Bill Dooley, the longest-tenured football coach in school history at North Carolina, died on Tuesday in Wilmington. He was 82 and died of natural causes, his family said in a statement released by UNC.
Dooley was the head coach at UNC from 1967 through 1977, before leaving to become the head coach at Virginia Tech. He spent nine seasons there and six seasons, from 1987 through 1992, at Wake Forest.
In 26 seasons as a head coach his teams won 162 games.
And in an era in which it was more difficult to qualify for a bowl game, Dooley guided his teams to the postseason 10 times. Six of those came at North Carolina, which had only been to the postseason once in the previous 17 seasons before Dooley arrived.
“Coach Dooley was a great coach and an even better man who made a lasting impact on this university and on college football as a whole,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said in a statement. “He touched the lives of the young men who played for him in a profound and special way.
“He proved that Carolina was a program that could produce a winning tradition and his legacy is something we strive to uphold each and every day.”
At UNC, he took over a struggling program in 1967 and turned the Tar Heels into contenders. They won eight games in 1970, nine the next season and then finished 11-1 in 1972.
That season, which ended with a 32-28 victory against Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl, is remembered as one of the best in school history. Dooley led the Tar Heels to ACC championships in 1971, 1972 and 1977. He is the only head coach to lead UNC to multiple ACC championships.
During Dooley’s 11 seasons in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels were 69-53-2. When he left he was the most victorious coach in school history. Dick Crum now holds that record with 72 victories, and Mack Brown, who built UNC into a national power in the 1990s, tied Dooley’s 69 victories.
Dooley, a native of Mobile, Ala., and an All-SEC lineman at Mississippi State, was 33 when he became the head coach at UNC in 1967. He is credited for enhancing the ACC’s competitiveness when he arrived at UNC from Georgia, where he was an assistant under his brother, Vince.
“(Bill) will be missed by his family and friends and will be remembered by all of us whose lives he has touched so deeply,” Dooley’s family said in a statement.
Dooley 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.