Mark Wiedmer: Virginia link binds Curry and Dooley

Mark Wiedmer: Virginia link binds Curry and Dooley

September 6th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

ATLANTA - One of the best things about sports is how two people, even two friends, can view the exact same event so differently.

Take Bill Curry Jr. and Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley, for instance.

Long before the two were teammates at the University of Virginia in 1989 and 1990, they were on completely opposite sides of one of the South's fiercest rivalries.

Billy's father, Bill, was the head coach at Georgia Tech, which was also his alma mater. Derek's dad, Vince, held the same post at Georgia. In 1984 and 1985 - while both were still a few years from UVa, especially Bill Jr., who is four years younger than 44-year-old Derek - Tech won.

So when someone asked young Dooley earlier this week what he thought of William Alexander Curry Sr., who will bring his Georgia State team to Knoxville on Saturday to face the Vols, Dooley replied:

"I was not a fan of him then. I remember a couple of years where Tech beat Georgia, and [Tech QB John] Dewberry was ripping off the hedges. Not fond memories of my childhood."

Not surprisingly, young Curry remembers those games slightly more fondly.

"Tech was really good," he said of the Yellow Jackets' 35-18 win in '84 and 20-16 victory a year later. "I remember Dewberry - who's the Donald Trump of Atlanta these days - ripping off a piece of hedge in Athens in '84 and putting it in his mouth. Probably one of my favorite memories of my dad's time at Tech."

Not surprisingly, the elder Curry had only nice things to say about the younger Dooley when asked about him Wednesday morning following his team's practice.

"Derek was a little older and he was really nice to Billy," said the 69-year-old Curry, who's retiring at the end of the season. "They both started out as walk-ons and Derek really helped Billy when he first got there."

Not that those Tech wins were the only uncomfortable moments the Currys put him through, according to Dooley.

Recalling how those Virginia teams were loaded with sons of famous fathers, Dooley complained, somewhat in jest, that, "We had Jesse Jackson's son, Bob Griese's boy ... I never liked being in that clump because I was starting. I'm like, 'When does it end?' I'll be 75 years old trying to prove my own mettle."

But as Curry Jr. noted Wednesday from Charlotte, N.C., where he's a sales manager medical equipment giant Boston Scientific, "We were teammates on a very special Virginia team. We were No. 1 for awhile in 1990. We were kind of in the foxhole together. Derek was such a competitor, still is. I admire him a lot."

That admiration grew considerably on Oct. 26, 1996, a few days after Curry Sr. had been fired at Kentucky, though he would close out that season.

As luck would have it, the Bulldogs were visiting Lexington and Dooley was a graduate assistant coach.

"It was about two hours before kickoff," recalled young Curry. "I was in a little room at Commonwealth Stadium watching Virginia play Florida State on TV. There was a knock at the door and it was Derek, all dressed up in his Georgia coaching stuff. He just wanted to know how we were doing. So there we were, a couple of knucklehead GAs watching our alma mater."

Young Curry had had enough. He still coaches high school and junior high football where his sons attend school in Charlotte as a part-time assistant. But that's as close as he wants to come to the recruiting, Sunday afternoon film sessions and 80-hour workweeks turned in by his father and friend.

"Personally, I think they're out of their minds," he laughed. "But it's in my dad's DNA. It's like [legendary Tech coach] Bobby Dodd once told my father, 'Only coach if you have to.'"

So why won't young Curry be inside Neyland Stadium this weekend to watch his father and his friend?

"The Marvin Ridge Middle School Mavericks have a game that afternoon against Holy Trinity, and I have to help coach them," he said.

Sometimes "have to" has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the love of family and the game.