Mike Strange: Bill Curry has long history with Vols, Derek Dooley

Mike Strange
Bill Curry is presented with a Georgia State T-shirt during a news conference Thursday at which he was introduced as the school's football coach.

Photo by John Bazemore, AP Photo

Bill Curry is presented with a Georgia State T-shirt during a news conference Thursday at which he was introduced as the school's football coach.

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For 17 years Bill Curry was a head football coach, at Georgia Tech, then Alabama, then Kentucky. For one week every one of those seasons, he prepared to play Tennessee.

So Saturday at Neyland Stadium won't be Curry's first verse of "Rocky Top.'' By now he should have it committed to memory.

But Curry has never brought an underdog quite like Georgia State into the orange lion's den.

Or has he?

"With Georgia Tech back in the early '80s, our team wasn't any better than Georgia State is now,'' Curry said this week. "And Tennessee was really good.''

Saturday will be Curry's last waltz with Tennessee. He's retiring after this season.

This time he's really retiring. Curry left coaching after Kentucky let him go in 1996. He spent the next 11 seasons as an analyst for ESPN, and he was a good one.

In 2008, Georgia State, a commuter school in downtown Atlanta, asked Curry to take on one last gig: start a football program from the ground up.

A homegrown Atlantan, Curry was a natural choice.

"It's such a privilege,'' he said. "I literally grew up on these streets around here. My dad worked in a department store six blocks from what is now the campus.

"We lived in the suburbs, in College Park, but we were down here all the time.''

So Curry hired a staff, recruited a freshman class in 2009 and in 2010, and played the school's first season.

This is Georgia State's second season at the FCS level. Next year the Panthers join the Sun Belt Conference and the FBS.

"Yes, it has been difficult,'' Curry said. "Yes, it has been demanding. But it's been more than worth it.''

The satisfaction of helping a hometown school will have to be Curry's reward. This final chapter won't improve his career win-loss percentage.

Curry's journey in football has touched a lot of bases. He played for Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech — and against UT from 1962-64. In the NFL, he played for Vince Lombardi and Don Shula.

A center, he started three Super Bowls, snapping the ball to Bart Starr and later Johnny Unitas.

As for his coaching record, the bottom line isn't Lombardiesque — 92-119-4. He's 5-11-1 against the Vols.

The tie was a 6-6 thriller in 1985. The Vols kicked a last-second field goal to avoid a loss to a very good 9-2-1 Tech team.

Curry was 3-0 at Alabama against UT, But he was 0-3 against Auburn, Despite a 1989 SEC title, Curry left the howling wolves in Tuscaloosa for Kentucky in 1990. His Wildcats contributed seven wins to that 26-year Tennessee streak that ended last November.

Curry and Derek Dooley have a history, some of it friendly, some not.

Georgia Tech was an arch-rival of Vince Dooley's Georgia teams. A Tech win made life hard for Derek's dad.

"Not some of my fond childhood memories,'' Derek Dooley said.

College memories were better. Dooley and Bill Curry Jr. were teammates at Virginia, both walk-ons who earned scholarships.

"Derek was wonderful to Bill Curry Jr,'' Curry Sr. said. "We've been eternally indebted to Derek for his kindness to our son.''

Dooley can't afford to be overly kind to the old man Saturday, even if he is able to hold some of his horses in reserve for Florida.

So Curry will take the approach he took back in the early 1980s. He'll hope for a blocked punt, a couple of turnovers, some combination of calamities to level the playing field.

"Hoping and praying we can go beyond ourselves,'' Curry said. "It's easy to talk about but tough to do.

"But you have to believe those things when you go into a situation like this.''

The 1981 Georgia Tech team, the first Curry brought to Knoxville, finished 1-10. But it played the Vols hard to the final gun, losing 10-7. That's how Curry would like to go out against Tennessee.

But it's the Vols' job to avoid sentimentality. Not even for a classy old rival's exit scene.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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Comments » 31

tovolny writes:

Bill Curry is a good guy and a good coach. I really liked him as an analyst. One thing for sure, Georgia State will hit the field fired up, filled with emotion, and believing they can win the game.

I can hardly wait for Jason Croom to show us what he has. ..6' 5" guy with speed...235 lbs. Then next week we will probably see Pig Howard do his thing in the slot. I am ready for some Tennessee football in Tennessee. I am really feeling good about the Florida game. This is no longer a drive by victory for the Gators. The game will be talent against talent, speed against speed against speed, and size against size. We are matching up really well this year. I see Tennessee beating the Gators. When it comes to coaching against coaching, I think we have the edge. I wish our coaching staff would also find a place for Al Wilson, Dale Jones, and Fuad Reviez (or maybe Tim Duncan). Dooley, Chaney, and Sunseri are certainly keepers. The D-line and the O-line coaches are also good and experienced. The RB coach, Graham, is also proving he can kick the RB's up a notch. Believe we are ready to compete and defeat.

SevenT writes:

Dooley and Curry are nearly identical. Both are very nice, have good haircuts and talk a big game and both are men who can't coach. Remarkably similiar. Tennessee will run Dooley off just like Alabama and Kentucky ran Curry off.

Just Saying

vol98champ writes:

in response to SevenT:

Dooley and Curry are nearly identical. Both are very nice, have good haircuts and talk a big game and both are men who can't coach. Remarkably similiar. Tennessee will run Dooley off just like Alabama and Kentucky ran Curry off.

Just Saying

I am so sick of reading this on this site. We have no idea whether Dooley can coach. Our talent level the last two years was like Georgia Tech in 1980. A few years later they were really good. If UT "fans" would shut up their pie hole until the Vols have time to recover from the great depression, we might get over it quicker.

linebam writes:

in response to vol98champ:

I am so sick of reading this on this site. We have no idea whether Dooley can coach. Our talent level the last two years was like Georgia Tech in 1980. A few years later they were really good. If UT "fans" would shut up their pie hole until the Vols have time to recover from the great depression, we might get over it quicker.

I couldn't agree more... well said!

VOLsince68 writes:

in response to vol98champ:

I am so sick of reading this on this site. We have no idea whether Dooley can coach. Our talent level the last two years was like Georgia Tech in 1980. A few years later they were really good. If UT "fans" would shut up their pie hole until the Vols have time to recover from the great depression, we might get over it quicker.

I also couldn't agree more. I so wish all these NegaVols would just go away.

GO VOLS!!!

vol98champ writes:

Saben lost a lot of games his first year at Bama and he had a lot more talent than we have had the last two years. His record at Miami was awful. You have to have players and our talent pool is certainly improving.

CrankE writes:

Blue uniforms, Bill Curry as coach, Neyland Stadium, a UT QB who can pass you silly. I think I've seen this movie before. Oh well, put in the videotape, pass the popcorn, and start it up!

HopeisNotaCourseofAction writes:

in response to vol98champ:

I am so sick of reading this on this site. We have no idea whether Dooley can coach. Our talent level the last two years was like Georgia Tech in 1980. A few years later they were really good. If UT "fans" would shut up their pie hole until the Vols have time to recover from the great depression, we might get over it quicker.

I am convinced these dweebs put their trash out here just to get real fans to respond to them, sort of feeds some type of sad ego since clearly no one pays them any attention in their real lives.

Ignore them, don't give them the attention they so desparately crave. No attention coupled with a winning season will cause them to disappear.

And if you'll notice, their ignorant, negative, smart @$$ remarks have gone way down already after just 1 win. Just a couple left that are hanging around.

They too shall decompose as the manure piles they live in dry up.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to vol98champ:

I am so sick of reading this on this site. We have no idea whether Dooley can coach. Our talent level the last two years was like Georgia Tech in 1980. A few years later they were really good. If UT "fans" would shut up their pie hole until the Vols have time to recover from the great depression, we might get over it quicker.

well said. back in the day, they just tried to get "a chicken in every pot." We reached that symbolic status this year when we filled the roster to capacity, putting players in uniforms. While we were opening up the highways and hedges to fill the locker room, we corralled in a couple of good ones in the process. Add a couple of quality jucos and VOILA! we have a good team this year. If we get a few breaks in key games and our kicking game holds together, we reach 9-10 wins and take the SEC-East this year.

My left handed comment: I am impressed with CDD and staff's recruiting efforts. Can't wait to see what kind of recruiting class these guys can bring in after we have a "winning" season this year. Go Vols!

vol98champ writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Saben lost a lot of games his first year at Bama and he had a lot more talent than we have had the last two years. His record at Miami was awful. You have to have players and our talent pool is certainly improving.

Sorry about my spelling. Saban. He was 7-6 his first year at Bama. He was 9-7 and 6-10 at Miami. PLAYERS!!!!!

HopeisNotaCourseofAction writes:

in response to tovolny:

Bill Curry is a good guy and a good coach. I really liked him as an analyst. One thing for sure, Georgia State will hit the field fired up, filled with emotion, and believing they can win the game.

I can hardly wait for Jason Croom to show us what he has. ..6' 5" guy with speed...235 lbs. Then next week we will probably see Pig Howard do his thing in the slot. I am ready for some Tennessee football in Tennessee. I am really feeling good about the Florida game. This is no longer a drive by victory for the Gators. The game will be talent against talent, speed against speed against speed, and size against size. We are matching up really well this year. I see Tennessee beating the Gators. When it comes to coaching against coaching, I think we have the edge. I wish our coaching staff would also find a place for Al Wilson, Dale Jones, and Fuad Reviez (or maybe Tim Duncan). Dooley, Chaney, and Sunseri are certainly keepers. The D-line and the O-line coaches are also good and experienced. The RB coach, Graham, is also proving he can kick the RB's up a notch. Believe we are ready to compete and defeat.

Always liked Curry as an espn analyst. Seems he was the one several years ago while calling a UT game who said after a VOL TD that from his coaching days against UT, "he could not get the Rocky Top melody out of his head for several days after a game with Tennessee." And he said it as it was an irritation, more than a complement. I'll bet there are many other opponents over the years who also carried that sweet blessed tune with them for days after a UT game.

Probably a couple in raleigh today still trying to hit delete... Hee Heee!!

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to SevenT:

Dooley and Curry are nearly identical. Both are very nice, have good haircuts and talk a big game and both are men who can't coach. Remarkably similiar. Tennessee will run Dooley off just like Alabama and Kentucky ran Curry off.

Just Saying

Cockroach.

Just Saying

15_counting writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Sorry about my spelling. Saban. He was 7-6 his first year at Bama. He was 9-7 and 6-10 at Miami. PLAYERS!!!!!

After his first year in 07 Saban was 12-2, 14-0(NC), 10-3, 13-0(NC). This is Dooley's 3rd full year. Time to beat somebody that matters. Success this year will help his recruiting for the future. He must win this year or he's done. We'll know in a few weeks. I think he'll be ok! Florida at home I think is a must win for him. I think the only way Florida wins is if the Vols simply aren't ready and come out flat. Should that happen it's time to maybe start questioning his ability. So far I think he's done all he could do with what he had.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to VOLsince68:

I also couldn't agree more. I so wish all these NegaVols would just go away.

GO VOLS!!!

The majority of them are not Vol "fans". They are trolls like Seven T just trying to instigate and stir the pot

Orangepuddinskin writes:

in response to SevenT:

Dooley and Curry are nearly identical. Both are very nice, have good haircuts and talk a big game and both are men who can't coach. Remarkably similiar. Tennessee will run Dooley off just like Alabama and Kentucky ran Curry off.

Just Saying

This guy cracks me up. I dont know what I find more funny, his obvious sarcasm, or the fact that so many of the readers take the bait and run everytime.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Curry would still be an upgrade at UK over that idiot Joker...Great job by the AD taking 3 steps backward since Curry's departure..For old time sake CDD will call the dog's off after the 8 minute mark in the 3rd Qtr..
UT:55
GSU:14
GBO!!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to 15_counting:

After his first year in 07 Saban was 12-2, 14-0(NC), 10-3, 13-0(NC). This is Dooley's 3rd full year. Time to beat somebody that matters. Success this year will help his recruiting for the future. He must win this year or he's done. We'll know in a few weeks. I think he'll be ok! Florida at home I think is a must win for him. I think the only way Florida wins is if the Vols simply aren't ready and come out flat. Should that happen it's time to maybe start questioning his ability. So far I think he's done all he could do with what he had.

Xactly. Florida or Alabama is a must. One can be forgiven only if the other is gotten.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Curry would still be an upgrade at UK over that idiot Joker...Great job by the AD taking 3 steps backward since Curry's departure..For old time sake CDD will call the dog's off after the 8 minute mark in the 3rd Qtr..
UT:55
GSU:14
GBO!!

Still not seeing how GSU scores at all. Rucker said they were worse than Montana, Buffalo or MTSU last year.

Its_Goooood writes:

in response to SevenT:

Dooley and Curry are nearly identical. Both are very nice, have good haircuts and talk a big game and both are men who can't coach. Remarkably similiar. Tennessee will run Dooley off just like Alabama and Kentucky ran Curry off.

Just Saying

You should have said , Just stupid

Jakevol writes:

Lay the lumber to them, Go Vols,,

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Still not seeing how GSU scores at all. Rucker said they were worse than Montana, Buffalo or MTSU last year.

If they do in will be by a blown assignment from our 3rd team defense, or a turnover by the 3rd team offense late in the 4th Qtr. GBO!!

SevenT writes:

Bragging about beating up on Georgia State is really sad. Beat the real Georgia team then you got something to be proud of. But at least TB will get another chance to pad his stat sheet against another nobody team.

EH?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I didn't know Curry centered for the great Bart Starr!! Then Johnny UNITAS??? Heck who cares about his coaching record. He is now a hero to me.

BigBadVol writes:

in response to vol98champ:

I am so sick of reading this on this site. We have no idea whether Dooley can coach. Our talent level the last two years was like Georgia Tech in 1980. A few years later they were really good. If UT "fans" would shut up their pie hole until the Vols have time to recover from the great depression, we might get over it quicker.

One correction. SevenT is not a Vol.

vol98champ writes:

in response to 15_counting:

After his first year in 07 Saban was 12-2, 14-0(NC), 10-3, 13-0(NC). This is Dooley's 3rd full year. Time to beat somebody that matters. Success this year will help his recruiting for the future. He must win this year or he's done. We'll know in a few weeks. I think he'll be ok! Florida at home I think is a must win for him. I think the only way Florida wins is if the Vols simply aren't ready and come out flat. Should that happen it's time to maybe start questioning his ability. So far I think he's done all he could do with what he had.

Going from 7-6 to 12-2 and14-0----Doesn't that tell you that there were some really good players on the 7-6 team? Dooley didn't have much talent on the first year's team that almost won 8 games and he had even less on last year's team. It is possible that this year we have a little more talent than Saban had on his 7-6 team.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I didn't know Curry centered for the great Bart Starr!! Then Johnny UNITAS??? Heck who cares about his coaching record. He is now a hero to me.

Gees, you are very uninformed about fb..How old are you??

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to SevenT:

Bragging about beating up on Georgia State is really sad. Beat the real Georgia team then you got something to be proud of. But at least TB will get another chance to pad his stat sheet against another nobody team.

EH?

No one is bragging about this game, but at least UT didn't get their arses whipped like tucky did last week..LMAO!! Good ol' Joker, what a joke..

SevenT writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

No one is bragging about this game, but at least UT didn't get their arses whipped like tucky did last week..LMAO!! Good ol' Joker, what a joke..

I am not sure Tennessee would beat Louisville either big stuff.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to SevenT:

I am not sure Tennessee would beat Louisville either big stuff.

The "Ville" BABY!! Bwahahahahahaha!!
Joker for COY!! Bwahahahahahahaha!!

15_counting writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Going from 7-6 to 12-2 and14-0----Doesn't that tell you that there were some really good players on the 7-6 team? Dooley didn't have much talent on the first year's team that almost won 8 games and he had even less on last year's team. It is possible that this year we have a little more talent than Saban had on his 7-6 team.

Absolutely. Thats exactly my point. He must win this year because he does have the play makers. No excuses! It's all on him. Again, I think he will pass the test. Time will tell.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I didn't know Curry centered for the great Bart Starr!! Then Johnny UNITAS??? Heck who cares about his coaching record. He is now a hero to me.

Oh, yeah, Curry was the real danged deal with those great Packer teams of the early to mid-60s. He was one of the main blockers on Starr's QB sneak for a TD in the famous "Ice Bowl" NFL championship game. I think that may have been the last game of that format before the AFL champion was included in the first Super Bowl, which Curry also played in.

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