On Aug. 30 at the Georgia Dome, Georgia State University's head football coach Bill Curry will begin his final season.
In the stands, alumnus J. Allen Poole (B.B.A., 1968) will begin to close a chapter of his history as an Atlanta sports fan, too.
"I watched Bill Curry play and coach every one of his home games at Georgia Tech, and we couldn't have gotten a better human being to start our team than William Alexander Curry," said Poole (right), a board member for the Panther Athletic Club (PAC), which raises money for GSU Athletics.
"He was perfect to get us going, and he said he would fulfill his contract, and that's what he's doing. He's going to be 70, and he deserves time and space away from coaching college football. There's no reason why in the next 10 or 20 years we can't be competitive with other teams in Georgia. The coaching position here is going to be a great opportunity for someone."
Poole, a year younger than Curry, also grew up playing and following football in Georgia. His hometown of Sparta is 110 miles east of Atlanta, and there Poole remained on the field for every minute of every game. When his team had the ball, he played center (like Curry). When they didn't, Poole was a linebacker. He loved being a "two way" player and was a good enough baseball catcher to get a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Football turned into a spectator sport for Poole when he left Hancock County and moved to Atlanta for its business opportunities.
"A few girls wrote in my annual [yearbook] that they hoped I would become a CPA, which was unusual since there were none in my county and no one had either met or seen one," said Poole, who was raised on a seven-acre cotton farm plowed with a mule named Annie.
Yet a CPA is exactly what he became, paved by the night classes at GSU, then called Georgia State College. Between working a 9-to-5 job, "I only went to college a day in my life, and that was the day university president Noah Langdale gave me my diploma," he joked.
Poole was, like 30 percent of today's student body, first in his family to go to college. As a CPA, ethical rules prohibited him from advertising, so the alumni network was critical to his success. He founded the firm Blackwell Poole and Co. in Hapeville with fellow alumnus Jack A. Blackwell (B.B.A., 1958), and they also invested in real estate together.
Football was always part of Poole's weekends in Atlanta, which in the mid-1960s had attracted its first professional team, the Falcons.
"I have a signed ticket to the first Atlanta Braves game in 1966, but I lost my ticket to the first Falcons game that fall," said Poole, who has listened to or watched Georgia Tech on Saturdays for most of his life. "I am avid - avid -when it comes to football."
From his point of view, Georgia State suffered without football, which in the South and nationally provides publicity. "In its absence, we have been a best-kept secret," he said. "In Atlanta, people knew about Georgia State because of all of its good things, like the ability to go to school 24/7. But outside Atlanta and the state, people don't know. Football simply gives a university another way that helps everything else at the university, including academics and grant money. It's certainly a benefit."
The Panthers football team energized Poole as a donor. He gives to the PAC to support football and the Georgia Society of CPAs Educational Foundation, which supports a GSU accounting scholarship honoring Cherry Bekaert and Holland, the firm that Poole retired from as partner.
"I am a joiner and a doer, and I invest in what I am involved in," he said. "With Georgia State and football, that's my sweet spot.
"Georgia State allowed me to get an accounting degree, which allowed me to be a CPA and be active in the accounting profession and be a leader and make a living and have some personal gain. It sounds corny, but I'm giving back a small part of what it gave to me."
-By GSU Foundation Writer Michelle Hiskey, (404) 413-3486
Aug. 27, 2012