WILMINGTON- As the sports community near and far honors the memory of legendary coach Bill Dooley, who passed away of natural causes this week in Wilmington at the age of 82, predominant figures in the area are remembering the man known as the “Trench Fighter.”
In addition to the many accolades on the football field as head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, Virginia Tech Hokies and Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Dooley had influence in the Port City after moving to Wilmington in 2001.
Dooley served as the guiding force behind the creation of the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame (GWSHOF), which created a scholarship program in his name. Each year the GWSHOF awards scholarships in recognition of each of its inductees into the Hall of Fame. The scholarship is awarded to a high school student-athlete who successfully balances being good students and good citizens, while also making a significant contribution to their respective sport.
“Coach Bill Dooley was an outstanding coach, a great leader, a fabulous mentor and a wonderful friend,” said Jon Rosborough, President of the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame. “He founded the GWSHOF in 2005 and since its inception it has honored 47 inductees and awarded 43 scholarships to student athletes in our region.”
Along with his contributions to the hall of fame in Wilmington, Dooley event spent time under then Hoggard Football Coach Scott Braswell, coaching the Vikings’ junior varsity team after moving to town as his son Sean was enrolled in school along Shipyard Boulevard.
“The neat thing Coach Dooley brought with him to our program was his enthusiasm,” said Braswell, who stepped down as Hoggard’s Football Coach and Athletic Director in 2015 after 18 seasons. “In ways he coached that JV team the same way he coached his teams at Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. He had a huge emphasis on fundamentals, paired with a great personality and commanded a lot of respect.”
To think an accomplished football coach as Dooley would then be coaching at the junior varsity level in high school, one might believe the influence he’d bring would intimidate Braswell and his staff. That wasn’t the case.
“Coach was so comfortable to be around,” Braswell added. “It was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and coach was also very complimentary to how we were trying to do things.”
During his coaching days at Carolina, Dooley led the Tar Heels for 11 seasons, the longest tenure of any head football coach in UNC history, and posted a record of 69-53-2, which set the school record for career wins. He is the only Carolina football coach to win multiple Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Dooley led the Tar Heels to ACC titles in 1971, 1972 and 1977. The Tar Heels set the school record for wins in a season by going 11-1 in 1972. He became the head coach and director of athletics at Virginia Tech in 1978.
“We are all so very blessed to have known him. He made all of us better men,” said Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame inductee John Bunting, who was recruited and played for Dooley at North Carolina and now has a home in Hampstead. “I am so blessed to have been in his life and his family’s life as well. He has a heart of gold, and loves to reach out and help people, as he did and did often.
“Dooley changed the landscape of the ACC with the way he recruited. He built around teamwork, discipline, and stepping out of the box.”
Dooley arrived in Chapel Hill at age 33 from the University of Georgia, where he was the chief offensive assistant for three seasons to his brother, Vince, who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Bulldogs.
He is survived by his wife, Marie Dooley; four sons – Jim Dooley of Chapel Hill; Billy Dooley of Atlanta; Sean Dooley and his wife, Courtney; and Ashton Dooley, both of Wilmington; and two granddaughters – Hayden and Caroline Dooley, also of Wilmington.
The Dooley family issued the following statement: “Coach Bill Dooley passed away this morning. He will be missed by his family and friends and will be remembered by all of us whose lives he has touched so deeply.”
Services for Dooley will be held at The Basilica Shrine of St. Mary’s on Ann Street in Wilmington at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13.