After waiting nearly 130 years, Reinhardt University is ready for football.
The Eagles open their inaugural season Saturday night at 6:00 in Macon against Mercer. The Bears last fielded a team in 1941, and the gridiron rebirth has generated excitement at both institutions.
Since accepting the position as Reinhardt head football coach in early 2012, head coach Danny Cronic and his staff have recruited more than 150 football players to the scenic campus in Waleska (about an hour northwest of Atlanta).
Reinhardt, a member of the NAIA, was a junior college until the mid-1990s, started four-year varsity athletics in the early 2000s, and the institution’s trustees approved implementing a football program two years ago. The addition of football has boosted the school’s overall enrollment and changed the social climate on campus.
Cronic built a legendary career as a high school coach in Georgia, leading programs at East Coweta and LaGrange for three decades. His team will be comprised almost exclusively of redshirt or true freshmen, and his goals for Reinhardt’s inaugural season reflect that youth: “Execute, give the team a chance to win, improve constantly, and win.” Those same goals are repeated practically verbatim from coordinators Drew Cronic (offense) and Steve Wilson (defense).
Those coordinators will have at least some familiarity with their opening night foe.
Both coached with Mercer head man Bobby Lamb at Furman. Using a similar enrollment-driven model for building a program, enthusiasm toward football has also touched the Macon campus since the school announced a revival of the sport after 70 years of dormancy. Approximately 10,000 fans are expected for the opening game with Reinhardt, and the game sold out in less than 30 minutes when tickets went on sale.
Tune in at 6:00 PM on Saturday night to witness a game with historical implications for both of these brand new football programs. Check the university websites (http://www.reinhardt.edu) (http://www.mercer.edu) for links to the broadcast.
Trivia Question – what do the University of Georgia and Reinhardt University football programs have in common?
Answer: Both UGA and RU are the first opponents to face Mercer in inaugural games … the Bulldogs played the original Bears back in 1892 and the Reinhardt Eagles face the new version Saturday night.
Reinhardt Sport Studies Majors Carrie Blackwell, DeRoss Polhill, Heather Sherman, and Ben Sparks contributed to this report.