Family, fans gathering to celebrate the life of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley

University of Georgia family, former players and football fans will gather in Athens on Friday to celebrate the life of legendary Georgia Bulldogs football coach Vince Dooley.

The Stegeman Coliseum opens at 6:30pm to honor Dooley, who passed away peacefully at his home in Athens late last month. He was 90 years old.

The celebration will feature guest speakers, tribute videos and music by the UGA Redcoat Marching Band.

Those in attendance will have the opportunity to purchase the 2021 National Championship Edition of Dooley’s Playbook: The 34 Most Memorable Plays in Georgia Football History, with all proceeds benefiting the band.

The gathering is open and free to the public. The clear bag policy of the school applies.

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

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Dooley was hospitalized in October with what was described as a mild case of COVID-19, but has declared a full recovery and ready to attend his regular book signing at the campus bookstore ahead of an Oct. 15 game against Vanderbilt.

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

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

After retiring from coaching, Dooley continued as the school’s AD, a position he held from 1979 to 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 directs is what it is today “because of Vince Dooley.”

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Dooley’s death came just a day before Georgia, the defending champion and country No. 1, takes on one of his greatest rivals, the Florida Gators, at the annual “Cocktail Party” game in Jacksonville, Fla.

Dooley dominated that series during his coaching career with a 17-7-1 against the Gators. The most famous win came in 1980 when Lindsay Scott caught a 93-yard touchdown pass from Buck Belue in the last minute.

The unlikely 26-21 triumph helped Georgia have a perfect season and their first unified national title.

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 age 32.

It wasn’t a popular take, as Dooley has remarked many times over the years.

“My qualifications were so high that there was no way I would have hired myself,” Dooley admitted in a 2014 interview with the school newspaper The Red & Black.

After retiring in 2004, Dooley never left Athens and has remained a fixture in the football program. He often attended press conferences held by Mark Richt and Smart, his last trainer he hired.

“Obviously one of the greatest coaches of all time,” Richt said. “But also the man who hired me and mentored me on my first opportunity as head coach 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 asked for keepsakes in lieu of flowers:

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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