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Fixing Georgia State football, part I: You and your wallet

A scene from Georgia State's first game in 2010. (AJC)

A scene from Georgia State’s first game in 2010. (AJC)

Georgia State recently completed a 1-11 season that could best be described as expected, but still sobering.

The lone win came against an Abilene Christian team that is average on the FCS level.

In the past three years the Panthers have two wins: one against an average FCS level team and the other when the Panthers were an FCS team and playing a Rhode Island team that was the equivalent of a Division II team.

At some point, it must be asked, “Can it get better?”

“Sure,” I say.

“Will it get better?” you respond.

“It depends,” I say.

It depends upon three things, each of which I’ll tackle in blogs in the coming days: raising money on a huge scale, lowering academics on a very small scale, and a medium amount of attention.

Until at least two of those things occur this program will continue to be the worst in FBS, which is hard to argue against based upon results and facilities.

No one is blameless, but I don’t think the usual suspects carry most of the blame.

It’s not entirely the fault of the coaches. They are doing the best they can with what they have.

It’s not entirely the fault of the players. They are doing the best they can.

It’s not entirely the fault of the administrators, who are trying to raise money.

To be blunt, it’s mostly your fault, the alumni of Georgia State, because you aren’t giving enough of your money or your attention. Before you head straight to the comments section to eviscerate me, please continue reading.

Georgia State and its partners hopes to purchase Turner Field and move football there. But that's still at least five years away. (AJC)

Georgia State and its partners hope to purchase Turner Field and move football there. But that’s still at least five years away. (AJC)

Georgia State’s facilities for football don’t match up to almost every FBS team, and a lot of FCS teams.  The athletic association needs money to catch up and it must be raised quickly. And no, waiting on Turner Field isn’t the answer.

Start rant:

Before I delve more into the subjects, let me start by saying I’m not an advocate of the arms race in college football. I think it’s silly. As soon as one school builds one thing, another school must also do so for fear it will fall behind.

Why are these things being built? Some of them – like indoor practice facilities in colder climates – are for practical reasons. Others – like indoor practice facilities for teams in the South — aren’t.

At some point, 17- and 18-year-old football players – who lack the wisdom and experience to drive multi-million dollar budgets — will decide they want diamonds in the studs of their cleats.

Watch how long it takes before they are made and bought.

But it is a race that has been going on for a long time and, whether you like it or not, Georgia State is in the pack and must be competitive if it wants to compete on the field.

End rant.

So here we go, starting with:

Raising money on a huge scale

From the time it was announced that the team would start football, other than the practice facility which is a nice building but not a difference-maker, very little money has been spent to even keep pace with the ongoing facilities race that is fully enjoined by others in the Sun Belt Conference.

Georgia State's practice facility is a beautiful building, but it's not what most recruits look for when deciding which school to sign with. (AJC)

Georgia State’s practice facility is a beautiful building, but it’s not what most recruits look for when deciding which school to sign with. (AJC)

There hasn’t been a lot of money spent because there hasn’t been a lot of money coming in.

In fiscal year 2014, donations of $2.1 million were made to the Panther Athletic Club. That’s not exclusively money in hand. That sum also includes planned gifts  — money that won’t be received until later – and other items. It’s also slightly less than the $2.3 million given in FY2010. That total should be steadily rising, not steadily decreasing, which it did in Fiscal Year 2012 ($1.3 million) and Fiscal Year 2013 ($1.3 million).

The amount is not close enough to build football on the FBS level, especially when the team didn’t start with the basics to truly compete.

For more than a year the athletic association has tried to raise $2 million in cash in hand – which isn’t much in the world of college football – to build a strength and conditioning facility for football. It still hasn’t reached that mark. At one point it had around $800,000 with a plan to build the S&C facility in phases.

Without a weightlifting facility the program can’t compete with others in the Sun Belt for the better recruits that can help the team win. The coaches and players know this and some have said so.

Without a weightlifting facility to attract the recruits, it is going to be increasingly difficult to keep the coaches that are on staff with the program.

A rendering of what the strength and conditioning facility could look like. (Georgia State University)

A rendering of what the strength and conditioning facility could look like. (Georgia State University)

The coaches aren’t being selfish. They’re being practical. It’s more fun to work with better athletes or athletes that can maximize their potential with the proper help. It’s more fun to get better results. One win in two years isn’t fun for the coaches. Two wins in three years isn’t fun for the players.

The recruits who want a S&C facility aren’t being divas. They’re being practical. Right now, Georgia State’s football players either cram into the space in the Sports Arena to lift weights, which can be an impractical situation, or they lift weights underneath a tent at the practice facility.

Yes, I said a tent.

By comparison, Georgia Southern raised $5.3 million in the 2013 Fiscal Year. It also recently opened a $10 million football center that includes coaches offices, weight lifting and training areas.

Georgia Southern isn’t the only one building, building and building. Check out what Troy has done. Check out what Appalachian State has done.

These are the schools that Georgia State is competing against for recruits and on the field in the Sun Belt Conference. You’ve seen the results.

That’s just the first thing that must be done. The teams needs a dedicated training table and nutritionist. It needs a larger coaching, operations and recruiting staff.

Turner Field isn’t going to be the answer, at least not yet, so you can’t wait and point to that as the band-aid on the wound that is the football program.

Why?

Because the team won’t move in until 2019, at the earliest. That’s even if Georgia State can secure the land, which isn’t a given.

In a worst-case scenario, that’s potentially five more years of poor results and an even deeper hole of apathy to try to climb out of.

If the alumni want the program to succeed, they must give money and soon. Those who either wanted football when the idea was first floated, or who have said, “I’ll start giving when the team reaches the FBS level” may consider now following through on that pledge.

The students are bearing the brunt of the cost right now.

From the $18 million in fees that are paid annually, the students are supporting the operating expenses of around $6 million for the program. Those operating expenses don’t include things like insurance, which has a large price tag.

If every one of the more than 100,000 alumni just in the metro Atlanta area donated a minimum of $10 a year, that weightlifting facility could be built quickly. I know that is optimistic that everyone will give, but it’s just an example based upon the program Clemson used.

A minimum of $20 a year could get the weightlifting facility built, a dedicated training table with nutritionist in place and beef up the recruiting staff, which currently consists of one person. Georgia Southern has at least three people on its recruiting staff.

Why aren’t people giving more and/or more frequently?

There are lots of reasons.

Some of the blame falls to the previous administration, which was more focused on securing the big gifts rather than the incremental gifts, but that philosophy is changing under the new administration.

I recognize that some of you became disillusioned with the previous administration and decided that you weren’t going to give any money until changes in personnel were made. I applaud your rights as a consumer and admire you for exercising those rights.

I also recognize that it’s hard to swallow giving money to a program when the results make it seem like you may be tossing good money after bad.

But I hope you recognize that the only people that you are really hurting are the coaches and players that you want to support.

Again, Georgia State’s is an FBS program in name only right now.

Part II: Looking at admissions.


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