By Craig Sager II
The 2020 Georgia Elite Classic, brought to you by “The Hamilton Hotel”, will be broadcasted on television for the first time since the event’s inaugural game in 2013 and the event will be hosted exclusively in Rome, moving from McEachern High School. The Classic’s two high school All-Star Games will be shown on PeachtreeTV and are going to be debuting several other new features that have been put in place to ensure a safe, competitive and first-class experience for all of this year’s participants.
“The fact that the high school games are going to be on TV on an NFL Sunday is huge,’’ said Score Atlanta president I.J. Rosenberg, whose company owns the Georgia Elite Classis as well as other events such as the Corky Kell Classic and Great Atlanta Bash. “Because PeachtreeTV is the original Superstation and is so easy for anyone to find, these players are going to get a lot of visibility and this is the year they really need it. The games will also be on a digital platform where everyone, anywhere will be able to watch. I can’t tell you how many players this year received offers after playing well at Corky Kell.’’
The new title sponsor of the Georgia Elite Classic is “The Hamilton Hotel”, a swanky boutique hotel that will open in downtown Alpharetta in 2021.
After playing at McEachern High School the past seven years, the City of Rome has stepped up to host this year’s Classic with all three of its games set to be played at historic Barron Stadium. Because the stadium is within walking distance of the team hotels, there will be only minimal use of buses as the players will also be able to walk to the Forum River Center Arena for the two dinners, SEC Championship Game Watch Party as well as the city’s welcome party.
Over the years, the Georgia Elite Classic’s lineup has grown in terms of the number of games played—but due to the football season being delayed and other factors such as concerns over player safety amidst COVID-19, this year’s lineup will consist of a middle school matchup on Sunday Dec. 20 before it concludes on Sunday with a double-header that will feature Seniors vs. Juniors in the 1 p.m. game and Sophomores vs. Freshmen in the 3:45 p.m. slot.
247Sports Recruiting Expert Rusty Mansell is the Director of Player Personnel for the Georgia Elite Classic and he describes the new location and format as being able to provide a bubble-like atmosphere that will deliver the safest possible environment. Mansell and the rest of the Georgia Elite Classic leadership team which includes Score Atlanta have shaped their safety protocols after successful executing the state’s premier kickoff event, the Corky Kell Classic and the Great Atlanta Bash earlier this season.
In previous years, there were grade-specific games at the high school level, but this new format that stages Freshmen vs. Sophomores and Juniors vs. Seniors in a double-header will scale down the number of participants from more than 520 to closer to 200 with rosters of approximately 45 players for each class. Holding the event in Rome comes with logistical advantages as well. Unlike previous years where players were bussed back-and-forth between the hotel and McEachern for practices and game day, the Rome location eliminates the need for buses. Instead, the high school players will have what Mansell describes as a “Bowl Game” experience and they will be staying in three separate hotels adjacent to the facilities that are in walking distance to the fields.
The City of Rome has graciously partnered with the Georgia Elite Classic and is opening the doors of its 21,000 square foot Forum River Center Arena to be used for registration, as well as hosting dinners and a SEC Championship Watch Party Saturday night for all of the high schoolers playing in Sunday’s games. After the players check in on Friday at the Forum, there will also be a Pep Rally held at a local church that will have a live DJ and food for all of the players.
While invitations are continuing to be shipped out, this year’s Classic will have one more unique circumstance that Mansell and the Classic have prepared for. The date of this year’s Georgia Elite Classic coincides with the state semifinals. It took special permission from GHSA Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines to grant the Classic the ability to hold the event on Dec. 18-20, and so Mansell has made sure to include in all invitations that players should be focusing completely on their high school seasons and not to think about this year’s Classic should they find themselves on teams that make it to that stage of the playoffs.
Rosenberg, who implemented the protocols in September’s Corky Kell Classic, managing games on television at nine different high school stadiums over a four-day period, said this year’s Classic will be unique to the last seven ones.
“We learned a lot from Corky, that for the most part our mandatory masks policy at the games worked,’’ said Rosenberg. “We will be doing the same for Elite in Rome. Also, when the players are not on the field practicing or playing the game, they will be wearing masks that we provide them. Rusty and I thought long and hard about cancelling the games but like Corky, we feel it is important to move forward but be very careful in how we do it. Covid is not going away any time soon so we continue to work towards playing in a safe environment. Also, a lot of these kids are not getting the looks from colleges they usually would during a normal season. These games give them an opportunity to play against the best in Georgia and send the tape to colleges.’’
2020 GEORGIA ELITE CLASSIC SCHEDULE
At Rome’s Barron Stadium
SUNDAY, DEC. 20
Eighth Grade & Seventh Grade [10 am]
Juniors vs. Seniors [1 pm]
Freshmen vs. Sophomores [3:45 pm]