Hey kids, let’s start a football program!

Georgia State is exploring the idea of entering the wonderful world of University Championship Division (formerly Division I-AA) football.

Why, you may wonder?

Well,  school President Carl Patton purportedly has said that he “…has been receiving continued interest from people regarding starting a football program, and he thought it was time to see if there is merit to that.”

Interest?  Here’s what a couple of students offered in support of the idea:

“If you were to ask someone if they were proud to go to Georgia State, they’d be like, ‘Um, I’m not sure.’ They don’t have a real connection to campus,” said sophomore Keesha Bellamy of Eagan, Minn. “But something like football would be a way for people to come together and become more involved.”

Matthew Simmons, a senior from Atlanta, said, “I think we’d get a lot more media coverage locally … regionally and nationally, which is going to open up different markets to students that don’t know anything about Georgia State.”

“Kumbaya” and marketing.  Pretty tepid, if you ask me.

And, as you might expect, there’s also the token general disparaging comments about student athletes from the token concerned academic to consider:

Yet George Rainbolt, chairman of the GSU philosophy department, said heightened alcohol use at games could be a problem. He also worried the school might lower admission standards for some athletes.

Rainbolt said his experience at other institutions led him to believe some athletes “degrade the intellectual experience in the classroom because they are simply unable to keep up.”

As intellectual exchanges go, this isn’t exactly a debate at Oxford.

What is daunting, though, and should be taken seriously, is the cost for a football program, both in terms of money and Title IX requirements:

Jerry Rackliffe, vice president of finance and affairs and a member of the steering committee, said rental and operating costs at the Dome would come to about $47,000 per home game, “which is a lot less than $6 million to $24 million a year” to build or refurbish and maintain a stadium.

Rackliffe said a raise in athletic fees paid by every student would likely jump $85 per year to $369 to help fund the program.

Start-up costs include projections to begin a women’s lacrosse team as the addition of football and all the male athletes that would play it would, by Title IX requirements, mandate the addition of female athletic opportunities.

Field hockey might be considered if GSU needs to add another women’s sport.

McElroy did not dismiss the possibility of eliminating a male sport. “That’s a possibility always, but that’s not an option we’re looking at,” she said. “That would be a last resort.”

By the way, that “two or three hundred” quote in regard to fan attendance at GSU basketball games doesn’t sound like much of an exaggeration.

If this goes through, one thing’s pretty likely:  finding a good seat at the Dome to watch a Panther game won’t take much of an effort.

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