Dooley: Mercer football program likely to have significant economic impact

Vince Dooley, the University of Georgia’s legendary former football coach and athletic director, drew a big crowd as the keynote speaker at the annual Business & Industry Awards luncheon Thursday.

Dooley discussed several events that happened during his decades at UGA, often drawing laughter from the 200 attendees gathered at the Emerson Ballroom in downtown Macon.

After resounding applause following his introduction, Dooley said “a lot of that accolades is because I spent a lot of time in this area ... in a little place called Wrightsville,” drawing laughter as many in the audience knew that’s where Herschel Walker was from. Walker was a record-setting running back who led UGA to a national championship in 1980 and won the Heisman Trophy in 1982.

Dooley said before he was hired at UGA after a nationwide search, word came that the school was hiring a guy named Vince, and some fans asked if it was Vince Lombardi, who led the Green Bay Packers to wins in the first two Super Bowls played. No one had heard of Vince Dooley, he said.

“I was 31 years old (and) I was a freshman coach at a rival school,” he said.

Dooley spent 25 years as the head football coach and 25 years as its athletic director, with those positions overlapping for several years. He said he didn’t know he had two jobs until he gave up one of them.

The economic impact of a football program is significant on a city, and the same thing is likely to happen at Mercer University.

“I’m really excited about Mercer,” Dooley said. “(Its football program is) a benefit to the community. Hail to the Bears and especially its win over Duke (in the NCAA tournament). What a great game.”

Dooley said when he joined UGA, his budget was less than $2 million, while the spending plan today is about $100 million.

The economic impact of having more than 90,000 people attending games (in Athens) about six times a year “has a tremendous impact on the city. ... There is no question that the Mercer Bears has had some economic impact” on Macon-Bibb County.

Several attendees were surprised to learn from Dooley that the first football game ever played in Georgia was between Mercer and UGA in Athens. The score was 50-0. The last time they played it was 81-0 -- both won by UGA, he said.

“I thought it was good idea (for Mercer) to stop playing football,” he said.

Dooley spent some time after the event, sponsored by the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce and the Macon Economic Development Commission, signing copies of his books. A long line formed quickly, with some fans having their photos taken with Dooley.


Chamber President/CEO Mike Dyer said during the event that it was “a great day to celebrate” business and industry in Macon-Bibb County.

“You know, in the last 10 years (the Macon Economic Development Commission) has quietly made a tremendous impact on our community,” he said. “Since 2004, (various economic development groups) have been instrumental in bringing 63 new or expanded companies. This brought 4,946 new jobs and helped to retain about 1,000 jobs. These companies have invested $1.1 billion in their plants and in equipment. ... We have a lot to be proud of.”

Three Macon-Bibb County companies were recognized for their contributions to the economy and the community.

The 2014 Industry of the Year Award was awarded to Bearings & Drives Industrial. It is an independently and family-owned provider of industrial products and services to mining, manufacturing, engineering and original equipment manufacturing companies.

B & B Free, the franchisee for four McDonald’s restaurants in Macon-Bibb County, was awarded the 2014 Business of the Year Award. Its locations are on Bass Road, Hartley Bridge Road and Ocmulgee East Boulevard, and at Navicent Health. Owners Bruce and Bridgett Freeman opened their first Macon location on Bass Road in 2007.

The 2014 Small Business of the Year Award was given to Secure Health. The 22-year-old locally owned health care and wellness company offers employee benefit programs and community wellness programs. Secure Health also demonstrates its commitment to Middle Georgia through its charitable contributions, officials said.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.