Credit: GPB Sports

The GHSA football championships are heading back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the next three years after an announcement Thursday afternoon from the Executive Director of the Georgia High School Association Robin Hines and Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay.

“It’s a three-year deal with the intent to go a lot longer than three years,” McKay said. “We’ve got ourselves in a good place. We’re happy to have them back in the building. We would be remiss if I didn’t say that we have wanted to have the championship games here. There’s always been a scheduling challenge with our requirements on the NFL. We have always had to have our Thursdays and Saturdays open.”

All scheduling is preliminary, but the current notion is to have the title games on the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday a week-and-a-half after the semifinals. If the NFL decides to flex a home game for the Atlanta Falcons in that window, the schedule could slide forward a day to Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

“We absolutely enjoy a great relationship and partnership with the Falcons. We have never stopped talking about our return eventually here,” Hines said. “We’re here. The time is right. We’re grateful for them to be able to work with us to make this happen.”

McKay also said that having the championship games in Mercedes-Benz Stadium was important to Arthur Blank on multiple fronts including the flag football finals that have been in the building in the past. The stadium hosts about 50 events a year now and is in high demand, but high school sports are important to Blank.

“It’s important when he called and asked, ‘Why aren’t they there?’ He’s all-in for high school sports. You can see it in the funding for them- especially flag football. He has constantly said, ‘When are we getting it back here?’ We’ve had discussions for a number of years. We’re glad they (the GHSA) honored their agreement with Georgia State, and this became the year to get it done (to move the games to Mercedes-Benz)."

McKay admits the flexibility to move to the mid-week (or early week if required from an NFL flex) makes this change to Mercedes-Benz from Center Parc Stadium for the high school championships much more doable.

“We had earnest discussions that started a while back,” Hines says. “We had talks with our Board of Trustees and polled our coaches. They’re excited about this possibility.”

The schedule for the 2023 GHSA high school football championships will start with a flag football contest every day of the three-day event followed by the tackle football contest rather than all the flag championships on one day. 

Other issues addressed at the press conference included the notion of replay in GHSA football games. Hines said the next step in that process is to see if the motion for a pilot program could be passed at the Executive Committee meeting in April. Then, the first events at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in August could be the first test.