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December 19, 2015

Brother Vs. Brother

With Georgia’s game looming against Penn State in the Gator Bowl (and, yes, that’s the name I still recognize the bowl as), I am reminded of a milestone in both Bulldogs football, and college bowl history occurring more than four decades ago at the old bowl in Jacksonville: Dooley vs. Dooley—Brother vs. Brother.

Following a 9-1 regular season in 1966, and while the Georgia Bulldogs coached by Vince Dooley were packing for the Cotton Bowl to face SMU, the team was minus an integral member: Bill, the other Dooley brother two years younger than Vince, who had been Georgia’s offensive coordinator. Billy, as Vince called him, was packing at the same time too, but heading not to Dallas, but Chapel Hill, N.C., to be the head football coach of the UNC Tar Heels.

Growing up in Mobile, Ala., with two older sisters, Vince and Billy were not extremely close. Like a lot of brothers, they often fought, had their falling outs, and Vince especially thought it was unfair how he, and never Billy, had to wash the family dishes. He could understand maybe when the two were really young, but Vince recalls always doing the dishes as late as 12 years old, and Billy being 10.  However, according to Vince, “let somebody try to pick on the other one, and he had a war on his hands.”

As the brothers grew up, they grew closer. When Billy graduated from high school, he desperately wanted to join Vince at Auburn, where he was a quarterback for the Tigers. However, Auburn wasn’t willing to offer a lineman weighing less than 170 pounds a scholarship, so Billy went the junior college route. And, Vince was there to drive his younger brother around the state of Mississippi as the two decided on a school. After two years of junior college, Billy was finally offered that elusive scholarship to Auburn, but turned it down for Mississippi State because he did not want to follow older brother to school.

Approximately a decade later, when Vince was putting his first Georgia staff together in 1964, he wanted the best offensive line coach he could find. And, “every time I kept inquiring about the best offensive line coach I could get, Billy’s name kept coming up,” Vince has said. “So, I hired him.”

After three seasons in Athens, Billy strung together three consecutive non-winning years as North Carolina’s head man. However, his Tar Heels rebounded for an 8-3 regular season in 1970, and a game better the following year. For the nine-win campaign of 1971, Billy and the ACC championship Heels were rewarded with a trip to the Gator Bowl opposite 10-1 and sixth-ranked Georgia, and the other Dooley, Vince. It would mark the first time in college football history brothers faced off as head coaches in a bowl game.

A few days prior to the game, Vince commented that in some ways he was looking forward to coaching against his brother, but in other ways, he was not. He added that he was normally impersonal with the opposing head coach after kickoff; once the game started, he did not even think about who was on the other side of the field, and he did not believe anything would change simply because he was opposite his brother.

As far as brother Billy, he was cautious as his Tar Heels prepared for the Bulldogs, inspecting North Carolina’s security one afternoon to make sure no one could see inside its practice field’s fences. A reporter asked him, “Surely, you aren’t worried about security and spying when you’re playing against your brother, are you?” Billy responded, “Well, you just never know.”

At a Gator Bowl dinner, Billy was asked about sibling rivalry with Vince when they were younger, and the youngest brother jabbed, “When we were small, he stole my fire engine and I’ve never forgotten it.” But, Vince promptly retorted, “If Bill is still using that as a way to get even in the game, then I’m going to give [his fire engine] back to him.” And, surprisingly, Vince pulled a toy fire engine up from under the table and offered it to his little brother.

After handing over the toy, Vince added that it was he, and not Billy, who had to pay for their two sisters: transportation to and from Jacksonville, tickets to the game, and a hotel room. Billy remarked that he would gladly help out by having the sisters sit on the UNC side.

In a game where Dooley’s Dogs were favored by 10 points—the largest point spread in Georgia’s 51-game bowl history—the Bulldogs barely squeaked by Dooley’s Heels, 7 to 3. Following the contest, as photographers, players, and fans swarmed the head coaches, the brothers only had time for a quick handshake and a brief word.

Still, at least one of the brothers was eager to see the other as soon as possible. “It’s been a tough week for all of us,” said Vince to a reporter just prior to a post-bowl gala and dance being held for the two teams. “I’m going to the dance tonight, see Billy, and talk about this thing more.”

The reporter then asked Vince if he was glad—really glad—he had beaten the Tar Heels, particularly because they were coached by his younger brother. Not really, Vince indicated; remember, once the game started, he did not even think about who was on the other side of the field. However, he added, it would have been a different story “if I were 12, and he were 10, and I still had to wash the dishes.”