|« Rise to power for NDSU's Dragosavich||Ash Excited About First Spring with Montana State »|
Mercer Needs to Pass on Football Talk
One columnist doesn’t like the idea of six Division I universities playing football in the Peach State.
Last week, Georgia State unveiled a plan that we all knew was coming for some time: The school is going to start a football program.
When the Panthers begin play in 2010 in the FCS, it will give the state five Division I football programs: Georgia and Georgia Tech in FBS play and Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Savannah State in FCS.
Let’s hope Mercer doesn’t raise that number to six.
To be honest, five is probably one too many, and that’s not directed at Georgia State. With Dan Reeves running the show, the Panthers actually seem to have a workable plan, although I’m sure Macon’s own Chris Hatcher was interested to see that Reeves kind of put down a challenge for Georgia Southern and will make the Panthers pay for that down the line.
The Panthers will be just fine, unlike Savannah State, which has been anything but fine since moving its athletics programs from Division II to Division I. Savannah State was OK in Division II competition, but it certainly wasn’t dominant, and its move up made no sense.
That has played out in the years since as Savannah State has struggled in Division I, and Mercer could learn a thing or two from Savannah State’s plight. Granted, Mercer’s in a bit of a different position in that its programs are already Division I, so adding football wouldn’t affect them in many ways.
But it seems it would be wise to get those programs straightened out before taking on the big task of starting a football program. That may seem a little harsh, but the numbers add up to an athletics department that is struggling and is not ready to take on the added weight of football.
During the 2006-07 school year, Mercer’s men’s programs were ninth in the A-Sun all-sports race, while the women were 10th (last). So far this year, Mercer’s men are 12th (last) and the women are tied for ninth, although the softball team is having a strong year and should help that number. Combined, Mercer’s men and women are 11th in the conference with fewer than half of the points of the leading school, Belmont.
That points to a department that’s not very competitive (remember the Savannah State debacle) and just doesn’t need the hassle of another mediocre program. That’s what football would be for some time.
On-the-field production is only one part of the equation for having a successful football program. There also needs to be support from a fan base, including the alumni and the surrounding community. That’s one of the reasons Georgia succeeds in football: It has the rabid fan base to prove to the university’s leaders that football is important, and those leaders follow suit by doing what’s necessary to keep those people happy.
It also works the same way at Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern and will eventually be similar, although not to the same extent, at Georgia State. Mercer? That’s another story.
Mercer’s student and alumni bases are much smaller than Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Georgia State. The support for its athletics programs, especially off campus in the Macon community, also lags behind.
Despite what Georgia State has done, Mercer would be wise to address its issues in the sports already on campus before adding the highest-profile of all sports to the problems.
Mercer needs to pass on football talk
By Daniel Shirley, Macon Telegraph