By Doug Gorman
Although the University of Georgia football team opens defense of its SEC title in less than two months, the school's passionate fans have more on their mind than beating the Clemson Tigers in the season opener on Aug. 30.
Many Georgia boosters are still weighing in on University of Georgia President Michael Adams' decision not to renew long-time athletic director Vince Dooley's contract when it expires next year.
Dooley, 70, has been a part of the University of Georgia athletic department for nearly 40 years, serving as the school's football coach from 1964 until 1988. In 1980, Dooley led the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and the national championship. He has been the school's athletic director since 1979.
Tuesday afternoon hundreds of fans converged on the state capital and then marched to the Board of Regents office in an effort to deliver 60,000 signatures calling for Adams to be fired.
Many of the protesters then attended a meeting of the Metro Bulldog Booster Club where Dooley thanked his supporters.
Earlier this year, the Board of Regents unanimously supported Adams.
The Adams Dooley debate hasn't escaped the attention of fans in the Southern Crescent.
Chuck Miller, a long-time coach and current athletic director at Henry County High School said he believes the situation could have been handled differently by both parties.
"Dooley did agree to step down when his contract expires, and when he changed his mind and wanted to stay, he should have gone to Adams privately seeking the opportunity to stay. Once this went public is when things starting getting out of control."
Still, Miller, who did not attend Georgia but is an avid Georgia fan, is angry at the way Adams has treated Dooley and thinks the Board of Regents should buy out Adams' contract.
"Adams has tried to make this an academic issue," Miller said. "It's not. There is no reason why you can't have strong athletics and strong academics at a school like Georgia. One feeds the other.
"Can you imagine what would happen at Duke if fans and alumni started questioning the basketball team?" Miller asked.
Travis Rice, who co-hosts the Georgia football program "The Dawg Show," shown on cable television in Henry County, questions Adams' decision to not retain Dooley.
"I don't think Adams was thinking clearly about this," said Rice, whose show is not affiliated with the University of Georgia Athletic Department. "I don't know who Adams is going to find better than Dooley to run the athletic department at Georgia."
According to Rice, Dooley is more than a former successful football coach who happens to also be an athletic director of a major university.
"Everybody thinks of Georgia as a football school, but it also has one of the strongest women's athletic departments in the country, Dooley is responsible for that success."
Another fan and 1995 UGA graduate Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker took a more neutral position toward the demand to replace Adams.
"That's a complicated question that the Board of Regents and the chancellor will have to spend hours looking into," Walker said. "I'm sure they'll make an intelligent decision."
As for Dooley, Walker said he was a "good coach, a good athletic director."
Despite his support for Dooley, Miller doesn't expect the athletic director to be retained.
"I think the handwriting is on the wall for Dooley, he's not coming back. "It appears Adams has had it in for Dooley since the beginning and that's too bad. Adams needs to go, because that might be the only thing to bring the University of Georgia back together."
Ed Brock contributed to this story.