Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mercy Sakes

Several years ago Dartmouth was in serious talks with Mercer about scheduling a football game or two, and it's not hard to understand why.

Mercer is located in Macon, Ga., and Georgia has become a prime breeding ground for some very good Ivy League football players over the last few years. The game would be another chance for Dartmouth to play an intersectional game, to gain valuable exposure in a football-rich state, and for players from that part of the country to play in front of family and friends.

On top of that, the Mercer football program had been disbanded in 1942 and was only coming back in 2012 as a member of the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League.

The fly in the ointment was the growing suspicion that Mercer was a little more serious about football success than your average non-scholarship bear. (Pun intended. They are the Mercer Bears.)

Turns out that feeling was right. Mercer went an eye-popping 10-2 in its very first year back and promptly punted the Pioneer in favor of scholarships and a move to the Southern Conference. (LINK)

Mercer hasn't taken the SoCon by storm . . . yet . . . while going just 6-6 overall two years ago and 5-6 last fall. But any question about how aggressively the school is pursing football success was on display in New York's Times Square where passersby were greeted by this:


From a USA Today story:
Last year for college football's national signing day, the school welcomed its new signees on digital billboards throughout Georgia -- a trend larger schools such as LSU are jumping on this year in their home states.
About a month ago, Mercer athletics director Jim Cole turned to associate athletics director Daniel Tate and his marketing team, director of new media Lisa Cherry and sports information director Jordon Bruner, and asked a simple question: "You surprised me last year; what do you have this year?"
The answer was even more outside the box: Times Square.
Yes, the Macon, Ga., private school with an undergraduate enrollment of 4,570 is commandeering two giant video boards in the middle of New York City to celebrate its football signees Wednesday.
The story ends this way:
Cole said he thought the expected benefits and exposure outweighed the cost of paying for video boards in Times Square.
"When we started football four years ago, the main reason was to increase the exposure of our university," Cole said. "We've got a great university. Really, nobody knew about it, because if you don't compete at a high level in sports, you don't get that name recognition to attract students to the school. Football's done well for us." 
Addendum: Mercer's appearance on the big screens at Times Square was postponed for several days because of the shooting death of one of its basketball players.