UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

Dooley era ends with little notice


Outgoing University of Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley speaks in a conference room next to his office in the Butts-Mehre Building in Athens, Ga., Monday, June 28, 2004. Dooley's successor is current senior associate athletic director Damon Evans.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 1:14 a.m.

ATHENS, Ga. - The most storied tenure in the history of University of Georgia athletics officially ended Wednesday.

The only sign to confirm Vince Dooley's final day as athletic director was an empty office on the fourth floor of the Butts-Mehre building on campus.

A noted history enthusiast, Dooley was nowhere to be seen as an era quietly passed in his absence. He wasn't in town. He wasn't even in the country.

Instead, Dooley spent Wednesday in Calgary, where his longtime trusted assistant, Claude Felton, was given the Arch Ward Award for contributions to college sports information.

Dooley, 71, seemed to especially enjoy that the timing of Felton's award gave him good reason to dodge the attention he would have received in Athens.

''I couldn't think of a better place to spend my last day on the job than to be with the first person I hired,'' Dooley said. ''When I got the job as athletic director, I felt he was the most important hire I would make. That has proved to be the case.''

Felton and Dooley's successor, Damon Evans, have served as Dooley's senior associate athletic directors in recent years. Evans joined Dooley's staff in 1998, almost 20 years after Felton.

In his 40 years in Georgia athletics, Dooley won more football games (201) than any other coach in school history. As athletic director, he headed a program that claimed 18 national championships and 80 Southeastern Conference titles in 25 years.

Hired as football coach in 1964, Dooley was named athletic director in 1979 and continued in that role after retiring as coach in 1988.

Dooley flew to Calgary on Tuesday morning, leaving Monday as his last official day in his office.

''I'm just looking on the wall and I see my first contract,'' he said Monday. ''I better pack that.''

All the packing, organized by his administrative assistant Becky Stevens, was done while Dooley was out of the office.

''They get a little emotional about that if I'm here,'' Dooley said. ''When I tell them what to do, what to put in what box, I come back and boxes are everywhere.''

By Wednesday, the office was almost empty. Dooley is moving to a second-floor office in the nearby Smith Center, a new building next to the Stegeman Coliseum.

When University of Georgia president Michael Adams denied Dooley's request for a new contract as athletic director, Dooley agreed to remain for at least a year - at his current base salary of $214,925 - in a fund-raising capacity. He will work in that job from his new office.

Dooley is not expected to spend his first day in his new office until late next week. Stevens said he left his current office Monday, making no statement or gesture to indicate it was unlike any other day.

''In all my time knowing him, I've never known him to change,'' said Stevens, in her 13th year with Dooley.

Evans said his staff may start moving some boxes into Dooley's old office today.

''I don't have that much stuff,'' Evans said Wednesday.

With Dooley still out of town, Evans will assume his new duties today, and he already was sensing the added responsibility.

''The big difference tomorrow will be knowing the buck stops with you instead of with Coach Dooley,'' Evans said.

The difference will be felt throughout the department.

''It's definitely going to be different because when you think of Georgia you think of Coach Dooley,'' said assistant football coach Mike Bobo. ''He is synonymous not only with Georgia football but Georgia athletics.''

Freddy Jones, Dooley's assistant athletic director and ticket manager for 21 years, said many staffers wanted to organize a tribute during the 2003 football season.

''He's not one for show,'' Jones said. ''He just flat out said no. But he's a class act.''

Dooley said he didn't want to take attention away from the football team. Besides, he said, he's not really leaving.

''I tell people I'm not going out in the sunset,'' Dooley said. ''I'm just going right across the street.''

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