Stratford and Tattnall Square headed to the GHSA

jheeter@macon.comMarch 4, 2013 

Two of the GISA’s strongest pillars soon will be leaving.

The board of trustees at both Stratford Academy and Tattnall Square voted Monday to move the schools’ interscholastic activities to the Georgia High School Association beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The boards affirmed the decisions of advisory committees made up of the leadership of both schools.

Both schools will join Mount de Sales in the GHSA after the downtown Macon school voted to leave the GISA in January. The decision reunites Macon’s four largest private schools – First Presbyterian Day left for the GHSA in 2010 – and also changes the face of the Georgia Independent Schools Association.

The GISA has lost a number of its largest schools to the GHSA in recent years, with nine football-playing Class AAA schools making the jump since 2004. The dwindling number of large schools created some far-flung regions geographically and also created difficulty in scheduling non-region games.

“If you look back over a 10-year history, several similar schools have left for the GHSA,” Tattnall athletics director Todd Whetsel said. “Mount de Sales decided to leave. Stratford announced earlier (Monday) it was leaving. We could have envisioned others leaving, as well.”

The Macon private schools likely will share a Class A region in the GHSA, although Mount de Sales might be on fringe of being a Class AA school. Regardless of the region the schools are placed in during the GHSA reclassification meeting in December, the biggest aid in making the move could come from non-region scheduling. The schools could choose to play most of their non-region games in Middle Georgia, rather than traveling across the state to fill out their schedule.

“There’s no doubt there are more options (for scheduling) when the entire GHSA world is opened to us,” Whetsel said.

For Stratford, the move remarks a return to the GHSA, where it competed in sports during its first decade of operation. The boys golf team won five GHSA state championships from 1964 to 1970. The girls basketball team was the state runner-up in 1970, losing to Taylor County in the Class C title game at the Macon Coliseum. The boys basketball team played in the state semifinals in 1968.

Although the school started in the GHSA, Stratford’s roots in the GISA run deeper than almost any other member school. The school was a driving force behind the creation of the SEAIS in 1969, and Stratford’s headmaster, Joe B. Hill, was the league’s first president. Stratford’s current head of school Bob Veto is the GISA vice-chairman of interscholastic activities.

Stratford won 22 championships during the first five years of the SEAIS, and the school has won more than 150 team state championships since 1970, more than any other GISA school.

“We are grateful to everyone in the Stratford community who provided input into this decision, which was a difficult one,” Veto said in a press release. “The GISA has been a great home for Stratford’s competition in athletics and other activities, but we look forward to embarking on new challenges as we return to the GHSA.”

Tattnall’s athletics program began in the early 1970s, but it didn’t take off until Barney Hester became the football head coach in 1982. Hester won more than 300 games and 11 GISA championships in football from 1988 to 2011. Other sports caught on, and the Trojans became regular contenders in girls basketball, baseball and softball. Hester announced in January he was leaving the school to coach football at Howard.

Albany’s Deerfield-Windsor could be the next to depart. Athletics director Gordy Gruhl told The Telegraph last month that Deerfield would have to seriously consider moving if both Stratford and Tattnall left. Westfield has publically said it would remain in the GISA the next two years even if Deerfield, Stratford and Tattnall left.

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