"He has made it known that he is interested," Richardson told the Opelika-Auburn News. "I have had at least three people that have brought his interest to my attention."
Dooley, Georgia's former athletic director, said Wednesday he would have no further comment until Auburn's search process was complete, but, in response to Richardson's comments, he said, "I have not asked anyone or authorized anyone to talk to Auburn on my behalf regarding interest in the athletic director position. I do still have many friends in the state of Alabama, and it's always possible one or more of them could have encouraged Auburn to inquire about my interest. However, as I said on Wednesday, no one from Auburn has contacted me."
Auburn has hired Carr Sports Associates to lead its search for David Housel's replacement. Housel resigned following the school's botched attempt to replace football coach Tommy Tuberville and will step down on Jan. 1, 2005. Only one candidate — Donald Powell, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. — is known to have interviewed for the job, and Richardson did not speculate whether Dooley would be interviewed.
"I wouldn't say he's an unusually strong candidate, just a good, solid candidate," Richardson told the paper. "But I don't know any extremely strong candidate right now. We will consider all viable candidates. Certainly he has an Auburn connection. Now, whether he is interviewed or not remains to be seen. I hope that this search firm will help us determine that."
The Huntsville Times reported that Dooley, Powell, former Tiger Mike Kolen and associate A.D. Jay Jacobs are all candidates for the job.
Dooley left his full-time duties at Georgia on June 30 after school president Michael Adams declined to extend his contract. He is serving as a consultant for the school for one full year at a salary of more than $300,000. He was a quarterback at Auburn and later coached there under the legendary Shug Jordan, which he acknowledged in his statement on Wednesday, makes it "not too surprising that there might be speculation about my name being mentioned, among others, as potential candidates."
The 71-year-old Dooley left Auburn in 1964 to become Georgia's head football coach and went on to be the winningest coach in school history. He became athletics director in 1979 and built one of the country's most successful departments before being forced out by Adams.
"I would be very surprised if he were to, at this age, go back to Auburn as A.D.," said Bob Bishop, a member of the UGA Athletic Association's board of directors and longtime acquaintance of Dooley.
"However, that's where he started. It wouldn't absolutely shock me to death, but it would surprise me."
A move this late in Dooley's career could jeopardize some of the good will he generated during a 40-year career in Athens, but Bishop said many people will support him either way.
"Somebody in that position, if they do something like that, you're going to have half the people mad at you and half the people happy for you," he said. "You can't win either way. Whatever he does, he'll make a good decision."
Jack Turner, a former member of the board of directors who now lives in Athens, declined comment on what a move would do to Dooley's legacy.
"I wouldn't comment if it's good, bad or indifferent," he said. "I think Vince will do what he wants to do, and that's the way it should be."
If Dooley does become a serious candidate or even takes the job, it could have an impact on an ongoing effort to have his name added to Sanford Stadium.
Adams declined to comment on the possible move.