While new athletic director Vaughn Williams said the plan for a new program to kick off in the fall of 2014 is still foreseeable, there’s a chance it could be pushed back to 2015.
A new timeline is being created, and the athletic department should have a good idea in which direction football is pointed sometime in September.
Initially, when the KSU football exploratory committee was announced, KSU president Dan Papp said that, if everything went perfect, the program could launch in the fall of 2013. When the committee handed the results of its findings nine months later, kickoff was then slated for 2014, but the hiring of a head coach was to have happened this past spring.
Now, nearly a year since the initial go-ahead was granted, there are many loose ends that are pointing toward the Owls needing an extra year to prepare.
Upon arriving on campus in May, one of the first things Williams was charged with was creating the KSU Athletic Association. That process is nearing completion, with the outline of the business plan being presented to the state’s Board of Regents early next week. At this point, the approval of an athletic association is likely a formality — albeit a highly important step in the process.
With the creation of the association, the athletic department would become a separate business entity. It would allow KSU to offer current and future coaches multi-year contracts for the first time, and it’s a key point as it will likely take at least a five-year contract to find a coach to build a program from the ground up.
The association would also give the athletic department the freedom to deal directly with vendors and set in motion the planning of the infrastructure needed to prepare for a new football program.
While the association would make it easier for KSU to get all the behind-the-scenes details in line, fundraising is still the main hurdle to overcome in making the program a reality, and those dollars are not yet in place. Williams, however, said momentum is building and there are many people and organizations who are excited about the potential of making an investment in a new football team on campus.
But before a check is written, those potential donors want to see a formal business plan in place as to how much money is needed and where it is likely to go.
Williams said the hypothetical football budget his predecessor, former athletic director Dave Waples, constructed in 2009 is still a good indicator of the funds needed to get the ball in the air, but with the current ebb and flow of the economy, interest rates and construction costs, the original $7 million to $10 million price tag may need to be increased.
One thing that is likely to help the football fundraising is the fact that the university completed its $75 million capital campaign 15 months ahead of schedule, and Williams considers the success of the capital campaign a great sign for the prospects of football fundraising. And, with the capital campaign complete, the university will not be competing against itself for potential donations.
All of this is not to say that football is in the slow lane at KSU.
For the last month, Williams said he has been having conversations with architects about a potential football complex, trying to figure out what the program would need and where it would be housed.
The other necessary component to bringing football on campus is the additional women’s sports — at least three or four additional programs — KSU will have to add to adhere to Title IX gender equity requirements. Williams said no final decision has been made as to which sports would be added, but those would likely need to be able to use the facilities that are already in place — some options could be lacrosse, field hockey, competitive cheerleading and bowling.
Once the athletic association is in place, the football business plan can be completed, and Williams said he is hopeful to present it to the Board of Regents sometime in September.
Three months into his new position, Williams said he has been inspired by the reaction of people around the campus, in Cobb County and around the region and their opinion of the direction the KSU athletic programs is heading.
“People can see us blossoming,” he said. “I have been overwhelmed by support.”
Considering the APR problems the university has encountered with its men’s basketball team, Williams said it was good news when he heard about the academic progress of all the student-athletes at the end of the school year.
The overall grade-point average for all the KSU athletic programs was 3.012, with more than 65 percent of the athletes currently possessing a GPA of 3.0 or better.
Williams also said the athletic department is currently investigating the parameters of a social media policy in hopes of providing more direction of what can and can not be done on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.
The policy is likely to be constructed to address both student-athletes and staff members in the athletic department.
Follow John Bednarowski on Twitter @jbednarowski