DAHLONEGA – The national spotlight will shine on the University of North Georgia (UNG) and the Convocation Center on Wednesday.
ESPN3 will televise the women's and men's Peach Belt Conference (PBC) basketball games against Columbus State.
The women's game will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. and the men's game is set for a 7:30 p.m. start.
It will also be Operation Nighthawks of Honor Night, which commemorates 12 UNG alumni killed during or associated with the Korean War. A ceremony honoring these service members will be held at halftime of the women's game.
UNG is promoting a "Blue Out," encouraging students and fans to wear blue for the doubleheader. Students, faculty and staff from all campuses will receive free admission with a UNG ID card.
"There is no better platform to showcase our award-winning Operation Nighthawks of Honor initiative than in front of a national audience as part of the NCAA Division II Showcase," UNG Director of Athletics Lindsay Reeves said. "Honoring fallen soldiers who have a connection to UNG is one of our department's most noble endeavors, and we look forward to doing it at such a prominent event. The collaboration between our department, Student Affairs, the Corps of Cadets and the Student Government Association has generated a great deal of excitement for the night."
ESPN3 is available online at WatchESPN.com and on the WatchESPN app on smartphones.
The ceremony will feature UNG's 12 NCAA head coaches displaying commemorative memorabilia that honor the fallen soldiers. The memorabilia will be auctioned off at the end of the 2018-19 season, with proceeds supporting UNG's Hoss Matthews Friends are Forever Memorial Scholarship Fund. Nighthawks Athletics has previously donated $2,370 to the UNG Boar's Head Brigade Corps of Cadets Endowed Scholarship Fund endowment through Operation Nighthawks of Honor, which started in 2015 on the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
UNG women's basketball coach Buffie Burson, whose team won the PBC regular-season and tournament titles and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2017-18, is looking forward to the national exposure for her team. Burson won her 500th game as head coach at UNG on Dec. 17 against Flagler College.
Burson said UNG alumni, including some of her former players, are eager to watch the game online. Burson and men's basketball head coach Chris Faulkner hopes to fill the Convocation Center that night, as well.
"I hope we get a lot of support," Faulkner said. "I want everybody in Dahlonega to come out and watch the game."
In March 2016, UNG baseball and softball games were broadcast on ESPN3 as part of Make-A-Wish Day. The women's soccer team had its Oct. 16 matchup with Columbus State broadcast on Twitter and Facebook Live. The pair of basketball games on ESPN3 will make UNG the first Division II school to have five of its teams host nationally televised matchups.
"We're thrilled to be able to do that," Burson said. "It's big for recruiting, but it's also big for the athletic department and the university."
This is the fourth year of Operation Nighthawks of Honor, and Burson said her program remains in touch with the family of Jeremy Chandler, the fallen soldier her team was paired with for 2015-16. Burson said Operation Nighthawks of Honor being part of the national broadcast makes sense.
"Other people can see what North Georgia is all about," Burson said. "And it is very important for us to recognize these service members."
Faulkner echoed that sentiment.
"It's a great way for us in athletics to honor that heritage that we all have so much respect for," Faulkner said.
The fallen service members being honored by each team throughout their seasons are:
James S. Bramblett Jr. — cross country/track and field
Henry C. Camp Jr. — men's soccer
Harry B. Dettmering — women's soccer
Robert W. Duncan — men's tennis
Malcolm A. Gibbs — women's tennis
John H. Haddock Jr. — baseball
Lamar J. Jackson Jr. — rifle
Charles J. James — men's golf
Rufus F. Mahaffey — women's golf
James F. McCorkle — men's basketball
David L. Parmer — women's basketball
Charles L. Worley — softball