On Air Now

Listen Now


Chance of T-storms
H 85° L 70°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Chance of T-storms. H 85° L 70°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    Chance of T-storms. H 85° L 70°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    Chance of T-storms. H 88° L 72°

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Dooley Field honor required some political football

Dooley Field honor required some political football

Dooley Field honor required some political football

Dooley Field honor required some political football

Fourth in a series. Every day this week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will present a story on the many influences of Vince Dooley at the University of Georgia. The field at Sanford Stadium will be named in his honor Saturday.

Most inside the program are pleased to talk about Saturday’s occasion of the University of Georgia naming its football field after Vince Dooley. Until, that is, the conversation turns to the politics that it took for it to happen.

Ask about that, and folks suddenly get quiet or vague.

“I’m going to plead the Fifth on that,” said Billy Payne, who played football for Dooley at Georgia before his stints as chairman of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and Augusta National Golf Club. Payne allegedly led the lobbying efforts of the UGA football lettermen for this to happen.

“I’ll just say I appreciate the governor. I’ll leave it at that,” said Daniel Dooley, Vince’s oldest son, who grew up as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s best friend and roomed with him in college.

Kemp has not made a statement about the decision to name the field at Sanford Stadium after Dooley since the state Board of Regents’ unanimously approved the proposal of UGA President Jere Morehead at a meeting in May. At that time, Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Coach Dooley didn’t need anyone pushing anything for him because he had some great offensive linemen doing that for him.” 

Part 1 of the series | Part 2  | Part 3

Even Vince Dooley himself is a bit dodgy on the subject.

“I know (the politics of it) has been brought up on several different occasions,” Dooley said in a recent exclusive interview with the AJC. “Some people have written some columns about it, and then the lettermen got really into it, as I understand it. But I never took part in any of that, as you know.”

No, Dooley has always prided himself on remaining “above the fray.” Now his wife, Barbara, she’s been known to jump down in there sometimes.

She did when asked about the matter.

“It’s only because of Don Leebern; that’s just the bottom line,” Barbara Dooley said this week. “I had no idea that man had so damn much power. But he did.”

Indeed, two things had to happen for the grass-roots effort to have Dooley’s name become perpetually associated with Sanford Stadium to become a reality: One, Kemp had to be elected governor. That happened in November. Two, Leebern (along with Richard Tucker) needed to be removed from the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents. That happened in February.

Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan leveraged a technical mistake made by previous Gov. Nathan Deal when he reappointed Leebern and Tucker to their regent’s posts shortly before he left office in January to ultimately remove them from the board. Leebern and Tucker were longtime co-chairs of the regent’s facilities committee, and reportedly stood in opposition to Dooley’s name being included on UGA’s football facility.

Leebern did not respond to a request for comment this week. Suzanne Yoculan, the former Georgia gymnastics coach who has a committed, live-in relationship with Leebern, told the AJC that “he supports naming it Dooley Field. He was against naming the stadium.”

So were a few people, apparently.

Naming the field after Dooley rather than putting his name on the stadium in some way was a compromise. Changing the stadium’s name to “Dooley-Sanford Stadium” or Sanford-Dooley Stadium was a movement among Dooley supporters not long after he retired from UGA as the school’s athletic director in 2004. But in addition to Leebern, several other influential individuals were against that.

One was former UGA President Michael Adams. Another was the Charles Sanford family.

Charles Sanford was the grandson of Steadman V. Sanford, the person for whom Sanford Stadium is named. Dean of UGA at the time, and later the university’s president, Steadman Sanford is the person most responsible for making the Bulldogs’ football stadium a reality in 1929.

As the story goes, after an undefeated Georgia team lost to Georgia Tech 12-0 in Atlanta to end the 1927 regular season, Sanford vowed that the Bulldogs should never again have to play one of their home games against their rivals in Atlanta.

According to UGA historian Loran Smith, Sanford convinced 300 Georgia people to sign notes with the bank pledging $1,000 each to the stadium-building project. Sanford Stadium was officially dedicated Oct. 12, 1929, before a game against Yale. Twelve days later, the great stock-market crash took place.

“Yet they did not have to call a single note,” Smith said.

Like our Facebook page


Steadman Sanford died in 1945 at the age of 74. His grandson, Charles Steadman Sanford Jr., became the unofficial protector of his grandfather’s legacy. A successful banker, Charles Sanford spent much of his career in New York City. While Adams was UGA’s president, Charles Sanford donated the lead gift in a $12.5 million campaign to build a student center for Terry College of Business. And so, Sanford Hall was dedicated in 1997.

Years later, Smith said he called on Charles Sanford in New York for a story for the football program. Smith said Sanford made it clear then that he not only was against adding any additional names added to the stadium, he also opposed any naming of the field as well.

“But if you look at the stadium today, it is more Dooley than Sanford,” Smith said.

Charles Sanford died Sept. 4 of last year. Sept. 4, coincidentally, also happens to be the Dooley’s birthday, who turned 87 on Wednesday.

Why Leebern, a UGA football letterman, would stand in the way of such an honor for Dooley is complicated. According to several people familiar with the situation, it stems from Dooley declining to promote Yoculan to an associate athletic director’s position toward the end of her tenure as UGA’s gymnastics coach. Leebern subsequently backed Adams in the power struggle that resulted in Dooley’s retirement in 2004.

“Vince and Don were very good friends for many years, and Don turned on him,” Barbara Dooley said. “And, man, when he turned, he turned. Of course, when he turned, I turned on him. Vince didn’t, but I did.”

But did it really require all these political machinations for Dooley Field to become a reality?

It likely would have happened eventually, political experts say, but the governor and the Dooleys being extremely close definitely fast-tracked the process.

“The Dooleys stood up early on and said, ‘Brian Kemp is our guy,’” said Brian Robinson, a former spokesman for Deal and current owner of Robinson Republic. “That means a lot to a candidate in a contested primary. When a candidate becomes a governor, being able to pay back someone that is special to you is as gratifying as any official act can be. 

“This is not cronyism. This is an appropriate honor for someone who is an icon to the Dog Nation. No one can say Kemp is paying off a supporter by doing this. It’s a case where the governor was able to do the right thing with his influence.”

Indeed, quite a few influential people seem quite pleased that, from Saturday forward, football games will be played at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.

“I hoped for it as much as all the people who ever played for him,” said Payne, who played offensive and defensive end for Dooley from 1965-68, winning two SEC championships. “This is a long time coming for an incredibly remarkable man, a man of exceedingly great intellect, multiple interests, well read. He’s such an inspiration to me and he has been since 1965 when I first met him.”

Payne will be in attendance this weekend. So will the governor.

Read More


  • Gov. Brian Kemp has asked the federal government to send more resources to expand COVID-19 testing in Gwinnett County and to renew funds needed to keep the National Guard staffing testing sites around the state. Kemp on Tuesday asked for help getting personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for the state’s first responders and essential workers and an extension in funding for the Georgia National Guard, which has been performing COVID-19 testing and sanitizing long-term care homes during the pandemic. In addition to sustaining the ongoing federal coronavirus assistance, Kemp is seeking additional funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase Gwinnett’s testing infrastructure, a spokesman said. Gwinnett has seen a surge in positive COVID-19 tests since mid-May, with 9,666 total as of July 6, according to the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. Members of a federal COVID-19 response team visited Gwinnett County last week and are expected to compile a report detailing how spread could be further prevented. That report will be given to local health officials. >>Read MORE on AJC.com.
  • A driver died Wednesday morning after a fiery crash on a major interstate in Gwinnett County.  The wreck, which involved a truck and an SUV, happened about 1:30 a.m. on I-85 at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, according to Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera.  The truck caught fire after the crash, and the driver had to be freed from the vehicle, she said.  A Gwinnett police officer was injured during the rescue effort, according to Pihera. The officer was checked out at a hospital and released.  One driver died on the way to a hospital, Pihera said. It is not clear which vehicle that person was driving.  No details were released about the second driver’s condition. — Return HERE for updates from The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
  • About a dozen American flags lined up along Highland Avenue in Needham, Massachusetts, were burned Sunday night, according to police. A dozen more flags set on the lawn near the Exchange Club were found destroyed, as well. According to Boston's WFXT, the flags have been replaced, but the ashes are still scattered along the grass. Longtime Needham resident Kate Robey takes it upon herself to display the flags on Highland Avenue during patriotic holidays. “I think everyone appreciates it. I get honks and the waves and the thank-yous,” Robey said. But this Fourth of July, the flags were vandalized. “Dedicated people put those out and to just burn them, nonchalantly, it’s hurtful,” said Robey. Robey has been working with the Needham VFW for years and has displayed these flags in the same parts of town for almost a decade now. She’s left confused and wondering why someone would vandalize her tribute to the men and women serving the country. “As I do the flags, I think of the veterans, fallen brave and the military out there fighting for our freedom now,” Robey said. Robey said about a dozen were burned by Memorial Park and a dozen more burned outside the Needham Exchange Club, where 500 flags were displayed in lieu of a scaled-back Fourth of July celebration. “I don’t mind what you do at your home with your flags, but these flags are my flags, and it’s vandalism,” Robey said. Police said they are investigating the matter.
  • An off-duty volunteer firefighter is being hailed as a hero after he rescued a baby while swimming at a Maryland park. According to the Oakland Volunteer Fire Department, one of its firefighters, Andrew Bell, heard a woman shouting as he swam at Swallow Falls State Park while off-duty on Sunday.  'A raft that a baby was floating on had flipped over, and the baby went into the water,' the department said in a Facebook post Sunday night.  Bell quickly found the baby, who was unconscious, the Cumberland Times-News reported.  'I put it on its back for a little bit, and it started spitting up water,' Bell told the newspaper.  Bell then called an ambulance and continued to help the family until rescue crews arrived, the Fire Department said. 'It's our understanding that baby is going to be OK,' the department added. 'Great work, FF Bell!' Bell told the Times-News that even though he wasn't on duty at the time of the incident, it was still his 'duty to go help that person.' Read more here or here.
  • A PGA golf pro, his son and two stepchildren were among the eight people who died in an Idaho plane crash Sunday, multiple news outlets are reporting. According to KPTV, Oregon residents Sean Fredrickson, 48; son Hayden Fredrickson, 16; and stepchildren Sofia Olsen, 15, and Quinn Olsen, 11, were killed Sunday afternoon when two planes collided over Idaho's Lake Coeur d'Alene and crashed into the water. All eight people on the two planes died in the crash, the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office said. Authorities said Fredrickson and the children were on board a Brooks Seaplane piloted by 58-year-old Neil Lunt of Liberty Lake, Washington, at the time of the crash, the Spokesman-Review reported. Officials have not yet identified a sixth person who also was on the plane.  The two people on board the other plane, a Cessna TU206G, have been identified, but officials have not publicly released their names, according to the Spokesman-Review. As of Tuesday, crews were still working to recover two of the victims' bodies, the newspaper reported.  Fredrickson, the Pacific Northwest PGA Section's president, was the lead golf pro at Oregon's Oswego Lake Country Club, according to KPTV. “A rising star in the PGA, Sean led the Section through an unprecedented time, first taking the reins a year early as president and then leading us wisely through this pandemic,” the Pacific Northwest PGA Section said in a statement. “We are all better because of Sean’s leadership over the past 12 years.” Fredrickson's wife, April Fredrickson, told KPTV that her family 'died while they were on an adventure.' 'I think that, at the end of the day, they died doing what they loved, which was ... being together,' she told the news outlet. Read more here or here.
  • Atlanta police released a new video and surveillance photos from its investigation into the shooting death of an 8-year-old girl. According to WSB-TV, Secoriea Turner was shot while riding in a car with her mother and her mother’s friend Saturday night. The shooting happened not far from the Wendy’s on University Avenue where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed last month. The video shows a Black man in a white shirt carrying what police identified as an AR-15. Lt. Pete Malecki said the man is just one of several persons of interest in the case. “We believe there is going to be a minimum of three additional suspects. That number could change,” he said. “Although we have a lot of work to identify the remaining individuals responsible, this is the first step in that process.” Investigators said Secoriea Turner was riding in a Jeep Cherokee Saturday night when the driver tried to get around a “makeshift roadblock that was manned by numerous armed individuals.” Malecki said they believe the shots were fired intentionally into the car. At a news conference Sunday, Secoriea Turner’s mother said that her daughter died in her arms. “She was only 8 years old,” Charmaine Turner said. “She would have been on Tik Tok dancing on her phone, just got done eating. We understand the frustration of Rayshard Brooks. We didn’t have anything to do with that. We’re innocent. My baby didn’t mean no harm.” Secoriya Williamson, Secoriea Turner’s father, also spoke out. “They say Black lives matter,” Williamson said. “You killed your own this time. You killed a child. She didn’t do nothing to nobody.” Police are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to Secoriea Turner’s killers. Information can be submitted anonymously to the Crime Stoppers Atlanta tip line at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or online at www.StopCrimeATL.com. Hours following the police news conference, the community came together for a prayer vigil.