Hall County’s most fervent high school football rivalry will not be renewed for the next two-year scheduling cycle. North Hall coach Bob Christmas and Gainesville coach Bruce Miller agreed Thursday to not play during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
This isn’t the first time that the North Hall and Gainesville rivalry has been put on hold: The two schools didn’t play from 1992-2001, before coming back together in Class AAA. Since 2002, Gainesville holds an 8-2 edge, including a 55-15 win in Sept. at City Park Stadium.
While Gainesville was eager to continue the rivalry with the Trojans, Christmas said he met with his school’s principal Joe Gheesling and athletic director Harold Daniels, and came to the conclusion that it was not in North Hall’s best interest to continue playing, based on dwindling enrollment and less competitive games in recent seasons.
Full-time equivalency numbers, which were used to draw up the new classifications last week, show that Gainesville’s student population of freshman through junior class is 1,537, making it a Class AAAAA high school for the 2012 and 2013 football seasons.
Meanwhile, North Hall’s enrollment in the same classes is at 1,039 and will remain a Class AAA school.
“After talking it over, we just didn’t feel like it was in the school’s best interest,” Christmas said.
Miller says the biggest drawback of cancelling the rivalry is the pinch the athletic department will feel without the revenue created by hosting the game against North Hall every other season. The game is annually the largest regular-season gate for each school.
According to Gainesville athletic director Wayne Vickery, the home school in a regular home-and-away series keeps 100 percent of the revenue, which in 2011 equalled $34,750 for the game at City Park Stadium. Christmas estimated that the 2010 game against Gainesville at The Brickyard brought in approximately $24,000 for North Hall.
Miller said the Red Elephants are going to be losing money at the gate next season with most of its games against out-of-county opponents, even though a home game against renewed region rival Flowery Branch once in the next two years will make up for part of the loss created by not playing North Hall.
Joining Gainesville and Flowery Branch in Region 8-AAAAA is projected to be Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central, Winder-Barrow, Apalachee, Salem and Loganville, among others.
Meanwhile, North Hall will remain a Class AAA school and in Region 7, along with East Hall, West Hall, Dawson County, White County, Fannin County and Buford.
Both coaches say they predict that their program will play a straight region schedule starting next season, leaving open a few weeks at the front end of the schedule for non-region games. One option Miller’s explored with the open dates is playing in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome in August, possibly against Central Gwinnett, which is coached by former Gainesville assistant Todd Wofford.
Christmas says that North Hall will have three non-region games at the start of the season. The Trojans already plan to play soon-to-be Class AAAA Chestatee, leaving two more open spots on the schedule.
Vickery said Gainesville’s biggest gate in 2011 was last Friday’s Class AAA state semifinal game against Burke County, which raised $47,000. However, per GHSA rules for postseason play, that money is split up for GHSA fees, travel for the opponent and officials.
Gainesville holds a 20-4 series edge against North Hall.