The Georgia High School Association football championships may have a new home soon.
The GHSA Board of Trustees is putting some serious thought into moving the state football championships out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
It's all about the money, according to GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines, who presented the facts to the trustees earlier this week.
Hines said the GHSA paid close to $600,000 to play the seven football title games over two days in the Atlanta stadium last year.
"The vast majority of income generated from the games goes to the participating schools," he said. "Our thoughts are that our schools that make it to the championship game in a revenue sport should not incur financial liability by making it to the championship."
Gainesville football coach Heath Webb says he's always liked the atmosphere of the Dome. The Red Elephants played for the title in 2009 and won it in 2012 — both were played in the Georgia Dome.
"There will be some that would welcome moving the championship games back to the high schools," Webb said. "The players will be disappointed about losing the opportunity to play where the pros play. Personally, I always liked the idea of a climate controlled atmosphere for those games. It provides a comfortable atmosphere for fans and pretty much ensures quality football in December when the weather could be a factor."
Hines told the board that he is trying to work with stadium officials to get the cost reduced.
"We value our partnerships with the Falcons, MBS and the facility and the experience are second to none," Hines said. "The cost of operating MBS is justifiably more than other venues, therefore the costs associated with holding our championships there are higher. At the same time, we have to do what's best for our schools and association financially."
Although Buford lost in the quarterfinals each of the last two seasons, the Wolves played in the title game from 2007-2016 — all but one were in the Georgia Dome, which hosted the finals from 2008-2016.
New Buford football coach Bryant Appling was an assistant coach at the school during the 10-straight state title game appearances. He said he hopes they keep the game in Atlanta.
"Man, (I) would hate to see that, but I could understand the expense being a serious issue," he said. "Kids and coaches always looked forward to playing in the dome, or the Benz. We have played in Georgia State Stadium the last two seasons which is a great venue, so as long as it’s a big stadium it will still be something to get geared up for."
Flowery Branch coach Ben Hall, who was on the 2012 Jefferson state title coaching staff, said, although it's a special opportunity for high school players, he understands the reasoning behind the possible move.
"There is something to be said about Friday nights at high school stadiums, especially when a state championship is on the line," Hall said. "If the GHSA is having financial obligation issues concerning Mercedes-Benz it may be in the best interest of all involved to move the high school state championships back to high school stadiums or either other neutral sites such as Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Mercer, Kennesaw State, UGA, or GT — other states have had a lot of success at their State university stadiums."
If the GHSA chooses to leave the Benz, Georgia State's new stadium (Turner Field) and Georgia Tech could be an option. The GHSA could take the same route as basketball and move it to Macon. If that's the case, Mercer's Five Star Stadium could be an option.