Georgia Gwinnett College students play an intramural soccer game on the new fields on campus.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- It was, after all, just an intramural soccer game. But to the students and administration at Georgia Gwinnett College, the focus rested primarily on what it signified -- a major first step in the mission to bring varsity-level athletics to the school.
Monday afternoon, the school hosted the ceremonial "first kick" on a new two-field intramural sports area in the shadow of student housing. With plans for six intercollegiate sports teams -- baseball, softball, men's and women's soccer and men's and women's tennis -- to make their way to the Lawrenceville campus next fall, the inaugural on-campus intramural soccer game that followed marked something much bigger.
"You ain't seen nothin' yet in terms of GGC athletics," President Daniel J. Kaufman said in his address to a crowd of students and faculty members. "The Grizzlies are going to be an awesome force."
What Kaufman called "50 acres of kudzu" off Collins Hill Road is scheduled to be a number of state-of-the-art sports facilities by next August. The school hopes to compete in the NAIA's Southern States Athletic Conference, a league that would theoretically pit it against teams like Brenau University, Shorter College and others across the Southeast.
GGC's application for approval from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is due next month.
Jordan Elder, a sophomore at GGC and a Collins Hill High School grad, was one of the players in Monday afternoon's men's soccer game. He, like school officials, pointed toward the future.
"A lot of kids that come here are very local, so when you can you say you have a (varsity) team, it just adds to the whole school experience," he said. "It shows that instead of just being a regular college with just classes and everything, we're growing and we're getting bigger every year."
Added teammate Kwame Harleston, a sophomore and Parkview grad: "This shows me that we're going in the right direction. It just shows that we can get together, and it feels like a platform for a real team to be here."
Dr. Darin Wilson was appointed as GGC's director of athletics only about a month ago. Recently named the NAIA's national athletic director of the year for his work at Kentucky's Union College, he said Monday that the school had a "true commitment" to sports at all levels.
"The support here is just tremendous," Wilson said. "I'm excited, just with the fact that this is here now, and we've got the other facilities coming, and a great crowd. You can see the excitement on campus in what's coming."