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Athlon had a chance to sit down with legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Athlon Sports' Braden Gall had a chance to sit down with legendary SEC player and head coach Vince Dooley. The former head coach at Georgia touched on the current college football landscape, what the SEC has meant to him, Mark Richt and the 2011 Georgia Bulldogs and some of his favorite memories from coaching the planet’s greatest game.
Braden Gall: You played at Auburn, coached at Georgia and your son coaches at Tennessee. What has the SEC meant to you?
Vince Dooley: It’s all that I have ever known. I went to Auburn, I played at Auburn, and I coached at Auburn. I was there for 12 years. Then being at Georgia as long as I was and now I have a son [Derek Dooley] at Tennessee, a grandson that finished Vanderbilt and a granddaughter who has finished Alabama. So yeah, I have been very much involved and it has significant meaning to me. Even Derek coached at LSU, so for four or five years, we were LSU fans in addition to everything else. In fact, I was actually born in the same year that the SEC started (1932), so I have been heavily involved with the SEC my whole life.
BG: Have there ever been any rooting conflicts when Georgia and Tennessee get together?
VD: Yes, it certainly is a problem. If I were to get up in the stands and shout hard against [Derek] in favor of Georgia, then I wouldn’t be married much longer. What I decided to do last year when we played Tennessee was to stay at home and watch the game on TV. I have to pull for my son, but I can't pull against Georgia in Samford Stadium. And I’ve got the same problem this year when Georgia goes up to Knoxville. I’m considering not going to that game and maybe staying at Derek’s house to watch it on TV. That will be much easier.
BG: Conferences have changed dramatically over the years. What are your thoughts on the landscape and trajectory of college football?
VD: I’ve seen the SEC from the time I came in – when Tulane and Georgia Tech were members and we had 12 teams. They left shortly thereafter. And then I was there for the first expansion. Even when we were looking to expand [in 1992], we even looked at Texas and Texas A&M. We ended up with Arkansas and South Carolina; however, it could have just as easily, had things worked out, been Texas and Texas A&M. And that over 20 years ago.
So since that time, we have seen a lot of things happen – even more so recently. But it certainly appears that we are headed in the direction of having 14- or 16-team conferences with some reshuffling still left to do.
BG: What are the biggest differences in the Xs and Os of college football since you coached?
VD: All of these things go in cycles and come back in different ways. That has been the long time history of particularly the offense. An offense will get started and will drive a defense crazy for a period of time until the defense can catch up. Then another offense will come in and be successful. Eventually, you will just have variations of that same offense.
Actually, what we have today, in a lot of cases, is a spread formation. Which is just a spread single wing with a tailback doing what tailbacks used to do in the single wing, but they have much more flexibility to do it now. It’s always challenging, particularly for defensive teams in college football, because while there is always a certain offense that is in fashion, you still have other offenses that are taking place. Not everyone is running the spread. You still have some that are pro offenses and then you still have some that run the option. So all of that causes great stress on defenses in college football as opposed to the pros – which are a little more standard.
BG: Your thoughts on the evolution of the quarterback position in college football?
VD: All of college football is more sophisticated, both offensively and defensively, than it has ever been before. You’ve got better coaching than ever before. You’ve got more good coaches than ever before. Certainly, the passing game is more sophisticated than it has ever been.
Going back to the spread, you are getting these great athletes that are playing quarterback like the great single wing tailbacks used to do. Like Charley Trippi at Georgia, for example. In fact, Trippi told me a few years ago that he would love to play in this offense today. And that was when Charlie was 84 or 85. I am not sure he could do quite as well but he would do just fine in the modern system.
More and more schools are getting these great athletes [to play quarterback] and it’s taking some schools that traditionally have not been very good and making them very potent. As an example, we saw Utah State with that freshman [Chuckie Keeton] who gave Auburn fits. There are more and more of these type of skill players. It’s always about what’s up front over the long haul, but there are an abundance of skills people who are really balancing out college football.
BG: What were some of your favorite places to visit as a player or coach?
VD: I always loved Oxford, Mississippi and The Grove. Oh yeah, the tailgating in The Grove was fun. The fans there have always been great. So that was a favorite place – even though we had some tough times in Oxford when I was coaching.
Toughest places to play? South Carolina was always very tough at night. Paul Dietzel adopted what they used to do at LSU when it came to playing night football. So that was always a challenge. It was the same with Clemson. It was tough to play in Death Valley.
Anywhere you go, particularly because most of the time we were playing in the southeast and we are partial to this region, it was really great. There is a tradition of great football, great tailgating and great rivalries in this area of the country.
BG: With all of the sanctions and violations of the last two years, is there anything that can be done to fix the system?
VD: I think because of the great popularity and high visibility of the sport, we will always have problems. But I think that while we have several known schools that are under, not only investigation, but some that have already been penalized or found guilty, that there are still a great majority that are not. You have a lot of schools that are NOT under investigation. You have a lot of schools that are clean. The same goes for the players. It’s a small number of players that have gotten into trouble, while the majority of players are clean.
BG: What do you think of the job Mark Richt has done as the head coach at Georgia?
VD: He has had a great career. He won a championship his second year and then won a second championship. He wins 10 or more games more times than not, and usually when that happens you become a victim of your own success. The problem is that the standards are so high here at Georgia. Every successful coach I have known, be it Bear Bryant or Joe Paterno, and I’ve certainly been through my own trials and tribulations, has to go through tough times. That has happened recently with Coach Richt and I am confident that he will come out of it.
There certainly seems to be less patience today than ever before – and there wasn’t a lot of patience back then anyway. Nevertheless, the coaches are getting paid a heck of a lot more than they ever did before so the fans are more demanding because of it.
I think that Georgia, despite the fact they have started the way they have [0-2] – and people are starting to respect Boise more than ever – I think that there is enough good material there to be successful. They have a great quarterback in Aaron Murray. I think the defense is better, and they have got two of the best kickers in the country. So I do think that when the season is over that Georgia will have a much, much improved football team than last season.
BG: Talk about your involvement in the Legends Poll?
VD: It’s really fun and has been a great way for a lot of, I guess who you would call “Legends,” to keep in touch with each other. Some coaches that I’ve competed against and have great respect for. So that has been the best part – the weekly conversations, keeping in touch with college football and keeping in touch with old friends. We also discuss many of the current issues in college football. Overall, it’s been a great experience.
Special thanks to Athlon Sports partner The Legends Poll