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Did Vince Dooley receive a substantial raise in 1980 after winning the national title?
Tony Piska, Atlanta
Wow, what an interesting question, Tony. I assume Kirby Smart’s recent deal is what prompted it. Well, I reached out to coach Dooley for answers, and he was delightful and insightful as usual in his response.
According to coach Dooley, he did not receive a raise, per se, after winning the 1980 national championship. However, he did get another job title, got his house paid off and received longevity insurance, if you will. But nothing along the lines of what is commonplace these days.
Think about it. Smart nearly doubled his salary from $3.75 million annually to $7 million, and he didn’t even deliver Georgia a national championship. But the marketplace is different these days.
In 1980, Dooley was one of the better compensated coaches in football, in the neighborhood of $400,000 a year, he thinks. But that wasn’t what Dooley was focused on at the time.
“It was not as much the money as it was me being athletic director full-time,” Dooley said.
At the time, Dooley split the duties of athletic director with Reid Parker, who concentrated on the business side of the department. But even before Georgia faced Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl and secured the national championship, Auburn had reached out to Dooley to “call him home.” Auburn was Dooley’s alma mater, and it offered him both the football coach’s job and the full-time AD job.
“This was at a time when presidents were deciding they didn’t want football coaches as ADs anymore,” Dooley said. “I felt like I was an exception, of course, and I really do believe that I was, as it turned out. But there were a lot of other people who felt the same way. So I proposed to Dr. Fred Davison that I be the full-time athletic director and he agreed that it was a good idea.”
Dooley, of course, turned down his alma mater to remain at Georgia. But it was more of an emotional decision than a financial one.
He and his wife, Barbara, both went to school at Auburn and were raised in Alabama and had numerous ties there. It came down to having raised his family in Athens and not wanting to upset an undefeated season with the Bulldogs. So he told Auburn no.
“I knew Georgia would be my home from then on,” Dooley said. “It was about the players that I coached, and all my children had grown up here. In the final analysis I stayed because my roots were deeper and more recent at Georgia.”
After the national championship was won on Jan. 1, 1980, Georgia’s athletic board voted to pay off Dooley’s house on Milledge Circle, in which he still lives with wife Barbara today. He also received a small bonus.
“It was insignificant compared to today,” Dooley said. “I think it might’ve been 10 percent of my salary.”
That would’ve been about $40,000. After two more SEC championships, Dooley would receive a salary increase and contract extension. They also enclosed the East end of Sanford Stadium. But he never earned more than $550,000 as Georgia’s football coach.
It wasn’t the first time Dooley received major overtures to leave Georgia. In fact, his first significant raise came in 1965 after Oklahoma offered him its head coaching job. Dooley doubled his salary because of that. Then again, he started out at UGA making $15,000 a year, including his “outside income.”
Nevertheless, Dooley doesn’t begrudge the money that today’s major college coaches are making. In fact, he’s responsible for it in a lot of ways. In 1984, Dooley and Georgia joined Oklahoma in an antitrust lawsuit that effectively stripped the NCAA of authority over football TV contracts. The ruling allowed each school or conference to cut its own deal.
You might have noticed how much money ESPN’s SEC Network is now pouring into the conference. So, no, Dooley doesn’t mind seeing Smart and his peers making out as well as they do.
“I don’t, but my wife does,” Dooley said. “Every time she sees a coach get a new contract she gets mad at me for leaving when I did. She says I got out too soon.”
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