In case you aren’t aware, you just lost the most successful coach in your program’s history. That’s right, Mark Richt was more successful than anyone in your program’s history and you pushed him out the door. Vince Dooley…”Hall of Fame coach”…is a myth. He’s a good coach who won the same number of National and Conference championships in 25 years at Georgia…that Steve Spurrier did in half the time at Florida.
From 2001 to 2015, Richt won 74% of his games overall and 70% of his conference games. Dooley coached at Georgia for 25 years, so is it fair to compare all 25 or just the first 15 years? We will do both. In the 25 years Dooley coached at Georgia he won 69.8% of his games overall and 69.8% of his conference games. In the 15-year comparison, Dooley won 66.3% of his games overall and 63.6% of his conference games.
In looking at raw numbers (number of wins), you automatically skew toward Richt because of the 12-game schedule and the presence of the SEC Championship game, so Richt automatically has more opportunity to win games… but percentages do not lie.
- Dooley: 6 SEC Championships, 1 National Championship (1980) in 25 years
- Dooley from 1964-1978 (1st 15 years): 3 SEC Championships (1966, 1968 & 1976)
- Richt: 2 SEC Championships, 6 SEC East Division titles (not available to Dooley)
This is a little troublesome because in Dooley’s time at Georgia there were far fewer bowls for a team to participate in than there are currently. In today’s NCAA Football landscape, there are so many bowl games that the NCAA is considering allowing teams who do not have winning records to go to a bowl.
Dooley led Georgia to 20 bowl games in 25 years. In his first 15 years at Georgia, Dooley led them to 11 bowls. His overall bowl record is 8-9-2 whereas in his 11 bowls from ’64-’78 he was 4-7. Both are losing records.
Richt led the Dawgs to 14 bowl games in his tenure as coach (every season), going 9-5 in those games. Georgia will also be in a bowl in 2015, Richt just won’t be the coach.
Strength of Record
Here’s where the rubber hits the road, even if you think that Richt’s numbers are bloated or that he “underachieved” while at Georgia. Scholarship restrictions instituted in 1973 reduced the number of available scholarships to 95, further restrictions in 1992 reduced that number to 85. Dooley never coached under the current scholarship model, and for the first nine years of his tenure at Georgia he had zero restrictions on the number of scholarships awarded. Richt has had to manage rosters in a more modern league with far fewer scholarships than Dooley had available and Richt’s winning percentage is a full 10 percentage points higher over the same nine-year stretch.
The Southeastern Conference is a radically different animal now than what it was from 1964-1988. Because schools could make their own schedules, even in conference, Vince Dooley’s Georgia teams did not have to regularly play Bear Bryant’s powerhouse Alabama teams. In fact, Georgia played Alabama only eight times from 1964 to 1988, Georgia won three of those games. Georgia played powerhouse Tennessee seven times, winning four. Seven of the programs 15 most difficult schedules in history were played under Richt’s watch including the top two (2011 & 2008);
The Herschel Walker Effect
In 1979, Vince Dooley signed the most important player in Georgia football history, Herschel Walker. To that point, Georgia had won a few conference titles, but was still averaging seven wins per season under Dooley. Georgia had lost four consecutive bowl games and was coming off a 6-5 season.
The arrival of Walker changed Georgia. The Bulldogs, with Walker in the backfield, went 33-3 over the next three seasons (1980-82) before Walker turned pro. Georgia won the National Championship in Walker’s freshman year, and added two SEC Championships in ’81 and ’82. Walker capped his Georgia career winning the Heisman Trophy his final season. Even having Walker on campus for a full three seasons, Dooley was only able to win a single National Championship.
After Walker’s departure Georgia would not win another SEC title for 20 years, Mark Richt’s second year on the job. Vince Dooley won 10 games in 1983, and would not repeat that again, winning 7 games in 1984 and ’85, 8 games in ’86 and 9 games in ’87 & ’88 before retiring.
Maybe you Georgia fans are remembering those three years with fondness and you’ve forgotten just how much Dooley struggled outside of “the Walker years.” Do you Georgia fans remember that from 1977-79 Georgia was 20-13? Do you remember that the only postseason you had in that time was a loss to Stanford in the Bluebonnet Bowl? Do you remember that from 1983-1988 you were 3-1-2 in bowl games, not one of which was a major bowl?
You don’t. You don’t remember how average Vince Dooley was from 1977-1988 without Herschel Walker. You don’t remember that Dooley had a losing record to Bear Bryant. You don’t remember that Dooley had a losing bowl record, or that he barely cracked the Top 25 twice in his last five years…LEGEND. You don’t remember how bad things got after Dooley retired and before Mark Richt arrived either. All time, Georgia wins about 65% of its games, Dooley for the first 15 years was below average, Richt…significantly better.