Last week, leading up to New Year’s Eve, Sports in the ATL has been looking back at the past season in Atlanta sports. We have looked at the Georgia Bulldogs, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United. In this post, we look at other teams and stories in Atlanta Sports 2023.
View this post on Instagram
The Dream continued to show improvement and prominence in Atlanta sports and the WNBA. One of the biggest reasons for this growth is the performance of Rhyne Howard, the Kentucky newcomer whom the Dream selected in the 2022 WNBA Draft. She started 34 games and has a field goal percentage of .361% and a .343 3-point shooting average. Her performance, along with efforts by Allisha Gray, Nia Coffey, Cheyenne Parker, and other players under coach Tanisha Wright, helped push the Dream into the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. They were eliminated however in the first round by Dallas Wings, 0-2. They came in 3rd in the East Conference and had a 19-21 record (.475), an improvement over last year’s 12-22 (.389) record.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Football
In head coach Brent Key‘s first full year in that position, the Jackets finished the season with a 7-6 record, an improvement over last year’s 5-7 record. They are fourth place inthe ACC Conference, behind NC State, Louisville, and Florida State. The Jacket’s most dominating game was against Virginia on November 4th, a 45-17 victory. The Jackets appeared in the Gasparilla Bowl, the team’s first bowl appearance in four years, winning it against UCF 30-17.
Georgia State Panthers Football
View this post on Instagram
The Panthers did much better this year (7-6) than last year’s 4-8 record. They finished in fifth place in the Sun Belt Conference and landed their first appearance in a bowl game in two years (the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against the Utah State Aggies, which they won 45-22.)
Georgia Southern Eagles Football
The Eagles finished their season with a 6-7 record, the second under head coach Clay Helton. They were 3-5 in the East Division Conference in the Sun Belt Standings, which put them last in the division. The team took on the Ohio Bobcats in the Myrtle Beach Bowl, losing 21-41.
More Local Sports…
The UGA Women’s Soccer Team won this year’s SEC Championship, their first in four tries. This year they defeated the Arkansas Hogs for the title.
Georgia High School Football titles were won by SE Bulloch (Flag Division 1), Greenbriar (Flag Division 2), Pope (Flag Division 3), Bowdon (1A Div 2), Prince Avenue (1A, Div 1), Pierce County (2A), Cedar Grove (3A0, Perry (4A), Coffee (5A), Thomas County Central (6A) and Milton (7A).
In this year’s Masters tournament, Jon Rahm won the Green Jacket with a 276 score with a par of -12, outpacing Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson.
In NASCAR Racing, Joey Logano won the March 19th Ambetter Health 400. William Byron won July 9th’s Quaker State 400. The Xfinity RAPTOR King of Tough 250 was won by Austin Hill on March 18th. In the other Xfinity racing series, the Alsco Uniforms 250, John Hunter Nemecheck won on July 8th.
Atlanta-based Christopher Eubanks became a rising star on the tennis courts. The Georgia Tech tennis player scored his first ATP title, landed in the top 45 in worldwide tennis rankings, and reached the Major quarterfinals in Wimbleton, where he lost to Danill Medvedev in five sets. He has a single win over top-five ranked competitor Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Another hometown hero made waves in pro Tennis. CoCo Gauff defeated Aryna Sabalenka to win the U.S. Open Women’s Singles Title. She was the first teen to win the award at 10 since then 17-year-old Serena Williams.
In this year’s Peachtree Road Race, Charles Langat won the men’s elite competition at 27:42 and Fotyen Haiylu won the women’s at 30:34. Daniel Romanchuck (19:28) won the men’s wheelchair competition, while Susannah Scaroni won the women’s at 22:11.
Braves legend Fred McGriff was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Local Sports Business
The boardrooms of local sports in Atlanta made as much news as on the court/field.
AMB Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Falcons and Atlanta United, will be bringing virtual professional golf to Atlanta along with the TGL professional golf league. This new team is slated to launch in January 2024.
AMBSE founder Arthur Blank was behind one more major sports launch in Atlanta, a National Training Center helmed by U.S. Soccer, which is moving its national headquarters to Atlanta from Chicago. Blank is contributing $50 million to help get the project started. In early December it was announced that Fayette County will be the new home of the facility.
Atlanta will be hosting another MLB All-Star Game in 2025. Political controversy struck out Truist Park’s All-Star appearance in 2021 when it relocated to Denver.
Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta apparently “just means more” to the SEC, as they have extended an agreement to hold their annual college football championship games there until at least 2031, with an option to hold events even further to 2036.
Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young isn’t just scoring on the court, he’s also taking on business matters. He announced in September he is investing in a local Atlanta pickleball team, the Atlanta Bouncers. He will be co-owning the team with Anheiser-Busch.
Atlanta Sports Media/Journalism
It was quite a year for the business of bringing local sports and sports news to you.
National media companies were downsizing due to the new realities of streaming media and profitability. ESPN, The Athletic, and other companies shed jobs over the past year. The Diamond Sports Group, which owns Bally Sports regional networks, struggled with profitability and wound up filing for bankruptcy. The newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery shut down its regional networks.
In Atlanta, Bally Sportsouth continued to air Braves and Hawks games despite the national issues. Both teams will continue airing the games for at least the 2024 seasons. In late December, it was announced that ten Hawks games would also be aired on Gray Television’s two TV stations WANF and WPCH. The locally based Gray was on a roll this year, launching a new local sports channel, Peachtree Sports Network, and opening an expansive new production facility on the former Doraville Ford plant.
CBS-owned WUPA shedded its longtime CW Network affiliation just as the network began committing to professional sports. CW, now owned by Nexstar Broadcasting after CBS sold the network to them, added pro golf, NASCAR racing, and college football to its programming plans. Now, those events will be seen in Atlanta on WPCH, the new Atlanta CW affiliate.
Fox-owned WAGA Fox 5, Already the TV home of the Atlanta Falcons, struck a similar partnership with the Georgia Bulldogs. The station has two former Dawgs now in its sports reporting team, former Bulldogs quarterback D.J. Shockley and newly hired journalist Georgia Chambers.
WANF found its Sports Director after the departure of longtime anchor Fred Kalil last year: former OSU soccer player turned sports journalist Baillie Burmaster, previously from WOIO Cleveland. At the Falcons’ newly launched media center, Taylor Vismor began hosting pre-game shows for the team, while the Falcons hired a new beat reporter, Terrin Waack.
Talent continued to rise up in Atlanta sports media, most notably women in the local sports business. Tori McElhaney‘s profile grew as a multimedia content producer for the Falcons, and she’s been providing team analysis locally and nationally. The AJC’s Sarah K. Spencer became a multimedia presence for the paper’s digital sports coverage. She was joined by Cody Chaffins, who left Fox 5 earlier this year.
Lauren Jabara, who got national attention earlier this year when she backed up a suddenly ailing Hawks play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun at a Hawks game, joined WBD’s TNT and NBA networks after two years of sideline reporting on the Hawks and Braves at Bally Sportsouth. The Hawks sideline reporting duties are now filled by Tabitha Turner, a former Georgia Tech women’s basketballer.
High school football show host Kaylee Mansell, daughter of longtime sports journalist Rusty Mansell, added the Bulldogs to her repertoire after joining the AJC’s Dawg Nation.
Other local female sports journalists, like 11 Alive’s Maria Martin, Fox 5’s Kelly Price, and WSB’s Alison Mastrangelo, also saw their profiles continue to rise this year.
On sports radio, 929 the Game made the most news with talent changes. Longtime morning host Hugh Douglas left the station for WIP Philadelphia early this year. His morning show with John Frickie was revamped, with producer/station vice brand manager Beau Morgan, college football/NFL sideline reporter Tiffany Blackmon, and former Falcon Mike Johnson helming mornings at the station as part of changes made by station brand manager Mike Conti. Frickie now hosts shows on weekends on the station. The Game, under the strength of shows like “Dukes and Bell”, “The Steakhouse” with Steak Shapiro, and Falcons, Atlanta United, and Hawks live games, solidified its lead over cross-town sports radio station WCNN “The Fan” in the ratings.
While local sports journalism talent grew and flourished, one legendary local journalist shut his laptop for good. Jeff Schultz, who has reported on the ups and downs of Atlanta professional sports for 42 years, announced his retirement in late December. He worked for the AJC and later, The Athletic.
In the Summer of 2023, Sports in the ATL launched intending to bring a different perspective to local sports journalism. The website has been in trial state, making changes here and there to improve the product. Mistakes were made, errors were corrected and learned from, and we are looking forward to a new year with new possibilities and stories to report and uncover in Atlanta’s world of college, pro, and prep sports. Our focus going forward is to take what we have now, and make it even better for you, the reader.
We would like to thank those who have read our content and followed us on social media. And thanks for reading this review of the year in Atlanta sports.
To 2023. Onward in 2024. 🎉🥂
By Brian Allen, Editor and Founder, Sports in the ATL
Photos without captions on this page belong to Sports in the ATL. Social Media source: Instagram.