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AJC articles about new KSU football- learned from GA State & ODU
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GoodOwl Offline
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Exclamation AJC articles about new KSU football- learned from GA State & ODU
I'm a Rice owls fan, btw.
Saw this in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution paper about the new football program at Kennesaw State in Georgia, just north of Atlanta. [They have 25,000 students or so, fyi.]

But I thought it was interesting what they said about the necessary things you need to have a profitable football program. Wondering what your takeaways are? Not trying to rabble-rouse here; just trying to pass along information that might help.

Here's the articles:

Kennesaw State learned from Georgia State, ODU
By Doug Roberson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Posted: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013

Kennesaw State’s leaders sought advice from presidents and athletic directors from Mobile, Ala. to Norfolk, Va. as they put together the blueprint for new football program.

KSU President Dan Papp and athletic director Vaughn Williams received information about marketing, facilities and academic support, to name a few of the ingredients in what will eventually be the support structure for the team. But often they heard that the two most important steps, the steps that will determine the program’s future long before the first game is expected to be played in 2015, will be the hiring of the first head coach and the accuracy of the budget. Williams wants to have that hire made by the end of March because there’s a lot to do before the team plays its first game.

The first coach will set the direction of the program from an academic, athletic, financial and moral standpoint. They will need to be as well versed in fundraising and budgets as Xs and Os at first because everything, including the first football, must be procured.

“The reason that person is important is because the decisions that are made with respect to personnel, both above and below, are so strongly influenced that the overall welfare of the program for decades will be drastically affected,” Bill Curry said. “I’m talking about all kinds of personnel, not just the coaching staff.”

After decades in football, Curry was hired at Georgia State in 2008 to lead its football program, which didn’t play its first game until 2010.

Curry was one of several Georgia State officials who met with Papp and Williams in the past to discuss all aspects of starting a team, including the need for the right kind of leader.

Curry in effect said he is an example of what not to do as the head coach of a program. Though the Panthers are about to play football on the FBS level after just three years on the lower level, they have struggled on the field, going 1-10 last year in Curry’s final season as coach. He retired.

“If we had a better head coach we would have won a lot more,” he said. “We would have done better in a lot of areas. It’s just a fact. Football is a head coach’s game.”

Curry said he would advise Papp and Williams to find someone who has a good eye for talent, both for recruiting players and support staff. He said the next coach doesn’t have to be young, but they have to be willing and able to put in 90 hours a week.

Much of that time in the first 12-18 months will be spent on selling the program, according to Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig.

Coach Bobby Wilder said he had as many as 250 speaking engagements in a single year – sometimes tripling up on breakfast, lunch and dinner speeches -- as he crisscrossed the Hampton Roads area selling ODU’s new program.

“They need an individual who can sell everyone on what is now only a dream, who can paint pictures with words and who can sell to so many different constituents,” Selig said, pointing to recruits, alumni and others.

Wilder said 75 percent of the time he was part of a team that included representatives from ODU's marketing and fund-raising departments at these engagements.

"What happened, with each speaking engagement we gained more momentum," Wilder said. "That 2½-year period we just kept gaining momentum."

Lastly, Curry said the Owls’ first coach needs to be a “genius” in some aspect of the sport because it gives the team an extra coach on the field. Curry said he wasn’t.

“There are so many things that I see that we could have done better,” he said, but declined to go into specifics.

Williams said he has an idea of the type of coach he wants to hire. He said he has a list of potential coaches based upon who has connections in Georgia, who has had success in high school football and recommendations from other athletic directors.

He declined to say the salary range of the new coaching staff and other needed hires, but in documents to the Board of Regents the university’s projections show $2.2 million for football operations and $1.2 million for administration support.

Williams said he will have final say on any hires who work in the department because he’s trying to maintain a culture. But the coach will have the freedom to pursue candidates and bring their choices to him.
Williams said he will consider coaches with college or pro experience, or those who lead top-level high-school programs.

He agrees with Curry that he’d like to find someone who is well-versed in a particular aspect of the sport. More importantly, he wants someone who can see past the sidelines to the long-term impact of coaching.
“They are about the ‘We’,” he said. “The institution, the students, the community.”

To fulfill that goal, he said he’s not looking for someone who wants the job to build a resume. He said he needs someone to start the foundation and set the direction.

“If you are going to build something strong, it will take time to do that,” Williams said. “Everyone will want instant results, but we need someone who really wants to be here.”

The coach and the budget will be intertwined because the next coach will be the face of the fund-raising. But that financial projections need to be accurate.

Williams had many conversations with Georgia State athletic director Cheryl Levick, who took over the program in 2009, and associate athletic director James Greenwell.

“There’s no need to make the mistakes twice if we can share,” she said.
Levick said they talked about coaches, salaries and other things related to the hands-on aspects of the team. She said the most important piece of off-the-field advice she gave was to make sure that the Owls have given themselves enough time to so that’s nothing rushed. She also said they need to make sure that their operating budget stays up to date.
Georgia State’s first operating budget was projected four years before the first game. The Panthers found out they were off by about $250,000 by the time first season was complete as inflation and other factors caused expenses to increase.

Selig said projected budgets should be doubled and hopefully they will be matched by revenue. He said one consultant vastly underestimated the demand for ODU’s football program, which has sold out every game with a waiting list of 4,000 for season tickets, partially because of Wilder’s efforts before the first game in 2009 and the results since as the Monarchs became one of the better teams in the Colonial Athletic Association. Wilder said ODU originally put aside 6,000 season tickets.

That sold out in one day. They eventually capped that total at 14,500, but he believes they could have sold every ticket at Foreman Field as a season ticket. They have since accepted an invitation to join Conference USA and play football on the FBS level.

“If you do the right job behind the scenes you will be pleasantly surprised,” Selig said.

Williams, whose background is in finance, seems confident that Kennesaw State’s projections are accurate. In documents at the Board of Regents meetings, KSU provided two reports. In one, the more optimistic, the Owls project profits of almost $3 million after the 2017 season. A less-optimistic projection, which included reduced expenses related to the marching band and fifth-year scholarships for student-athletes, still showed predicted profits of $2.1 million.
In the end, Williams said they can’t copy anyone’s plan because every school’s situation is different.

For example, unlike Georgia State, Kennesaw State owns the stadium the football team will play in. It has already reaped some financial reward by selling naming rights to Fifth Third Bank for $5 million over 10 years. Georgia State doesn’t have that opportunity with its home in the Georgia Dome, but it doesn’t have to pay for maintenance costs in part of the trade-off between owning vs. renting or leasing.

“We studied everybody, but it’s really about what Kennesaw State can do,” Williams said. “You don’t put together a business plan based upon what others can do. We are going to be smart, efficient and transparent and live within our realm.”

Kennesaw State football stands a fighting chance
By Mark Bradley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Posted: 11:10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15, 2013

They’re the second- and third-largest universities in the state of Georgia, and they’re based in the Atlanta area. Georgia State began playing football in 2010; Kennesaw State’s first game is tentatively scheduled for 2015. There the similarities end.

Three years in, Georgia State is already facing a series of sobering realities. It just went 1-10 and saw its famous first coach retire, and next year the Panthers will move to the Sun Belt Conference, which plays Division I (or FBS, as it’s now known) football. Average announced attendance for six 2012 dates at the Georgia Dome was 12,309.

In launching its program, Georgia State did a lot right. It hired Bill Curry as coach, and he attracted media attention and conferred credibility on the whole undertaking. GSU’s inaugural game drew a gathering of 30,327, and those Panthers finished 6-5. Georgia State has since gone 4-18 while generating only one crowd of 20,000 in a building that can accommodate 71,000.

Three years in, Georgia State still faces a hard slog to claim even a niche of a crowded Atlanta market. As Kennesaw State celebrated its newest program Thursday, Vince Dooley – the former University of Georgia coach who chaired the exploratory committee – said of the nascent Owls: “They’re going to have some downs. We had them at Georgia … Sometimes the road will be rough. But there will be great roads, too.”

Kennesaw State has a lower sports profile in the metro area than even Georgia State, but that could work to KSU’s benefit. There has been nothing rushed about the school’s decision to play football, and there will be no pressure to make a start-up program more than it is.

In 2002, Dr. Stan Dysart served as chairman of the first KSU committee to consider football. (For the record, Dysart is the Bradley family’s orthopedist.) On Thursday he was asked what advantages Kennesaw football had over Georgia State. “The geography is better suited,” Dysart said. “We’ve got the suburbs. And we’ve got a stadium that suits our needs at this time.”

What does Kennesaw consider its target audience? Said athletic director Vaughn Williams: “Cobb County, Paulding and Cherokee.”

Those three counties are part of metro Atlanta, but not nearly all of it. And that’s the point: KSU’s target audience can indeed be targeted. Said president Dan Papp of his school’s footprint in the northwestern suburbs: “Eighty percent of our alumni live within a 35-mile drive.”
Dooley again: “Two and a half million people live in this area, and I’m not talking about all of Atlanta.”

Williams again: “I think we have an advantage they might not have downtown.”

Georgia State plays in an off-campus downtown stadium built for the NFL Falcons. KSU will play in an on-campus 8,300-seat stadium built for soccer that sits just off I-75 and I-575. (Fifth Third Bank just paid $5 million for the naming rights.) Said Papp: “I’m absolutely convinced we’re going to pack the place every game.”

Granted, it’s easier to fill 8,300 seats than 71,000, but that’s another point in KSU’s favor. The Owls won’t have to get huge to be seen as a success. They have a clear notion of who they are and want they want to be.

Georgia State, by way of contrast, may have gotten ahead of itself. The Panthers played only two seasons before the school announced a move to Division I. Georgia Southern [located in Statesboro, GA in the southern part of the state], by way of further contrast, has spent 29 years in Division I-AA (now FCS) and won six national championships, and only in April 2012 did it state an official intent to move to FBS.

Will Kennesaw State ponder such a leap? “There’s no plans for that as far as the eye can see,” Williams said. Then this: “There will be no talking about that as long as I’m here. In the foreseeable future, there are no plans for anything other than FCS.”

In football, Kennesaw State is never going to become a Georgia. But it might, given time and the right coach, stand a fighting chance of becoming the northern counterpart to Georgia Southern. (About the coach: Williams said he wants “somebody with strong Georgia roots” and plans to have his man within six weeks.)

“I love our chances,” said assistant AD Scott Whitlock, who was worked at KSU for 28 years. “I love our geography, the growth of our university. We’ve got Cobb County and Northwest Georgia. I think we can become a point of destination for the Northwest Georgia corridor.”

As Whitlock spoke, the floor of the KSU Convocation Center was being cleared of black and gold balloons that had been dropped from the rafters. (They bore the Fifth Third logo, FYI.) On such a happy day, dreaming was easy. But Kennesaw State might have more than a dream. It just might have a workable plan.
02-19-2013 08:44 PM
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mikeinsec127 Offline
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RE: AJC articles about new KSU football- learned from GA State & ODU
I love it. I have a nephew playing football at North Paulding. I've been talking to him about KSU's football move for two years. The articles were actuate from my stand point. KSU has not rushed along in getting its football going. That has lead to some internet chatter that it wasn't going to happen at all. I think there are plenty of recent program start ups that can be studied for what to do and avoid.
04-08-2013 08:55 PM
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ENCPir87769 Offline
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RE: AJC articles about new KSU football- learned from GA State & ODU
I'm a newbie Owl. My Brother-in-Law is a Geography Professor @ KSU, and I have adopted them as my "Home away from Home Town" team! Thanks for all the posts that I have been reading, as I am catching up with what's happening with the start up of the football program! Even going to buy 4-6 Season Tickets, as all my inlaws will be in the ATL/Cobb Co. Area within 5 years or so! And I can't keep the wifey here in Greenville, NC, once her family relocates! STOKED to be learning a new program & getting in on the ground floor, so to speak.

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04-28-2014 05:57 PM
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