Things are understandably different now for former University of Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley since stepping away from the latter position in 2004.
He’s taken up gardening, he’s written books ranging in topics from football to history to gardening to children, he’s been a consultant for football programs and he’s done more than his share of speaking engagements.
On Wednesday, he was in town for the latter, speaking and signing books at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center for the Rotary Club. He made it clear that while the fire isn’t quite the same as when he was a coach, his excitement each coming football season is palpable, and his finger is still on the pulse of the game.
“I do (get excited), but I don’t quite get it like I did when I was coaching,” he said, noting that things are different when you aren’t preparing players for the season.
Still, he is up to date on the issues facing college football, many of which arose during the early years of his coaching career.
He was a member of the College Football Association, a now-defunct body through which college football schools negotiated television contracts with networks. The association’s ability to grow its television packages came from a U.S. Supreme Court case, NCAA vs. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma, which also involved the University of Georgia. The case ruled that the NCAA’s television plan was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, resulting in individual schools and conferences being able to negotiate their own contracts.
The effects of that case are still reverberating around college football today as conferences realign, create their own networks and expand the game’s already ubiquitous presence on American television.
“It set the stage from the standpoint of television,” Dooley said on Wednesday. “The big question we had was whether the NCAA was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust law. As it turned out, it was. So it was a result of that that we have what we have today: A lot of football on television.”
And the new College Football Playoff, which will go into effect during the 2014 season, determining the national champion at the end of the year. Dooley was a part of a committee that recommended the beginning of a playoff — 25 years ago.
“I like the idea,” he said of a playoff. “I’ve always been in favor for 30 years of what we call a “plus-one.” Even 25 years ago, I was on a committee for the NCAA that recommended a four-team playoff, so it took 25 years to finally get around to that.”
Of course, also a result of the Supreme Court ruling was the creation of the NCAA cash cow we have now. In many ways, that has been a positive for the game, though it has also brought about questions in the rights of athletes and the disparity between the “big five” conference teams and smaller schools.
“I think we’ve got more issues and more crises in college football than we’ve ever had, and we’ve had a lot of them over the years,” Dooley said, mentioning Title IX, the reorganization of the NCAA and those at individual schools. “What you have today is even more alarming, with crises with lawsuits and unionization, with the big five and little five talk. I think there’s more than we’ve ever seen.”
He gave a firm opinion on one.
“I’m totally against paying players,” he said. “If we ever get to that point, we ought to fold the tent up. At the same time, we need to find a way to further support players. I’m in favor of that.”
Never far from Dooley’s mind, especially this time of the year, is his former team. Speaking about the Bulldogs, he commended the job Mark Richt, who he hired in 2000, has done.
“His record speaks for itself, but his character also speaks for itself,” Dooley said. “He’s a great ambassador for the university.”
He said he expects Georgia to be in the hunt this season, as in any year.
“They’re picked anywhere from 10th to 12th,” he said. “When you’re in that company, anything can happen. Even if you aren’t in that company, anything can happen, as we saw last year with Auburn.”