Charlie Cobb just finished his first football season as Georgia State’s athletic director in which the Panthers went 1-11 and often played to small crowds.
While very optimistic about the future of the program, he also recognizes that there is a lot of work to do with fundraising, construction and interest do to help coach Trent Miles and his program fulfill its potential .
Cobb last week shared his thoughts on the team, his plan for the department and the granular process it will take to transition Georgia State into a competitive football team in the Sun Belt Conference.
There is hope for Panthers fans, hope that doesn’t bank on the Turner Field proposal.
Cobb said the department has raised the necessary funds to build a subdued version of the strength-and-conditioning facility needed to help improve recruiting and on-field results. And he and his staff are feverishly trying to line up games to replace the home-and-home series lost by Alabama-Birmingham’s decision to shut down its football program. He would prefer another home-and-home, and not two money games, for 2015 and 2016.
The questions and Cobb’s answers have been edited for clarity and, in some cases, brevity.
Q: How would you describe the state of the football program right now?
A: It’s a building process. I think everybody would have liked to have won a couple of those games in the early part of the season to see how the momentum would have taken.
We have to recognize where we are in terms of youth, and then stay positive and build forward.
Q: What are your short-term goals for the program?
A: We’ve got to figure out a solution to the weight room. We have an internal goal of having it constructed before August. We want to make it a functional facility that will allow us to have a weight room that can meet that immediate need and recognize the long-term opportunity of what Turner Field represents.
It won’t be the grand scale presented 2 years ago, but will be a functional part of the program.
Second, we need to have a great spring recruiting.
Q: What are your long-term goals for the program?
A: I’m further convinced that there’s a niche in the Atlanta sports market for Georgia State to build a fan-base and external support.
But we have to answer facility questions, not just for football but also other sports.
There are five pieces of the puzzle when recruiting:
Living in Atlanta and all that comes with that;
Academic experience of Georgia State;
That our teams are fully funded;
That we have the operating dollars for those teams to travel;
The facility piece is the outstanding issue for many of our teams. That’s the transformational idea piece that Turner Field offers not only for football but for other sports. It’s the long-term solution. An athletics village is part of the community master plan. It’s what get you excited.
The challenge is that’s 3-4-5 years away, not the fall of 2015 when we have to show some improvement.
Q: How do you get there?
A: Work your butt off. You have to have passion for what you do. All of us that are involved have a great passion for kids playing sports on college level.
We’ve transitioned some staff; I feel good about the group of people we have in place and coaches overall.
The challenge starting in the spring is to pound the pavement. We have to increase donations to the Panther Athletic Club. We have to figure out how to sell tickets.
When you are 1-21 the last two years, how do you create excitement?
We had a marketing meeting yesterday for football 2015 where we had people brainstorming ideas. Have to keep pushing student engagement. It’s a huge part of how we grow this.
We have to create an atmosphere on game day that allows people to get excited.
MARTA has to be a part of the piece. Parking is limited (near the Dome). There are a number of different opportunities to create that engagement piece.
Will do a spring tour with coaches and be out and about with PAC. That’s the 365-days-a-year engagement. We are really trying 365 days a year to engage the Georgia State Community
Q: What will define progress for the team next year?
A: We have to win some more games, continue on a pattern of building. We will have more older kids next year and don’t anticipate a lot of attrition of kids who play meaningful minutes (this season).
We have to stay healthy.
Academically, we have to continue to improve along that spectrum.
Q: What is the status of fund-raising for the strength and conditioning facility?
A: We envision 7,000 square feet. We have the money to build the facility we envision. It’s a matter of the process…the on-campus process (of planning and construction).
We estimate spending about $500,000 when it’s done for the building (not the equipment). Have money for both.
Q: What is the status of growing the PAC? How much progress?
A: Trying every single day. We are going to make a big push staring in January to engage anybody and everybody that has a connection to Georgia State.
We would rather 200 that give $100 than 100 who $200 each.
It’s part of the building process.
We have to build that grassroots support.
We will change some of the dynamics around seating at football games to be more fan friendly. Those are things that will happen in spring as we walk through our due diligence.
The spring caravan will be a big part of the engagement piece. Give us a chance of the coaches to go out in the community.
We will take downtown out to the surrounding community and metro area.
When there’s a personal relationship you are more inclined to support. To meet Miles, (Ron) Hunter, Sharon (Baldwin-Tener) and other coaches is huge part of building that camaraderie.
Q: Will the school continue with Saturday games, or might you go in a different direction with middle-of-the-week night games when students are on campus, or is that bad for the season-ticket holders?
A: That was one of the conversations yesterday. What is the ideal date of games, time of games? There are differing opinions.
At least one Thursday night game, maybe two, would be a huge benefit.
Number of factors, sometimes you don’t control the scheduling piece.
I do think playing Thursdays would be beneficial for us. I’ve also learned that I don’t want to get into mindset of scheduling around other teams. If you are a Georgia State fan, I want you to be a part when Georgia State plays.
Everything is on table in that regard.
If you (readers) have a strong opinion, let us know.
Q: When will your sit down with coach Trent Miles occur?
A: Will do it before the holidays. Want to let the dust settle. We will talk through how I help him and the football program be successful
Q: Has C-USA reached out to you to gauge interest now that UAB may be gone?