I remember one day you called me and my office was two doors down from yours, and I was in Terrell Hall and you were in Lustrat House, and you said, “I need you to come here right now!” and it sounded urgent. And I went to the office and I walked in and sat down, and you said, “I need to tell you that Vince Dooley has resigned,” and I laughed and I thought this is a bad joke. You said, “No, he really has resigned.” That was a bit of a challenge going through that change in both the head football coach and the athletic director at the same time.
Yeah it was. And it surprised me. It didn’t surprise me that Vince was stepping down as head football coach because he and I talked about that a number of times over the first couple of years I was there, and what surprised me was he was stepping down as athletic director at the same time because if you will recall, he was going to run for governor. That’s what he had set out to do. So it put us in a kind of a unique situation. I mean normally, if the head football coach resigns you turn to the athletic director and say, find a head football coach. And in our case, that wasn’t possible and you know, that was a rocky few weeks. We almost had a coach and then that popped out with Dick Sheridan from North Carolina State, and it got leaked prematurely to the papers before he had a chance to tell his team, and he had to pull out. You know, you always learn from events like that, and I learned from that event, but it was…I remember the press conference that followed probably later that day or the next day after you and I discussed what was going on, and it was at the Tate Center and they broke in to, I think all the TV stations in Georgia live at 2:00 in the afternoon. Knocked the soap operas off TV.
You’re exactly right.
For Vince to announce that he was stepping down…that was where Lynne and I developed the metaphor of “trouble”, which at that point, I don’t know if they do this anymore. I think technology has changed a bit, but you well know this, Tom, it used to be that when there was big news going on the satellite trucks from NBC, ABC, and CBS would descend on Athens and we always knew there was trouble if we woke up in the morning and looked out of the second floor of the president’s home and there were the three satellite trucks lined up in front of the house, waiting for trouble.
Some things never change.
I think they spent about a week there during that coaching search. It was right over Christmas. The other…in fact Lynne and I were laughing about this the other day. She still refers to it as the lost Christmas. People…again this one is a number of people remember it, but most people wouldn’t, is when we changed coaches between…after Ray Goff left. We had hired the coach at the University of Kansas, guy named Glen Mason. And he decided on Christmas day, that he wasn’t going to come, that he was going to stay at the University of Kansas. I remember getting a call like 10:00 Christmas morning from John Shaefer, who was then associate athletic director, and he said, “Vince and Barbara are on their way back from Birmingham,” where Barbara’s family was. This was before cell phones, I guess, or why they didn’t have a cell phone, I don’t know. He said “Vince was going to stop at the first rest stop in Georgia and call you like at 11:20 or something like that.” I thought uh oh, because I remember saying to John Shaefer, I said, “I assume he’s not calling to wish me Merry Christmas!” and indeed, we had a couple of discussions as he was trying to get back to Athens and I remember in the choice between Glen Mason in that search, the other candidate had been Jim Donnan, and we decided very quickly to go back to Jim Donnan and had him signed up. I remember telling Vince, “Sign him up before the 5:00 news tonight!” so that…I learned all this from you. You don’t let the news cycle go so the story is going to be Georgia hires Jim Donnan rather than the other story.
Your phone call to me that Christmas day came in the middle of Christmas dinner, and that was the end of Christmas.
Well, it was. Lynne calls it the lost Christmas. She said my mother, who at that point was kind of elderly, was sitting at the Christmas dinner table the whole time going “Where’s Chuck, where’s Chuck?”
In fact, Coach Dooley came back to you a few weeks later and asked if he could return as athletic director.
In the former case, yeah, which would have been what, 1989. He did, and I didn’t hesitate for a second. I said, “The job is yours. We’ll cancel the search and move forward.” I think Vince, in my estimation, turned out to be a great athletic director. That doesn’t always happen with football coaches that may hold both titles, then become athletic directors, but he was a great athletic director for the University of Georgia.