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With a legacy that shines far beyond football, Vince Dooley's illustrious life transcended eras

He was a renaissance man in the SEC and the Deep South, as his advocacy of women's athletics, education and equity remarkably stood out from others of his era.

ATHENS, Ga. — Vince Dooley's legacy at the University of Georgia is about more than winning football games.

True, he did win a lot of them -- 201 in 25 years. At the time, he was the ninth coach in Division I football history to win that many games. He took the Bulldogs to 20 bowl games, and reached the pinnacle of college football by winning the 1980 national championship over Notre Dame in the '81 Sugar Bowl.

Georgia teams won an astounding 78 SEC Championships and 23 national championships when Dooley served as the school's athletic director from 1979 to 2004. But, no one could have predicted that level of success at the beginning.

UGA hired the 31-year-old Dooley to be the youngest coach in the SEC in 1963. Being born in Alabama and playing his college football days as the quarterback at Auburn, Dooley had no Georgia ties.

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Nobody was certain that the young football coach would succeed, especially after his first game -- a 31-3 loss to Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Eventually, his team rallied to win seven games, including the Sun Bowl.

Dooley had a system that he believed in, and he proved true to it, as he never wavered. It was defense and the salty running game he became so well known for. Known for great linebackers, great safeties and great running backs, Dooley's stamp soon became widely-recognized. His players played a certain way, the Dooley way.

Dooley redesigned the team's uniforms shortly after taking over the program at UGA. He chose a red helmet with a black "G" on a white background, as classical as it gets. It was actually the wife of an assistant coach that created the now iconic design. It looked on brand with the Green Bay Packers' "G" -- so the university asked for permission from the Packers -- which was granted.

But the Georgia legend was more than a football coach. After he retired as the skipper in 1988 at just 56 years of age, Dooley later had political flirtations which included a talk of running for governor in 1988. Those, however, never quite came to fruition.

RELATED: Vince Dooley’s decades-long spirit of uplifting others celebrated on and off UGA campus

So, instead, Dooley stayed on staff and became athletic director. He reinvented himself -- as A.D., the school became more powerful and maybe more importantly, richer.

But what possibly made Dooley stand out from others of his era, growing up in the southern culture of the 1930s and '40s, was his advocacy of women's athletics, education and equity. He was a rare breed in his occupation, especially in the south.

He and his wife, Barbara, funneled a lot of their money back into UGA, including a fund to support and enhance the university library. He continued his education at the school when he was in his 60s. He has written books on the Civil War, became a gardener, and even has the university's horticulture department named after him.

He was a renaissance man in the SEC and the Deep South, think about that. But of course, he was a football coach, and one of the best.

The revered head coach died peacefully with his family by his side on Friday. He was 90-years-old.

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