a university philosophy with an athletic philosophy in a market economy.

Even in a university, it's a market economy, but the market is not to the extent that it is with football coaches and with basketball coaches. That does present some problems for the university. In order to fund all the many sports and compete at the highest level, it's going to be necessary to build facilities. That means new funding. It takes money to do this.

We've got a plan for the next several years, and hopefully that plan will be implemented soon. It makes sound economic sense. Then you've got the challenge of people continuing to ask questions, as they should, about athletics. We're so highly visible that when something is wrong everybody knows about it. Unfortunately, when it goes bad then it reflects badly.

The challenge is to always try to reflect positively, always remember that academics is at the forefront and should always be and that athletics has a very important part to play but that academics is at the forefront. That's the challenge, and sometimes it gets a little out of kilter. It's a challenge to keep it in the proper perspective. Most of the challenges are ongoing challenges.

Q: Is the job more challenging now than when you became a full-time athletic director in 1989?

A: I have come through, I think, most of the challenges when I became athletic director. I came through Title IX. I have come through several reforms in the NCAA. I've come through - as a coach - the integration of sports teams, the challenge of trying to provide an overall program where every team has a chance to compete at the highest level.

That's what I always wanted to do and we're doing that for the most part. At the same time, remembering that football is the economic engine that drives it all and that has got to succeed. Fortunately, we have the individual that I think will keep us at a level of competition at the top but at the same time having somebody that represents our program and the university the way it ought to be represented in Mark Richt.

Q: Was the decision to pull the men's basketball team out of the SEC and NCAA Tournament last year the most gut-wrenching you made in 40 years here?

A: Probably so. I've made some other tough decisions. When you change coaches, it's tough. When I had to change coaches with Ray Goff, a player who played for me and recruited him and coached with him and supported him as a coach. To make that change was very difficult. That was as difficult as it gets because it was even more personal.

At the same time, when you pull a team from a tournament - both the SEC and NCAA - you affect the players. I felt that because of some individuals that I think highly of and that's the senior group this year that didn't make it. It was very painful but it was the right thing to do. I never backed off what I thought was the right decision, but it's also a tough decision because it affects people and it was painful.

Q: The football program is 32-8 under Richt in three seasons. There are obviously high expectations. What do you see for the football program in the next few years and do you think it has what it takes to do what you did in 1980?

A: I think this program has the ability to be a consistent winner, to be competitive at the highest level. When you do that in a given year or given years, it can go your way.

This is an extremely tough and competitive conference. It's not the ACC, in all due respect to Florida State. I think he's (Richt's) got the resources and the ability and the program to compete at that highest level and still at the same time provide the type of program representing the university and the athletic department the way it should be. The challenge is going to be; yes, the expectations are going to get higher.

The two greatest things that can happen to you are to win a championship and if you don't win a championship, surpass expectations. You take the last two years, that's what he's done. The expectations next year are going to be much higher than they've been the last two years, and that will be the greater challenge.

Q: What will it take to sustain national prominence like Florida State did for so many years?

A: Again, we're not in the ACC. I haven't seen anybody. You saw Alabama in the '70s. We made a run in the '80s. Florida makes a run in the early '90s, perhaps. In our conference, it's a lot tougher to do what Florida State has done. Those teams were somewhat dominant but not to the extent of Florida State because of the league they're in.

At the same time, the last five or six years there has not been a repeat team to win the championship. Right now, LSU has won it two out of three, and we've won it in between. All of these other programs are good.

Q: Sanford Stadium has expanded many times since you first came here (seven expansions to raise capacity to 92,020, fifth-largest in the nation). Do you expect it's going to keep growing?

A: Yeah, I think we could have added another 5,000 this year. We need to have some seats where people wouldn't need to have a contribution to come and see a football game. It's extremely difficult now to get a ticket. We added 5,500 last year and sold them all out. We're sold-out again, plus we built 27 new sky suites and we've got 77 sold and we've got a waiting list. I'm confident we could add another 5,000.

Q: You're not going to give Michigan or Tennessee a run for the money (Both stadiums top 100,000)?

A: We could be 100,000.

Q: How do you envision Vince Dooley's life will be after July 1? What will retirement be like or is that a word you will be using?

A: Well, I don't like that word. I am a person that's been busy. If I could have more time, I could start more projects and do more things I like to do because I'm curious. I enjoy learning. I enjoy doing things. I envision I'll be very busy and hopefully always be in a position where I can be of some help.

Q: Fans during the Bulldog Club Tour treated it like a farewell tour for you. You are planning to work from the Rankin Smith Academic Center with things like fund raising.

A: "Everybody is saying 'We're going to miss you, coach.' I tell them 'My plans aren't to go anywhere. I'm going to move one block from where I am. ... I'll be there to help anyway I can, and if Damon needs me he can pick up the phone and call me. I'm going to stay out of the way but at the same time be available."


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