By Barbara Dooley, Georgia Grits
When you have a lot of children, and we had four, you get worn slap out. By the time the last baby arrives, you just let them do just about whatever they want. We had a rule that our first son, Daniel, could not go to the sidelines with his father, who was the head coach at the University of Georgia at the time, until he was ten years old. Our youngest son, Derek, got this chance a lot sooner.
When Derek was five, Georgia played our biggest in-state rival, Georgia Tech, in Atlanta on Thanksgiving night. We spent Thanksgiving without the coach, then drove to Atlanta for the game. When we got to the hotel, Derek immediately asked his father if he could sit on the sidelines. Feeling guilty about Thanksgiving, Vince compromised and told him that if we were beating Tech by a large score at the end of the third quarter he could go down on the sidelines. There were two rules: he could not get near the team, and he could not get near Dad! At family prayers, Derek prayed, “…and Jesus please let us be beating Tech by a big enough score that I can get to the sidelines.”
At the end of the third quarter the score was 42--0, and I thought that was a reasonable lead to take him down to the sidelines. By the time we got to the fence, Tech had scored and it was 42--7. By the time I got him over the fence, it was 42--14. By the time I got back to my seat, it was 42--21 and Derek Dooley was pulling on his dad’s pants leg.
That night in the hotel, we put the children down in their room and turned out the lights. We went to our adjoining room and Vince turned out the light. I knew, womanly instinct, that something major was about to be said. I just lay there as still as I could, waiting. Finally he said, “Barbara, the strangest thing happened tonight on the sideline. Tech had the ball going down the field to score and Derek was pulling on my pants leg. I pushed him away, anything to get him to turn loose of my leg. Finally when Tech scored, I looked down and said, ‘Derek, what do you want?’ I was ready for anything except for what he said. He looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Daddy, don’t worry about a thing. Jesus is just having a little fun.