ATHENS, Ga. — Around 12:15 today, coach Derek Dooley will run out of the visiting tunnel at Sanford Stadium with his Tennessee Volunteers before they face Southeastern Conference rival Georgia.
Less than three miles away, legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley will watch the game on TV at his home as his son takes on the Bulldogs program he guided to 201 victories in his 25 seasons from 1964-88. When his son was hired at Tennessee in January, Vince Dooley said that he planned to watch today’s game quietly in a private box at the stadium, but he soon realized that not attending made more sense.
Contributed Photo by Jimmy Cribb Derek Dooley visits with his father Vince Dooley before Georgia faces LSU in the 2003 SEC Championship Game.
Current Georgia coach Mark Richt said the elder Dooley made the right call.
“He doesn’t want to go into Sanford Stadium and root against Georgia, and he doesn’t ever want to root against his son. He can’t win,” Richt said.
Derek Dooley also understands his father’s decision.
“I think every one of my games has been rough on him emotionally,” he said. “I don’t think it’s any different from any father watching his son.”
But for Barbara Dooley, her plan for today never wavered. She made it clear in January that not only will she attend but cheer openly for Tennessee.
The Dooleys have faced conflicting loyalties before. In 1987, Vince Dooley’s Bulldogs opened with a 30-22 home victory over a Virginia team that included Derek Dooley as a freshman wide receiver.
“That was probably stranger because I was the coach,” Vince Dooley said. “I had to go sleep with his mother, who was talking about pulling for Derek, though I reminded her where her bread was buttered.”
Derek Dooley got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant working with Bulldogs defensive backs under former coach Jim Donnan in 1996. He later worked as Louisiana State University’s running backs coach under former Tigers coach Nick Saban and faced Georgia three times in the 2003-04 seasons.
One of those meetings took place at the 2003 SEC championship in Atlanta, which LSU won 34-13.
“I’ve been removed from Georgia’s program for a long time,” Derek Dooley said. “It doesn’t mean that I don’t have great memories and great friends from down there, but I think I’ve been removed enough from the football component that it should hopefully be another game.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...