After tabling its vote on Kennesaw State’s proposal of a $100-per-student athletic fee increase last month, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia gave its OK Wednesday. The fee increase was proposed to fund the introduction of new sports to campus — most notably, a football team.
With the Board of Regents’ approval, university president Dan Papp said that, while there is still an outside chance that football could begin as early as 2014, the fall of 2015 is the most realistic start time.
It’s been a long wait for football, which has been in the works at Kennesaw State since as early as 2008. Now, it’s coming to fruition.
“This program has been in the planning process for a long time,” Papp said. “We had a very, very orderly set of things that we had to do — milestones, I guess, is a good thing to call it. We passed one milestone, moved on to the next one and this was the final milestone — except for hiring a football coach and getting a staff in place, and getting a team in place. We’re very excited by this.”
Kennesaw State organized a 33-person football exploratory committee in December 2009, headed by former Georgia coach and athletic director Vince Dooley. The committee organized a campus-wide survey, with 55.5 percent of the student body voting in favor of football and 32 against.
The exploratory committee gave Kennesaw State the go-ahead to proceed with its plans in September of 2010, and the external fundraising for the program began.
From that point, the university had to raise between $7 million and $10 million for the football program to be approved, a goal that was reached with the help of a private donor the university intends to reveal during a news conference today inside the KSU Convocation Center.
The proposed athletic fee increase, to $252 per student, will help the school raise the $3.5 million annual budget that’s required to start a football program. The fee is expected to go into effect this fall.
KSU administrators met with the Board of Regents on Jan. 8 to get final approval of the fee increase, but the board’s finance and business committee tabled the vote in order to further research fee proposal considerations.
There were no such obstacles in Wednesday’s meeting.
Kennesaw State was hoping to get football off the ground as early as 2014, but it would be difficult to field a team 20 months from now with only one recruiting class.
Athletic director Vaughn Williams declined to go into specifics regarding the timetable of putting a coaching staff in place. Those details, as well as finding the right football conference, will be discussed during a news conference today at the KSU Convocation Center.
Williams said he could “never think ahead” in terms of putting together a list of candidates.
“Right now, I’m going to savor this for about an hour, or however long it takes,” he said.
Getting a football program also requires Kennesaw State to fulfill Title IX requirements. The approved student fee will also aid in starting women’s programs from a group of candidates that includes cheerleading, crew, sand volleyball and equestrian. Increasing the number of scholarship in women’s lacrosse and track/cross country is also part of the Title IX strategic plan.
Also in the university’s planning stages is finding a new conference affiliation.
The Atlantic Sun, which the university has been affiliated with since becoming an NCAA’s Division I program in 2005, does not sponsor football. That leaves Kennesaw State to pursue potential affiliations with leagues such as the Southern, Big South or Ohio Valley conferences — all part of the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
“I love to be in a conference that’s in the South,” Williams said. “I think that is very important for us — very important for our alumni, very important financially — for travel and those type of things. The Big South, Southern Conference and Ohio Valley seem to be the best and most natural. We have to see what’s out there.”
The football team, which would provide a full allotment of scholarships right away, will share the 8,300-seat KSU Stadium with the women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams.