MACON, Ga. — A day years in the making came full circle on Monday at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
The Georgia Independent Athletic Association era has arrived once and for all in the Peach State, and the excitement certainly has, too, with Monday afternoon's kickoff event in downtown Macon.
Commissioner Tommy Marshall, conference leaders, and student-athlete representatives from six different member schools were all on hand for the afternoon's festivities.
The GIAA is the new athletics home for independent schools in Georgia, bringing smaller schools like Windsor Academy and Central Fellowship Christian Academy under the same umbrella as larger ones, like Stratford Academy and First Presbyterian Day School.
That, in itself, is one of the main driving points behind the change; in the GIAA, all schools will have the same voting power when making decisions such as rule changes. Each school will count as a single vote, with that vote left to each school's headmaster.
Another important distinction: the GISA isn't going anywhere. Instead, the GIAA was formed as a new athletic association extension of the Georgia Independent School Association, which continues to exist.
So, why the change?
"They're our parent organization, and we sort of slide up under them to get all the benefits and everything that's already been done," Marshall said. "A lot of the things have already been in place. And what we're trying to do is enhance them and provide more better opportunities."
August 1 also marked the first eligible day for practice for GIAA member schools, and they didn't waste more than a minute getting on the field not a minute.
As the clock struck midnight early Monday morning at Cavalier Fields, teams from Central Fellowship Christian Academy, Covenant Academy, Mount de Sales Academy, Tattnall Square Academy and Windsor Academy took to the field, the track and the diamond for a ceremonial "Midnight Madness" kickoff of the 2022 season. The night was complete with football teams running through the first banners of the year and a softball scrimmage.
While just four of the GIAA's seven total fall sports were represented, the hype for the 2022 season is at an all-time high.
"I think it's twofold. Part of the idea is being able to control our own governance, to be able to make rules that work best for our student-athletes, so that's important for us moving to the new league," Mount de Sales athletic director Kenny Epps said. "The other aspect of it is that it is bringing back some of the traditions of previous days in the GISA, so we are happy about the new competition. Still, we're also happy about the idea of being able to make decisions that work best for our student-athletes."
It's safe to say that it's finally starting to feel like a fall in Central Georgia.
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