Mercer University Cranks up Football Again and Will Play Georgia Tech
Yes, after 72 years, Mercer University goes back into the football business. College football is a business, one that makes good money for the coaches and the schools, but not the players, who take the greatest risks by putting their bodies in harm’s way.
When I was attending Mercer, I heard some tales about how the school decided to drop football after the University of Georgia beat the Bears 100 to 0 in Porter Stadium in Macon in 1941. That tale turned out to be apocryphal. I checked out the records, and the score was only 81 to 0. It was Georgia Tech that ran up the biggest score against Mercer, 105 to 0 in 1914; however, Mercer did beat Georgia Tech in the first game Tech ever played. In 1892, Mercer beat Tech 12 to 6. It never beat Tech again. Mercer’s first game was also Georgia’s first game. Georgia won 50 to 0, and Mercer never beat Georgia over the 49 years that they played. (They didn’t play every year.) And as far as dropping football because of the Georgia score, that’s not the reason given. Mercer suspended all sports during World War II. It considered restarting the football program after the war, but decided the $50,000 it would cost was too much.
Georgia Tech has agreed to play a non-conference game with Mercer as its 2016 season opener. Tech says it is doing it to show support for college football in Georgia. That’s why it agreed to also play Georgia Southern. Mercer will probably lose the game, but the money should be good since Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field holds 55,000 people and the TV money (if this game is televised) ain’t chicken feed. Mercer’s new stadium will seat 10,200.
Mercer will play in the NCAA Division 1 Pioneer League this year. It’s a non-scholarship league similar to the Ivy League which is also an NCAA Division 1 league. That’s just for this year. Next season the team will move to the NCAA Division 1 Southern Conference, which is a football scholarship league.
Mercer’s first game is in Macon Saturday against Reinhardt, which is located at Walesa, Georgia, which is near Alpharetta. . This year the Bears will be playing schools as far away as California and New York.
The big question is why the school decided to do it. President William Underwood is quoted on the Mercer football website as saying, “This kind of college football will enhance our academic reputation by aligning us with other outstanding universities that compete in Division I non-scholarship football and by making Mercer even more competitive in attracting the most sought-after students.” I suppose that reasoning will still hold true when the team switches in 2014 to the Southern Conference, which is an athletic scholarship league.