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SPSU athletics programs end with great memories, strong performances

Baseball_dogpileJULY 8, 2014 – Intercollegiate athletics at SPSU came to an end with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1 due to Southern Polytechnic’s scheduled consolidation with Kennesaw State University in January 2015. Officials from both institutions decided in February that SPSU would discontinue its athletics programs at the close of the 2013-14 academic year.

“As a former student-athlete, coach and administrator for Southern Poly, it’s sad to see athletics end,” said Matt Griffin, who had served as SPSU’s athletic director the past two years. “Thank you to all of our past student-athletes, coaches, administrators and supporters for over six decades of success and a lifetime of great memories.”

Over the last seven years, SPSU sponsored the sports of men’s soccer, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball. Along the way, the university also fielded a men’s tennis program.

The Hornets finished as members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), which was formed as the Georgia Alabama Carolina Conference in 1999 but renamed in 2005. In the late 1970s, SPSU became affiliated with the NAIA and the Georgia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Men’s basketball was the first intercollegiate sport offered at Southern Poly, dating back to the late 1940s. Men’s basketball not only had the longest history, but the richest as well with 15 NAIA national tournament appearances, including one Final Four and eight Sweet 16 showings. The Hornets captured 10 conference regular-season titles or co-championships and seven conference tournament crowns. Additionally, SPSU was the NAIA District 25 champion six times and compiled an overall record of 800-384 over its final 37 seasons.

Despite ending with a sub-par 13-18 overall record in 2013-14, the Southern Poly men’s basketball squad won five of its last six home contests. In the final basketball game ever played in SPSU’s gymnasium, known as the Hornets Nest, Southern Poly electrified a large, raucous home crowd with a 97-89 win over longtime SSAC rival Auburn University at Montgomery. Following the victory, students and other fans rushed the court to show their support, excitement and appreciation for SPSU basketball.

Baseball has also been played on Southern Poly’s campus for many years, and at a very high level. The Hornets qualified for the NAIA national event seven times in the past eight seasons and on 10 occasions overall. SPSU advanced to the NAIA World Series three times and claimed five conference tournament titles. In the World Series campaign of 1986, Southern Poly also picked up NAIA Area V and District 25 championships. The Hornets had more than 20 players either selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft or signed as free agents to play professionally. They were also the Georgia Junior College champions in 1964. Since 2007, SPSU posted 350 wins against just 137 losses.

The final year of baseball at Southern Poly was certainly a magical one. Learning only three weeks into the 2014 season that it would be their last, the Hornets rallied to win the SSAC Tournament crown and went on to qualify for the NAIA World Series after coming out on top at an Opening Round event. SPSU finished 46-19 overall and rated No. 8 in the nation.

The Southern Poly women’s basketball program debuted in 2002-03 and also enjoyed tremendous success in recent seasons. The Hornets earned a spot in the NAIA Division I nationals four times, all in their last five campaigns, with a Sweet 16 appearance in 2010. SPSU won two SSAC Tournament titles, one conference regular-season co-championship and an SSAC Eastern Division crown while recording at least 23 victories a year in four of its last five campaigns.

In 2013-14, Southern Poly’s women’s basketball team tallied an SSAC divisional title and moved on to the NAIA Division I national tournament. The Hornets were 23-8 overall, including 15-0 on their home floor and 16-4 in conference play. SPSU received 27 points in the NAIA Division I postseason poll to rank 29th nationally.

Southern Poly added men’s soccer in 2007, and none of the squads ever endured a losing season in this short, seven-year history. The Hornets competed at the NAIA national event in four straight campaigns, winning first-round matches each time. SPSU advanced to the quarterfinal round in 2011 and 2012 after being in the Sweet 16 the two previous seasons. In the SSAC, Southern Poly was the regular-season champion in 2009, the Eastern Division titlist in 2010 and grabbed the tournament crown in 2011. The Hornets’ all-time record on the pitch was 88-35-12 overall, including 46-14-4 at home and 44-16-5 in conference games. SPSU put together an even more impressive 80-27-10 mark over the program’s last six years of existence.

Last fall, in its final season of competition, the Southern Poly 2013 men’s soccer team was rated as high as No. 2 in the country among all NAIA squads before ending 10-6-2 overall.

There were many more team accomplishments through the years, along with plenty of outstanding individual performances and accolades. Several Hornets garnered All-America, NAIA Scholar-Athlete, All-SSAC and NAIA National Player-of-the-Week honors, among others. Coaches at SPSU were also recognized on numerous occasions.

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