Vince Dooley must have had a thing about bulldogs, because in his lifetime he was associated with two highly motivated teams whose mascot is an English Bulldog.
Before “UGA,” mascot for the University of Georgia, there was the United States Marine Corps mascot, “Chesty.” While Coach Dooley’s recent passing highlighted his success coaching at UGA, most people don’t know that he was – no, he is – a Marine. There are no former- or ex-Marines – just Marines in different service status. He is a Marine who has reported to a new duty station, awaiting further orders.
In this issue online, we feature an article I wrote for a military magazine in 2013 about his time as a Marine and what it meant to him. He spent two years active duty and eight years in the Marine Corps Reserve, leaving as a captain. He played football for the Corps and got his first coaching experience at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.
He would have made a career of the Corps; however, when he was offered the head coaching position at UGA in 1964 at age 31, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. But he realized he couldn’t do both.
“There was no way I could take off one weekend a month to do the drills,” he told me. “I couldn’t say ‘Sorry guys, I can’t coach this weekend, I’m going to the Marine Corps.’ So, I had to give up the Marine Corps.”
The Corps’ loss was Georgia’s gain, but guys like Vince never “give up” the Marine Corps. He would return several times to Marine bases to rejuvenate his spirit, especially Parris Island where he had played football and coached Marines.
In fact, it was there he encountered the Marine Drill Instructor’s Creed, which sets forth the teacher-student relationship between drill instructor and recruit. He was so motivated, that he brought the principles back to Athens and formed the basis of his “Georgia Coach’s Pledge,” which begins, “These student-athletes are entrusted to my care” and goes on to mirror the belief system embodied by Marine Corps drill instructors.
You can’t argue with success – it may not work for everyone, but it worked for Coach (Captain) Dooley. Semper Fi Marine.
Randy Gaddo is a retired Marine now living in Athens.