ere he is, Vince Dooley, 19-year Georgia coach, and he has won everything but an image. The Bear has his houndstooth, Bo has his scowl, Holtz has his humor, Paterno has his professorial pugnacity.
Vince Dooley has a 151-58-6 record. And a 151-58-6 image. Only numbers. If it's true that football is religion in Georgia, it seems odd that no Bulldogs fan from Atlanta to Athens, from Savannah to Wrightsville, really knows his spiritual leader.
"I . . . hardly know anything about him," says Jeff Sanchez, Georgia's junior free safety.
"I'm a Southerner," Dooley, 50, says. "I grew up in Alabama, coached there and in Georgia. In this country, you can't get more South than that."
Dooley is not that simple. At Auburn, where he was an all-Southeastern Conference safety and later learned the rites of football as an assistant to Ralph (Shug) Jordan, Dooley earned his master's in history.
At home, he has history books everywhere. They are about battles and generals, mainly.
"Southern politics was my interest in school," Dooley says. "I did a lot of reading on demagogues like Huey Long and Pitchfork Ben Tillman. I like history. You're affected by it."
Now, history is affected by Dooley. New Year's night, No. 1 Georgia (11-0) will play No. 2 Penn State (10-1) for what might become Dooley's second national championship in three years. The marquee of hype reads: "Herschel Walker versus Joe Paterno."
Once again, Vince Dooley will be in the spotlight and not in the spotlight. At the same time.
Hasn't it always been this way?
"I don't particularly dislike the recognition," Dooley says. "And I don't particularly like it."
Certainly, after 19 years and only one losing season, he has an ego. "But you really never see it," says Bill Lewis, Georgia defensive coordinator.
There is a round-the-clock organization and dedication, befitting of an ex-marine. Christmas Eve, Dooley spent four hours at the office going over defensive strategies with Lewis.
"And on Christmas Day, he went to the office twice. What for?" says Barabara Dooley, the coach's wife. "Who knows? He is never off duty. He's a perfectionist. Vince never leaves anything half-done. If he was chopping down a tree, he wouldn't leave half a tree. Not even a stump."
And there is discipline, all the way to the point of no return. "Coach Dooley told us if anyone gets out of line in New Orleans," says John Lastinger, Georgia's quarterback, "they'll get a one-way bus ticket back to Athens."
"I'm more understanding now than I used to be, more tolerant," is how Dooley puts it. "Nowadays, I can look a player right in the eye, smile and say, 'You're dismissed from the team.' "
Dooley has become so tolerant, he says, he's even starting to understand and admire Gen. Grant.
"He's not so rigid as he used to be," says Barbara Dooley. "He used to be so shy that people thought he was conceited. Really, he was just quiet."
Some say Dooley has lived in Bear Bryant's shadow. After all, he works in Bryant's conference, in Bryant's South. Dooley disagrees, saying, "I haven't coached in anyone's shadow."
It seems curious to think that the good folk of Georgia once doubted Dooley. In 1964, he left his Auburn assistant's job to become Georgia's head coach. The previous year, there had been a scandal at Georgia in which, it was rumored, Alabama's 32-7 victory over the Bulldogs was fixed. The Saturday Evening Post reported it. Later, it was disproven.
But Georgia football became a house divided. "I was young enough (32) not to be bothered by all that. I figured I would come in and ignore it, but the first few years were a little tough," Dooley says.
After a 7-3-1 first season, Dooley began the next year by beating Bear's 'Bama, 18-17. Later in that 1965 season (6-4), he was offered the head coaching job at Oklahoma.
"I'd always admired Bud Wilkinson," Dooley says. "And it was a great offer. I almost went."
On the Georgia radio stations, Barbara Dooley remembers, they kept reading telegrams begging Dooley to stay in Dixie. "And every five minutes they played a song, asking him to stay, too," she says.
She adds, "My daughter, who was 5 then, came home from school and said, 'Daddy, we can't move to Oklahoma. Only Indians live there.' "
Vince Dooley stayed put. The doubts moved on.
When he was head coach at Southern California, John McKay said, "I don't coach the players, I coach the coaches."
Vince Dooley's the same way. "I hire good coaches," he says, "then I let them coach."
Every day, Dooley sits down with his assistants and discusses every player on the team. Each day, Dooley assigns a different assistant to talk to the team before practice, then he elaborates on what was said. It works almost the same way at halftime.
"He's not really a coach. He's an overseer," says Sanchez.
"A lot of football teams are unable to avoid the valleys after the peaks," says Lewis. "Georgia is able to avoid those. It's a reflection of Vince's personality. He's so consistent."
Dooley is big on motivation. Almost always, it is a motivation based on history and war.
"Every year, he tells the team the story of the Korean War where the marines were trapped in Inchon and battled out," says Wayne Radloff, senior offensive guard.
Before the Bulldogs played at Kentucky Oct. 23, Dooley took the team to Kentucky's Spendthrift Farms to see Affirmed, a winner of the Triple Crown.
Entering this season, Georgia had won two straight SEC titles. Apparently, Dooley associated winning horse racing's Triple Crown with winning three consecutive SEC titles. Again, in history he sees relevance.
"He talked about the horse as an athlete, about the heart and the desire," says Radloff. "He talked about horses so much some of us got a little sick of hearing about them."
Result: Georgia 27, Kentucky 14.
"Growing up in Georgia, all I heard was Bear Bryant, maybe Joe Paterno," says Daniel Dooley, the second of four children and a freshman on the Georgia scout team. "I used to wonder if people compared my father with them. Now, I realize, my father has only two things in common with Bear Bryant: coaching football and winning."
"I fear him," Daniel Dooley says of his father. "I guess he's such a personal person. He never lets anyone get close. We're close as father and son. But we've never really sat down and talked, you know, about things. At first, that bothered me. But now, I understand the way he is."
This puts Daniel Dooley in the minority. "I'd like to be a football coach someday, too," he says.