MACON, Ga. — Mercer University will soon serve as host to the Georgia Independent School Association football, boys basketball and girls basketball championships, the league, city and the university announced at a news conference Tuesday.
The deal is for six years, but the hope is for the partnership to last even longer.
“We’re excited. We’re terribly excited to be coming to Macon. Great academic institution, good athletics – kind of what we like to promote in our schools,” Tommy Whittle, the GISA’s vice president for interscholastics, said.
“We are excited to be here. We are just so proud … We are ready for this to happen.”
While the girls and boys basketball semifinals and finals will be held at the University Center’s Hawkins Arena starting with the upcoming school year, the football finals won’t be in Macon until the following year. Mercer is restarting its football program, and the new stadium is expected to be completed for the 2013 season.
The basketball semifinals and championships had been held at Georgia College & State the past two decades. Though Whittle said the GISA and the Milledgeville school had a great relationship, the league was looking at other options once the contract ended.
“It’s a chance to showcase Macon,” Mercer director of athletics Jim Cole said. “It’s truly the epicenter of middle Georgia.”
The deal leads to a big change on the football field. The playoffs had previously been held at the home of the higher seed in all rounds. With this agreement, each of the three classes will have the championship game in one spot; the three games will be played the same day.
“We’re excited we’ll be able to showcase our athletes in the GISA,” Stratford Academy’s Head of School Robert Veto said. “I couldn’t be happier for this opportunity.”
Whittle said headmasters and football coaches – for the most part – were in favor of having the football championships at a neutral site.
Thomas Jefferson Academy Headmaster/football coach Chuck Wimberly is one of those people. He points to Macon’s location in the center of the state as a positive.
“I think it’s a good move,” Wimberly said. “I think it’s a good move for our entire league and for the fans. That’s the big thing. The fans will be able to show up to one site and see several good football games.”