Dooley set the bar high at UGA, but would it be high enough today?
For the better part of the past month, I have debated with my Dawg friends over what is wrong with our beloved football team.
Most of us have our points that we like to hammer on, and some hammer more than others. It is certainly obvious that something has gone wrong inside the Georgia program. Usually when that happens, the head man gets the blame.
So try as I have, I cannot quiet the “Fire Mark Richt” crowd that grows louder and more restless with each passing week.
You know Mark Richt’s numbers. The 91 wins, the two SEC championships (and one runner-up), the top 10 finishes, etc., etc. Despite the 8-5 season last year and the 1-4 start this year, Mark Richt has still won 75 percent of his games as the UGA head football coach.
Not bad numbers; not bad at all.
Yes, things have taken an ugly turn over the past couple of seasons. Telltale signs had warned us that this might happen. While 8-5 is not what would be called a bad season by many, it is now unacceptable at Georgia.
This season the Dawgs sit at 1-4 and Chicken Little is circling Athens as we speak. The sky may not be falling, but it appears to have a pronounced sag in it.
My take is simple. Every coach goes through this at some point in their career. It takes time to turn things around. We need to be patient.
Vince Dooley himself said it this week when asked about Coach Richt: “Any coach is going to go through tough times, I don’t care who you are,” Dooley said Monday. “When he came here, he won a championship his second year. [Richt has been] consistently winning 10 football games. So he’s going through a tough time. That’s what happens … A coach has to address it, analyze it, make some decisions and go forward. And I’m sure he’ll do that.”
What about Dooley? One of the greatest, if not the greatest, coaches to ever step on the Sanford Stadium turf? Coach Vince is speaking from experience.
In this day and age of SEC dominance, the “what have you done for me lately” crowd is louder than ever. Would Coach Dooley have survived to coach 25 years at Georgia in today’s SEC? Looking at his record, I would guess not.
Dooley became the Dawgs' head man in 1964. In his first five seasons at UGA, he won two SEC Championships. Does that sound familiar?
In 1969 and 1970, today’s lunatic fringe would have been at his doorstep demanding that he pack up and leave. Dooley’s Dawgs finished the 1969 season with a 5-5-1 record, following that season up in 1970 with a 5-5 campaign.
Thankfully, Dooley stayed, and in 1971 the Dawgs went 11-1 and finished seventh in the AP poll.
In 1974 the Dawgs struggled again, falling to 6-6. But Dooley righted the ship and brought the Dawgs another SEC crown in 1976 while going 10-2.
Smooth sailing now? Nope, it didn’t happen.
The Dawgs fell to 5-6 in 1977 and struggled to 6-5 in 1979. Can you just imagine the outrage that would pour out today?
“He’s got to go. He’s lost control of the program! There is no direction...he’s lost the players!”
Or my favorite, “I plan to boycott the games.” Seriously? That will show the team how much you support them?
But cooler heads prevailed, and in 1980, 16 years after being hired, the Georgia Bulldogs put together a perfect season and won the National Championship.
That great season would propel the Dawgs forward to two more SEC crowns in 1981 and 1982.
In Dooley’s final nine seasons as the Georgia head coach, the Bulldogs would post an 83-21 record. That’s a healthy winning percentage of 80 percent.
It’s easy to identify four or five times in Dooley’s coaching career at UGA when things got tough and went sour. Dooley survived those tough times and won 201 games as the Georgia coach.
Mark Richt may not survive the first tough stretch.
When Mark Richt was hired in the winter of 2000, I had no doubt that he would be at UGA for as long as he wanted to be. In today’s age of blogs, vents, and radio talk shows, that may not happen.
Mark Richt had better numbers than Vince Dooley did in his first seven seasons. Vince Dooley had a losing record in bowl games (8-10-2).
Vince Dooley is a legend at the University of Georgia.
Yet, Vince Dooley would have never survived at Georgia to win his National Championship.
Mark Richt may not survive this season. In my opinion, that is a real shame.