Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Thing About Mercer

This article is part of a series spotlighting the new SoCon members entering in 2014.

The Mercer Bears splashed onto the scene this March by pulling off a huge NCAA Tournament upset over three-seed Duke. Before that, they earned their spot as a fourteen-seed by denying Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun Championship, effectively barring the Eagles from a back-to-back appearance in the NCAA Tournament. If you follow the SoCon (or read this blog often) you probably know that are part of a trio of new members entering the SoCon this year, along with VMI and ETSU, but you might not know a lot about this school, or how they will stack up with the rest of the SoCon (or at least the Terriers, because we all know that's all that matters), so let's get you caught up.

Mercer University, located in Macon, Georgia, has an enrollment around 8,300, a good 6,650 more than Wofford's current number.  The school is named after its founder, Jesse Mercer, who did so in 1833, twenty-one years before good ol' Benjamin Wofford saw the potential for a college in a little town known as Spartanburg and willed the money for its founding, a task that was completed in 1854.

So, they were a little before Wofford's time.  However, the Terriers did succeed Mercer in one crucial thing- football.  Wofford's first game was in 1889, a 5-1 defeat of Furman. (As a Terrier fan, you just have to flaunt that.)  Mercer did not start their program until three years later, in 1892.  Yes, the Bears lost 50-0, but they were playing Georgia.  Interestingly enough, both Wofford and Mercer participated in the first intercollegiate football games in both their respective states.

Back in Mercer's heyday, the Bears won all six meetings with the Terriers, a time frame spanning from 1915-1941. Although both schools suspended football during World War II, Mercer did not reinstate the program, which led to a nearly 70-year discontinuity that was just recently revived, in 2010.

By the way, it's not like Mercer has no ties at all to the SoCon.  Unfortunately, the main tie comes in the form of head coach Bobby Lamb, the former Furman skipper who, like many other rival coaches, was (and is still) reviled by Terrier fans and the like.  He oversaw the Bears' first season back from the long hiatus, a 10-2(6-2 Pioneer League) 2013 outing.

The Terriers have the chance this season to notch their first-ever triumph over Mercer.  The game, which will be the regular season finale, will be on November 22 at Gibbs Stadium. It's time for a long overdue win.

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