Doesn’t it feel wonderful?
We are all no longer left in the dark; KSU football is coming.
Last year, it seemed that the hush-hush tactics from members of the athletic department meant that the apocalypse happened in the Convocation Center offices. I spent three semesters at KSU as the sports editor for the Sentinel, and in that time I was never able to pry anything out of Director of Athletics Vaughn Williams.
I kept my patience, but feared the worst. Was KSU football going to happen? Wednesday’s approval from the Board of Regents was the biggest news that has hit KSU campus in years.
For the sake of news reporting, we’ve all heard the same things. KSU’s football program will enhance national perception.
It will increase the face value of our degrees.
It will attract more students, housing projects and community interest. These are all good things. Since my arrival at KSU in 2010, I’ve witnessed this university go from a standard second-tier backup to a marquee destination for metro area high school graduates, as well as international students. School pride is at an all-time high, especially with the brand new logos and merchandise.
With this announcement comes a new batch of rhetoric from the people in charge.
Who’s going to be the head coach? Where will we play? What conference will we play in? So, for the sake of everyone’s questions, I’ll use this column as an avenue for our next round of the guessing game.
To kill the first rumor, no, Derek Dooley probably won’t be the first head coach at KSU. The former Tennessee head coach’s father, Vince Dooley, headed the Football Explanatory Committee at KSU two years ago. Derek just took a job as the Dallas Cowboys receivers coach. KSU expects to have a coach in the next month and a half.
Here’s how the stadium situation looks: KSU Stadium, which will be renamed Fifth Third Bank Stadium in the name of the program’s $5 million donor, was originally introduced as the most advanced state-of-the-art women’s soccer facility when it opened in 2009. The 8,000 seat complex isn’t big enough, at the moment, to handle a Division I football team at a 24,000 student school, especially considering projections that KSU enrollment will be 30,000 by the time toe meets leather.
If you’ve ever walked into KSU Stadium, you might have noticed the oddly elongated, flat upper-concourse. There’s room for a second phase of seating on the west-side of the stadium. That could do the trick, but if we expect this program to continue to grow, we would need a stadium that seats at least 20,000 fans.
There has been mention of a completely new stadium going up on the other side of I-75. Here’s where we can place some trust. Williams was in charge of facilities as a director for the University of Connecticut’s athletics before he came to KSU. Facilities are not only a concern for football, but for baseball as well. Basketball, volleyball, track and field and soccer are all set with great facilities. One of Williams’ first major facility improvements was turning the Convocation Center into an arena-style experience with new LED boards and a fancy jumbotron.
For the sake of outrageous speculation, this football announcement is riding parallel with a current dispute between Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the Georgia World Congress Center authority and the city of Atlanta over a $1 billion retractable roof stadium. The Falcons will almost inevitably have a new stadium by 2017, but recently reports have offered that if a downtown deal cannot get done, Blank will concede to footing most of the bill for a cheaper, open- air stadium in the metro-Atlanta area. Cobb and Gwinnett County have been mentioned as destinations for a site. If the Falcons move to Cobb County, KSU could have an easy out into finding a stadium with more than enough seating capacity. This is not rare: Many pro football teams share venues with colleges, and many pro sports teams don’t actually play in the city that prefixes their nickname.
Finally, we’re all left wondering what conference this team will play in. The Atlantic Sun Conference is a Division I conference that doesn’t sponsor football, but could retain the other KSU athletic teams. Either football, or the entire athletic department will jump from the A-Sun to a more accommodating conference by 2015. The conference will be an FCS division. Mercer, Savannah State and Georgia Southern are the only other FCS teams in Georgia.
The Pioneer League has been kind to A-Sun schools. Mercer and Stetson will join it this fall, along with a former A-Sun team in Campbell and A-Sun affiliate Jacksonville. Another option is the Colonial Athletic Association, which Georgia State and Old Dominion are leaving right now.
Speaking of, those are two pretty young programs joining the FBS, where Georgia and Georgia Tech reign supreme. Georgia State began in 2010 and Old Dominion in 2009. They will compete in the Sun Belt and Conference USA, respectively. As well, South Alabama, which started its football program this past fall, began at the FBS level in the Sun Belt.
The Ohio Valley Conference (which houses four Tennessee teams and nearby neighbor Jacksonville State of Alabama), Big South, and the Southern Conference (home to the traditional FCS power Georgia Southern) are options as well.
Will KSU be a winning program early on? Probably not. It will likely play a transitional schedule in its first few years, meaning it will beat up on a lot of Division II, Division III and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes schools. Expect Reinhardt University, which is playing its first game this fall, to come calling. The best news is, with Mercer beginning its program this year, the rivalry will evolve, and we can really hate the color orange.
The above text is basically your speculative style-guide for the next two years. Beat the heck out of it. It’s going to be a fun ride, and 2015 will be here before we know it. There’s no reason to think KSU doesn’t have the foundation and resources to become a football team we can be proud of for the rest of our lives. Being a part of the program’s birth will be something you will always be able to hold onto.
Michael is a senior and a Communication major.