Ge­or­gia State to kick off foot­ball for 2010 sea­son

The Covington News - - Sports -

AT­LANTA — Ge­or­gia State Pres­i­dent Carl Pat­ton an­nounced Thurs­day af­ter­noon that the univer­sity will be­gin foot­ball.

His an­nounce­ment re­ceived an en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse from the large crowd of fac­ulty, stu­dents and alumni gath­ered at the Ge­or­gia State Stu­dent Cen­ter.

The Pan­thers, who will play at the NCAA Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion level (for­merly known as NCAA Di­vi­sion I-AA), will kick off their in­au­gu­ral sea­son in 2010 and play their home games at the Ge­or­gia Dome.

“I know that many for­mer and cur­rent stu­dents have dreamed of a day when there would be foot­ball Satur­days at Ge­or­gia State,” Pat­ton said, “and while that might have looked like third-and-long for many years, I think to­day is a great time for an end-zone cel­e­bra­tion.”

The long process to bring foot­ball to the down­town At­lanta cam­pus be­gan when Pat­ton, at his very first meet­ing with stu­dents at a Pan­thers Round­table din­ner, was asked a ques­tion he would hear again many times.

“When I be­came pres­i­dent of Ge­or­gia State 16 years ago, one of the first ques­tions I re­ceived was, ‘When are we get­ting foot­ball?’” he said. “I have to ad­mit that my an­swer was, ‘Not in my life­time.’

But, I also have to ad­mit that my life­time here lasted longer than I thought it would.”

Shortly af­ter join­ing the foot­ball-spon­sor­ing Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion in 2005, Ge­or­gia State con­ducted a fea­si­bil­ity study that showed that alumni, stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff were in sup­port of adding a foot­ball pro­gram.

In April of 2007, the school hired for­mer Na­tional Foot­ball League player and coach Dan Reeves as its foot­ball con­sul­tant. Reeves helped se­cure more than $1 mil­lion in pledges for a foot­ball pro­gram.

Last Oc­to­ber, the Manda­tory Stu­dent Fee Com­mit­tee unan­i­mously ap­proved an in­crease in the stu­dent ath­letic fee, and shortly af­ter that, the Fis­cal Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee to the Pres­i­dent also en­dorsed the pro­posed in­crease. Thus, with over- whelm­ing cam­pus sup­port, Pat­ton for­warded the re­quest to the Board of Re­gents for ap­proval, which of­fi­cially came Tues­day.

Now, ath­letic di­rec­tor Mary McEl­roy will be­gin putting to­gether the pieces.

“Build­ing a foot­ball pro­gram from scratch is a tremen­dous chal­lenge, but it’s also an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity be­cause there is no ques­tion that Ge­or­gia State foot­ball has the po­ten­tial to be very suc­cess­ful at the FCS level,” she said at Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment.

McEl­roy says she hopes to have the school’s first head coach in place by sum­mer.

“With the start of our first sea­son about 29 months away, we’re now of­fi­cially on the clock,” she said. “Our plan is to hire a head foot­ball coach and a di­rec­tor of foot­ball op­er­a­tions this sum­mer. The head coach will then hire up to four as­sis­tant coaches to be­gin re­cruit­ing this fall. Ge­or­gia State will sign its first re­cruit­ing class in Fe­bru­ary of 2009.”

Women’s lacrosse, which will help Ge­or­gia State main­tain gen­der eq­uity, will likely be­gin in the fall of 2010, McEl­roy says.

Ge­or­gia State be­comes the eighth mem­ber of the Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion to have foot­ball. Delaware, James Madi­son, Hof­s­tra, North­east­ern, Tow­son and William & Mary are full­time CAA mem­bers, and Old Do­min­ion is slated to be­gin play­ing foot­ball in 2009. Maine, Mas­sachusetts, New Hamp­shire, Rhode Is­land, Rich­mond and Vil­lanova play foot­ball in the con­fer­ence as as­so­ci­ate mem­bers.

CAA foot­ball pro­grams have en­joyed tremen­dous suc­cess in re­cent years, in­clud­ing a record five CAA teams qual­i­fy­ing for the 2007

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