Every four years, the entire world comes together as one for the largest sporting event in the world, the Olympics. The world watches in anticipation, hoping their home country’s athletes can bring home the coveted gold medal. With the Olympic Games being such a large competition, many athletes in the different realms of athletics have the opportunity to showcase their talent for the entire world to see.
Although it may not be as large as some of the country’s larger athletic programs, Mercer University has an Olympic tradition of its own. A few athletes and coaches who have graced Mercer University with their presence have been able to participate in the Olympics.
James “Jimmy” Carnes attended Mercer University from 1952 to 1956, where he played for the Mercer Bears basketball team and was a javelin-thrower and high-jumper for the Bears track and field team.
After a successful collegiate campaign in both sports, Carnes took his skills and began coaching at the high school level.
After graduating college, Carnes accepted his first job as a physical education teacher and assistant coach for the football, basketball and track teams at Druid in DeKalb County, Georgia.
In his second year at Druid Hills, he was named head coach of the track team. From 1957 to 1962, Carnes’ Druid Hills track teams were a perfect 52–0 in dual meets and captured six Georgia high school state championships, and he was recognized as the Georgia coach of the year six times.
After being successful at a high school level, Carnes began to be highly sought after in collegiate athletics. In 1962, Carnes became the head cross country and track and field coach at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
His Furman track and field teams were 16–3 in dual meets, and won both the Southern Conference indoor and outdoor track and field championships in his two seasons there.
After the 1964 track season, Carnes accepted the head coaching position at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. From 1965 to 1976, Carnes’ Florida Gators track and field teams finished in the top three in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) fifteen times, won two SEC indoor track championships, and compiled a 93–3 overall record in dual meets.
Among his many Gators track and field athletes were sixty-five SEC individual champions, four NCAA individual champions and twenty-four All-Americans.
It was obvious that Carnes had a knack for coaching, and this led him to be instated as one of the coaches for the U.S Olympic team.
Carnes served as the assistant coach of the U.S. men’s track and field team for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
He was named the head coach of the U.S. men’s track and field team that was forced to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow as a result of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
Carnes was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, the U.S Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998 and the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2008.
Cindy Brogdon, a former Mercer athlete, played for Mercer University in 1976 and 1977 before transferring to the University of Tennessee.
Brogdon was the first Georgian to play as a member of a United States Olympic Basketball team and helped the 1976 U.S. Women’s Olympic Basketball Team to a silver medal at the Montreal Summer Olympic Games while she was only a freshman at Mercer University.
In 1999, Brogdon was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame for her dedication and contribution to the sport of women’s basketball.
Although Mercer University may not be necessarily known for their athletics, these two athletes are absolute proof that Mercer University has helped produce some of the top athletes and coaches of all time and true Olympians who have helped progress their sport.
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