Change is a big part of the sports landscape in Middle Georgia this year.
Bobby Lambs Mercer University football team played its first season in 2013 as the program returned from a more than 70-year hiatus. The Bears played their first season in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League. But this summer, the Bears, and all of Mercers athletics teams, will move to the Southern Conference. Mercer was a charter member of A-Sun (originally the Trans America Athletic Conference), but it will move to the Southern Conference in July.
Mercer will take quality programs with it in its move to the Southern Conference. The baseball team has become an NCAA tournament challenger every year in recent seasons, while the mens basketball team reached the tournament for just the third time this season. And Bob Hoffmans Bears earned the programs first NCAA basketball tournament win with a victory over Duke.
The Bears have 18 intercollegiate athletics teams, eight on the mens side and 10 on the womens side.
The eight mens teams are baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer and tennis. The 10 womens teams are basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, sand volleyball, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field and volleyball.
Mercers facilities are: mens and womens basketball (Hawkins Arena), football/lacrosse (Mercer University Stadium), baseball (Claude Smith Field), softball (Sikes Field), mens and womens soccer (Bear Field), sand volleyball (Mercer Sand Volleyball Complex), mens and womens tennis (LeRoy Peddy Tennis Center), mens golf (Brickyard at Riverside), womens golf (Idle Hour Club) and cross country (Georgia Industrial Childrens Home).
Change is also coming for many of the areas high school teams. Twenty-two high schools have athletics teams in the five-county area.
Mount de Sales Academy, Stratford Academy and Tattnall Square Academy are leaving the Georgia Independent Schools Association for the Georgia High School Association. Covenant Academy and Central Fellowship Christian Academy are also leaving the GISA, but they will join the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association.
In Bibb County, the other GHSA teams are Central High, First Presbyterian Day School, Howard High, Northeast High, Rutland High, Southwest High and Westside High. Windsor will be the lone GISA member in the county starting this fall.
In Houston County, the GHSA teams are Houston County High, Northside High, Perry High, Veterans High and Warner Robins High, while the Westfield School competes in the GISA.
Jones County, Peach County and Mary Persons (Monroe County) high schools also compete in the GHSA.
Warner Robins and Northside have built powerhouse football programs in the GHSA throughout the years, and Peach County has joined them recently. Mary Persons is a traditional power, as well.
Also, in Baldwin County, Baldwin and Georgia Military College Prep School compete in the GHSA, while John Milledge competes in the GISA.
Barrington Hall Golf Club: 478-757-8358
Bowden Golf Course: 478-742-1610
The Brickyard at Riverside: 478-477-6765
Healy Point Country Club: 478-746-2411
Idle Hour Club: 478-477-1724
Oakview Golf & Country Club: 478-785-1833
Houston Lake Country Club: 478-218-5253
Houston Springs Golf Club: 478-988-8200
International City Golf Club: 478-322-0276
Perry Country Club: 478-987-1033
Pine Oaks Golf Course: 478-923-7334
Landings Golf Club: 478-932-5222
Waterford Golf Club: 478-328-7533
Pine Needles Country Club: 478-825-3816
Little Fishing Creek Golf Course: 478-445-0796
Milledgeville Country Club: 478-452-3525
Lake Jonesco Golf Course: 478-986-3206
The Club at River Forest: 478-974-0974
Forsyth Golf Club: 478-994-5328
John Drew Smith Tennis Center: 478-474-5075
Tattnall Tennis Center: 478-751-9196
Tanner Park: 478-929-1916
Ted Wright Park: 478-929-1916
North Peach Park: 478-956-1891
South Peach Park: 478-825-5197
South Complex: 478-742-3535
Gold Cup Bowling Center: 478-781-2096
Gold Cup Bowling Center: 478-922-3054
Robins Bowling Center: 478-926-2112
Baldwin Bowling Center: 478-453-7545