The Georgia high school basketball state championship games appear headed out of Macon and into Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion and Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum beginning next year.
GHSA executive director Gary Phillips, reached by phone Saturday morning, said no deal has been made but acknowledged that the association has been exploring alternatives to the Macon Coliseum since the championships ended in controversy in March. The 14 state finals were played with rims positioned about a foot closer to the foul line than is regulation.
‘’Everything now is speculation,’’ Phillips said of a move. ‘’We anticipate making some decisions very soon.’’
The Marietta Daily Journal, through information obtained in an open-records request, confirmed Friday that the GHSA and Georgia and Georgia Tech officials have been closing in on a deal. The newspaper quoted an email from John Bateman, Georgia’s assistant athletic director for marketing, to GHSA associate director Ernie Yarbrough.
“Just spoke with Gary Phillips and told him we were prepared to take the next steps with plans to host GHSA boys and girls basketball state championships March 8-9, 2017,’’ Bateman wrote. “Like us, he’s excited about hosting games in Stegeman.”
The 2016 finals became an embarrassment to the GHSA and the Coliseum after it was discovered on the third and final day of the event that Coliseum officials had set up the goals improperly. In the first boys game, Wilkinson County and Hancock Central missed all 15 of their 3-point attempts. For the tournament, boys teams made only 39 percent from the field and 62 percent from the line. Girls teams shot 33 percent and 57 percent percent.
Not realizing the mistake until the afternoon of the final day, the GHSA elected to continue with the non-regulation goals. The story was picked up by national media. Many head coaches expressed disbelief at the goals.
‘’This is an embarrassment for Georgia High school basketball and someone needs to be held accountable,’’ Robin Potter, coach of Class AAAAA girls runner-up Tucker, told the AJC at the time. “This debacle cannot just be swept under the rug.’’
Potter, recently hired as Grayson’s girls head coach, was glad to hear of the potential move.
‘’There were other problems with the Coliseum,’’ Potter said. ‘’The locker rooms, the public restrooms. The whole place was in bad shape. You’ve got football playing in the Georgia Dome, the finest facility in Georgia, and basketball’s been playing at a second-rate facility.’’
Phillips said consideration of other venues isn't directly a result of the 2016 controversy.
‘’Not really,’’ Phillips said. “It’s just what we think is in our best interest of that sport. We’ve moved other sports from place to place, some in our control and some not. This one is more publicized and speculated upon than others.’’
A move out of Macon would be historic. The Macon Coliseum has staged all or part of the state finals since 1969, shortly after the facility opened. Portions of the state tournament have been held at some Macon venue, including the City Auditorium, every year since 1942.
A move also would be historic for Stegeman Coliseum, which has never been the site of a state tournament game. The last time that a state tournament game or final was played at Georgia was in 1941 at old Woodruff Hall.
The McCamish Pavilion, formerly known as Alexander Memorial Coliseum, has been the site of several finals, most recently those in 2003.
Phillips said the GHSA had no timetable for making a decision, that it could be soon, or months away. He noted that the neutral sites of quarterfinal and semifinals had been announced as late as October in the past.
‘’We would’ve thought we could’ve made that decision well before now, but we have other things we’re looking into,’’ Phillips said. ‘’I would anticipate we would have something to say as soon as we’re satisfied one way or the other.’’
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