Founded in 1966 as a two-year school, Kennesaw State has experienced robust growth during the past five decades. The school gradually added bachelors, master’s, and then doctoral degrees, and its current student body exceeds 23,000 with projections of 30,000 in the next 10 years.
However, the university only has 4,000 beds on its campus, which is just 20 minutes north of Atlanta. . Hoping to shed its reputation as a commuter school and build a more vibrant campus life, Kennesaw State impaneled an exploratory committee last year to examine the possibility of adding football.
Headed by the legendary football coach and Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley, the committee did extensive work, gathering input from students, faculty, staff, business leaders, and governmental leaders. Their work produced a positive report, suggesting that the school launch a scholarship program as a Football Championship Subdivision program.
“The primary driver behind us adding football is a large level of interest from our student body and the community,” said Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp. “Football is king in the American South and having a football team tremendously heightens the visibility of an institution and in many cases the attractiveness of an institution as well.”
Papp also cited the academic benefits of having a football program.
“We think that football program adds to the overall student experience at a university,” he said. “And we believe that it demonstrably helps improve retention and progression rates for students as well. Students get more involved with the institution, so the students are more likely to stay in school and are more likely to concentrate on their academics so they can stay in school.”
Papp explained that a few critical steps remain before the university will officially more forward with its plan. Specifically, the university needs to raise $8 to 12 million needed to build infrastructure for the program, which Papp said they fully intend to raise. Once that money is raised, the university will then submit its final business plan to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia for ultimate approval.
“We have done the studies. So, we know the investment that it will take,” said Kennesaw State athletics director Vaughn Williams. “It’s about the brand and the university, so in essence it’s an investment in the overall university. We’re not thinking that we’re going to make millions of dollars. We’re looking to create an excellent program that is going to enhance everything that we do in the fiber of this university. It’s bigger than football. Football is just another piece of the puzzle. We are going to raise the bar academically. And it’s going to get more competitive to get into Kennesaw. “
An important step in the process came last year when the student body voted by 56 percent to increase athletics fees to support football by $100 per person each semester. The increase will annually raise approximately $5 million. Papp said the university’s football budget will break even through a combination of the student fees, ticket sales, sponsorships and donations.
“We understand that very few institutions make money playing football. We don’t want to lose money, however,” said Papp. “We are going into football in a very slow and measured, well-thought-out and well-planned way. There is only one thing worse than a major university in the American South without a football team, and that’s a major university in the American South with a football team that it can’t afford. If we do football, we will be extremely fiscally responsible.”
Kennesaw State plans to begin play in 2014 in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. …
(Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Ga.): NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, Conference TBA (2014) - President Daniel S. Papp, Athletics Director Vaughn Williams, Head Coach TBA.