No. 5 story of 2016: ‘Off by a foot’ leads to end of Macon tradition

Two feet — a foot at either end of the court — was all it took for Macon to lose an event that had long called the city home.

When the Macon Coliseum facilities crew set up the arena for the Georgia High School Association basketball championships in March, they set the baskets up one foot closer to the baseline than what’s specified under national rules. Instead of a 4-foot overhang, the baskets had just a 3-foot overhang. That affected teams that liked to try a lot of shots from long distance, as well as teams that liked to drive underneath the basket.

At first, GHSA officials declined to address the problem. Claims about when the GHSA was alerted to the problem varied, but a decision was made before the final games of the three-day, 15-game event that the baskets would not be moved. After stories of the event went national and the organization became the subject of intense criticism following the tournament, the GHSA issued an apology.

The 48-year-old Coliseum, which for years had been the subject of criticism in several areas when it came to the state finals, was going through a change in management at the time. Spectra, a national arena management company, took over Coliseum operations from Interstate Hotels, which had managed the arena since the adjacent Macon Marriott City Center opened in 2009.

But the damage had already been done: The GHSA announced in late May that Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum and Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion would split the state finals, taking Macon out of the mix of an event that it had hosted — at least in part — since the 1940s.