By Christian Knox
ATLANTA — At the University of Georgia, Vince Dooley was a legendary coach, the head of a national championship winning team and the school’s long-time athletic director.
At the 2019 APSE Summer Conference Keynote Luncheon, his wife, Barbara, was the star.
Tony Barnhart, who collaborated with Vince on his biography Dooley: My 40 Years at Georgia, served as the moderator on Monday’s panel that featured Vince and Barbara Dooley.
As an expert on all-things-Dooley, Barnhart knew all the right buttons to push to get the best stories out of the Dooleys as they recounted the history of their relationship and the story of Vince’s career.
The Dooleys certainly did not disappoint.
“All you need to know about Vince and Barbara Dooley is in this one story,” Barnhart said. “Barbara Meshad from Birmingham, Alabama was a young student at Auburn. Vince Dooley was a 25-year-old whose star was clearly on the rise. Coach Dooley saw Barbara and decided ,‘I’m gonna introduce myself to her.’ So he walks up to her and goes ‘Hi, I’m Vince Dooley’”
“So?” Barbara chimed in, her tone revealing that nothing had changed after almost six decades of marriage.
“Everybody knows Coach Dooley’s background: 201 wins, six SEC championships, a national championship, he’s in every Hall of Fame that you could possibly imagine, written multiple books, his flower garden is the envy of the western world,” Barnhart said. “Barbara’s the one who raised four children, 11 grandchildren, ran for political office, dabbled in everything you could imagine and was good at everything she did, and she somehow has put up with this guy for 59 years, so, Barbara let’s start with you”
“Well, now wait a minute” Vince started.
“I was waiting on this” Barbra replied.
The gloves were off, and they remained off for the remainder of the panel.
“I looked at her among all the co-eds, and felt like, that Barbara needed advising and counseling” Vince said. “I didn’t tell you that you needed the counseling.”
“No,” Barbara replied, “but I thought ‘Who is this old man that is approaching me?’”
“And you still did not take any of my advice” Vince continued, before Barbara jumped back in.
“We had one date a year for four years, so it was not love at first sight.”
“That was a two-way street,” Vince said back.
After another story of a date gone awry, Barnhart pivoted the conversation to Athletic Director Joel Eaves’ hiring of Vince at the University of Georgia.
Dooley explained that he had to choose between being an assistant coach at Arkansas and a head coach at Georgia, and when he asked Barbara, she told him “‘I’ll never complain again.’”
“My fingers were crossed,” Barbara quickly interjected. “I said that in a moment of deep gratitude, but I didn’t really mean it.”
Dooley went on to take the job at Georgia, and in 1980 Dooley led the Bulldogs to a national championship clinching victory.
“This team somehow had the ability to win them all, and despite the fact that there were all sorts of things that were against that happening, it just kept happening game after game after game” Dooley said.
,Barnhart also questioned the Dooleys about sports writers.
“They were friends of ours, and back then, you could really talk to a sports writer and not worry about what they were gonna write,” Barbara said. ”It was a much more intimate time with head coaches and sports writers.”
Barbara said that Tennessee coach Bowden Wyatt pushed a sports writer in a pool because of a story that had been written about him.
“The last thing we saw were his glasses floating on top of the water.”
Barnhart and the Dooleys recounted a number of stories from the Dooleys’ time together.
One snowy Georgia night, the Dooley family was in an Athens hotel without electricity.
“There was no welcoming committee, it was dark, and all my friends were in Miami at the Orange Bowl and I will say this,” Barbara said, “Vince Dooley has never made a promise to me that he hasn’t kept, except one, and he said that night ‘one day I will take you to the Orange Bowl as the head coach’s wife.’ Guess what? It’ll never happen.”
Barbara also told the story of a Sunday that she and Vince were in their house alone. She claimed that time alone was a rare occurrence in the Dooley household, but Vince was watching football on their television.
“He was paying me zero attention, and I thought ‘I’m gonna fix him.’” Barbara said. “So I went to the bedroom and I took off my clothes, and I put on makeup and perfume, and I wrapped a towel around me and I went and stood between him and the remote control, and I dropped the towel and said ‘play me or trade me,’ and he went ‘would you please move?’”
Barbara later said that Vince was also curious about topics other than football, such as gardening and history. However, that is a trait that they did not share.
“I’m not that curious. He’s very curious. We are very different.” Barbara said. “I think that the Civil War is over, I can’t tell him that. It’s over. We lost.”
Despite their differences, the Dooleys have been together through a marriage that has seen numerous professional pursuits and accomplishments.
Soon, “the first family of Georgia football” will be honored once again, as the University of Georgia plans to name its football field after Vince this upcoming season.