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Kick it off, Kennesaw State!
Kennesaw State University football is a reality.
The Marietta Daily Journal has learned from multiple members of the KSU football exploratory committee that committee chairman Vince Dooley will recommend to university President Dr. Dan Papp today that the school should add a football program to play in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision by the fall of 2014 at a cost of $7 million.
“My feeling is, let’s get ready for some football at Kennesaw State University,” said one committee member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity since the official announcement will come today.
When contacted early Tuesday, Dooley, the former football coach and athletic director at the University of Georgia, declined to comment prior to today’s press conference, which is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the KSU Convocation Center.
Papp said Dooley has received all the information from the committee and that the two will meet at 10 a.m. today to go over the official report.
“I have a good guess (as to what is in the report)” Papp said, “(but I) will neither confirm nor deny (what is in it).”
Added another committee member: “I suspect you will hear a favorable report. There was a great deal of time and energy that went into the various areas included in that report. If I had to guess, I would say the response is, certainly from the overall committee’s perspective, that there will be a favorable recommendation.
“Obviously, hiring somebody of Vince Dooley’s stature sends a message that you’re serious about (starting football). To me, his involvement is kind of like having the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”
Dooley was made chair of the 33-member exploratory committee last December and was charged with bringing the final recommendation to Papp.
It’s a job he relished from Day 1.
“The potential of launching a football program from the ground up is an intriguing challenge to me,” said Dooley, who won 201 games and a national championship as Georgia’s coach. “And I cannot think of a better place to do that than at Kennesaw State. This is an exciting place to be. This is a university on the move.”
Once today’s announcement is made, it will likely be three to four years before the Owls will begin their first season. Last December, Papp said that, if everything went “absolutely perfect,” Kennesaw State could begin play in the fall of 2013. But based on a timeline put forth in an hypothetical football budget prepared by former athletic director Dave Waples, and posted on the university’s website, kickoff would more likely be fall of 2014.
The budget maps out a timeline that would have the Owls hiring a coach by this December or January. That coach would arrive on campus for fundraising, setting a recruiting base and hiring a staff.
The next two years, in 2012 and 2013, would include completing the staff and the recruiting of student athletes from a pool of high school signees, transfers from other colleges and walk-ons with the intent of holding fall and spring practices. Another class of signees would come in 2014, with competition beginning later that fall.
The timeline would be one year longer than the one followed by Georgia State University in preparing for its inaugural season this fall.
The Panthers made football official in April 2008 and hired veteran coach Bill Curry that June. The first assistants were hired the following month and the first recruiting class was signed in February 2009. That class entered school the fall of ‘09 and went through a full season of practices and scrimmages, with each player using his redshirt season.
Another high school signing class was added in February of this year and kickoff of the inaugural season came in front of more than 30,000 fans earlier this month in a 41-7 victory over Shorter at the Georgia Dome.
One of the biggest obstacles for the Georgia State program was finding a way to pay for football. One method of funding was raised was by increasing the university’s student athletic fee by $85 per semester, which was expected to raise nearly $5.5 million a year, a figure that would grow with the student population.
The rest of the funding, like Kennesaw State’s would have to be, was raised, and will continue to be raised, through alumni donations, corporate sponsorships and ticket sales
Costs for starting a football program at Kennesaw State would be approximately $7 million over the four years. The head coach would earn an annual salary of $180,000, with his assistants being paid on a range from $24,000 to $75,000 a year. Sixty-three scholarships are permitted to be dispersed among 85 players, amounting to $2.4 million. The rest of the costs would be applied toward recruiting, equipment, field maintenance, training supplies and academic support.
The university will also face a number of other questions.
Who will be head coach?
It’s not likely the Kennesaw State would be able to find someone like Georgia State did with Curry to come take the reins of the program. The answer lies with an up-and-coming assistant coach who would want to make his first mark as a head coach, or a former head coach wanting another chance to lead a program.
Who will be the athletic director?
With Waples having retired in August, and longtime softball coach Scott Whitlock only leading the department in an interim role, the university is expected to begin its search for an AD in earnest this winter. The new athletic director would need to have experience running a department that has dealt with football in the past.
Will the university expand the new KSU Soccer Stadium to accommodate 25,000 fans?
When the $16.5 million, 8,300-seat stadium was built for the Atlanta Beat of Women’s Professional Soccer and Kennesaw State’s women’s soccer team, university representatives said the facility could be expanded to 22,000 or more. The field was also constructed with two 90-person locker rooms.
And what conference would the Owls play in?
Kennesaw State’s current conference, the Atlantic Sun, does not sponsor football. If the Owls were accepted into the conference of their choice, three possibilities would lie with the Southern Conference, Colonial Athletic Association or the Ohio Valley Conference. Each of those three conferences would allow the Owls to have at least one natural, geographical rival - Georgia Southern in the Southern, Georgia State in the Colonial and Jacksonville State in the Ohio Valley.
by John Bednarowski, Marietta Daily Journal