Vince Dooley, the chair of the university’s football exploratory committee, made the announcement Wednesday at the KSU Convocation Center, confirming the long-awaited expectation that Kennesaw State would begin the process toward fielding a team to compete in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
The Journal reported in Wednesday morning’s edition that the committee had approved going forward with the football program.
Dooley, unfortunately, made the announcement in a way that he wishes he could have back.
"We tackled some tough issues over the past several months, but the committee's recommendation was overwhelmingly positive in favor of starting football at Kansas State University."
Surprised at the gasps, laughs and then hushed quiet of the nearly 700 people on hand for the announcement, Dooley, the former football coach and athletic director at Georgia, realized what had happened.
"And I have now resigned from my position," he quickly improvised.
No worries, coach, the Owls' new football fan base forgives you. And, after committing himself to staying as long as Kennesaw State President Dr. Dan Papp needs him, Dooley's job as a football consultant is just beginning.
Between now and September 2014, Kennesaw State will have to find between $7 million and $10 million to hire an athletic director that has experience with football, a head coach, a staff of assistants and then find as many as 85 players to take the field for the inaugural season. That doesn't include the additional expenses needed for recruiting, equipment, field maintenance, training supplies and academic support.
In addition, Kennesaw State will have to find a conference to play in because its current league, the Atlantic Sun, does not sponsor football.
"That would be the most important thing right now," Dooley said.
Some choices would be to join the Southern Conference, Colonial Athletic Association or the Ohio Valley Conference. Each conference 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. Another possible landing place could be the Big South Conference with Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian.
Papp said there are a number of presidents and conferences that knew Kennesaw State was looking at starting a football program, and now that it's official, there should be opportunities in the future.
On Wednesday, however, Papp was more concerned with the present.
"This is a truly historic day for Kennesaw State University," Papp said. "This is an important first step in assessing support for a football program at KSU, and we all look forward to building on its positive feedback and strong momentum that exists."
The positive feedback and momentum came from a number of surveys that gave overwhelming support to adding the new sport. Nearly three-quarters of the 6,000 students polled were in favor, as was 82.5 percent of more than 500 alumni and 83.3 percent of 60 members of the university's Chairman's Club.
Papp said now is the time to go back and get a second opinion.
"Now that we have the committee's report, it's very important for us to re-evaluate the level of student support," he said. "We need the assertion that there will be the continued student support, and we will probably send out a survey late October or early November."
Papp admitted that the early success Georgia State has had in the preparation and beginning of its inaugural season helped spur on the decision, but Kennesaw State will take at least one extra year in getting to the playing field. One reason for the wait is the number of people that need to be hired before a head coach can be installed.
Papp said the first thing on the agenda is to hire a new provost after Lynn Black left to become chancellor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Black's replacement is expected to be in place before the end of the year, which would then clear the way for an athletic director to be found.
A national search for the new Ad is scheduled to commence in January 2011. Once a hire is made there, finding a football coach would follow, with a hire being made as soon as this spring.
The coach would arrive on campus for fundraising, setting a recruiting base and hiring a staff.
Fundraising will be most important because the Georgia Legislature does not allow any state funds to be used for intercollegiate athletics of any kind. Once the new coach is in place, he will work with the university's vice president of advancement, Wesley Wicker, who will chair a new football fundraising committee.
The next two years, in 2012 and 2013, would see the new coach complete his staff of assistants and recruit 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.
Of course, none of that is set in stone, as Papp put it. But, with a little help, Kennesaw State could fast-track the process.
"If anyone knows an angel like T. Boone Pickens at Oklahoma State, who gave the university athletic department $225 million," Papp said of the oil tycoon-turned-champion of natural gas, "we could start playing a lot sooner."