My love for watching football would seem to have little to do with a column dedicated to analyzing public opinion on weightier topics. But the start of the gridiron season reminds me that there's something afoot in the world of college athletics that should be of interest to anyone who's reached age 70, whether they like sports or not.
University of Georgia Athletics Director Vince Dooley, one of America's greatest college football legends and a still-active and successful AD, is being unceremoniously dumped from his position when his contract ends next year. Dooley will soon turn 71.
In his home state, our survey showed that most want Dooley to stay at the state's flagship university. And why not? Dooley guided the football Bulldogs to 20 bowl games and a national championship as head coach. As AD, he has enjoyed 18 collegiate national championships during his tenure. Just last weekend, the 2004 edition of Georgia's football team routed rival Clemson University 30-0 in the season opener.
So fans, colleagues, athletes and sportswriters across the South and the nation are scratching their heads in wonder. Why would university President Michael Adams feel the need to import some no-name to replace a man who is more than just a statewide legend, but also a unique sports role model during a time when quality people are so sorely needed?
Dooley stands out as a man uniquely cerebral in a business where, as far as I can tell, there are few thinkers. He works tirelessly for countless hours raising money and managing the powerhouse athletics program for this huge university. And in whatever spare time may remain, Dooley -- who earned a masters degree in history -- audits college courses in a variety of subject matters.
And he puts his classroom learning to use. After auditing a class on horticulture, Dooley worked years to become an expert gardener, planting and maintaining one of Georgia's most varied private gardens at his home. By any measure, Dooley is truly a man for all seasons -- except for the season that constitutes the autumn of his life. That's being spoiled by the administrative antics of his boss, Adams.
It's unfortunate that many Dooley admirers and defenders attacked Adams not for his misguided move to oust the man more popular on campus than himself, but for the president's mismanagement of certain university funds. How silly. On this front, Adams hasn't done anything different from what many of his colleagues at other schools do. Higher education is a big business, after all.
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