TOUCHDOWN! Kennesaw State University to start football program in 2015
Submitted by tdemel on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 3:25pm
Fifth Third Bank signs on as major sponsor; receives naming rights to KSU Stadium
KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb. 14, 2013) — Kennesaw State University scored its first touchdown on Wednesday when the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia voted to approve the University’s request to add football to its 17-sport NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletics program. Kennesaw State university officials anticipate that 2015 will be the team’s first year of competition.
“This is an exciting day for Kennesaw State and a milestone that is the culmination of the hard work and support from many individuals on and off campus,” said Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp. “We want to thank the regents for their continued support of the vision we share for the University. The addition of football at Kennesaw State will help bring positive national recognition to the University and strengthen the sense of pride and connection among students, alumni, and the community-at-large.”
A major source of funding for the football program will come from a stadium naming rights partnership with Fifth Third Bank, an Ohio-based company with more than 1,300 locations throughout the country. Through a multi-million dollar, multi-year sponsorship agreement with the Georgia regional office, KSU Stadium will become Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Renovations to the 8,300-seat stadium, which currently hosts the Owl"s soccer and lacrosse teams, will be made prior to the football team’s inaugural season.
“With this partnership we have the unique opportunity to support the growth of Kennesaw State University and the Athletics program to form a long-term relationship with the community and to reach and interact with customers and prospects,” said Randolph Koporc, president of Fifth Third Bank (Georgia).
In the plan presented Wednesday to the Board of Regents, Papp and Kennesaw State Director of Athletics Vaughn Williams provided a detailed business plan outlining start-up and operating expenses for the football program, Title IX considerations and revenue projections for the next six years. Papp and Williams also outlined the steps the University has made towards securing support for football among its students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community. The two university officials also provided the rationale for beginning a football program at Kennesaw State, focusing on the benefits to current and prospective students, national recognition for the university, and enhanced engagement with alumni and the community.
“This is a great day for Kennesaw State University, and another step in the tremendous growth this university is experiencing,” Williams said. “It is important for us to acknowledge all of those who made this day possible, and there are many who supported our dream to bring football to this campus. Personally, I want to thank Dr. Papp and Vince Dooley for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but for now we celebrate and begin the countdown to kick off in 2015.”
A national search is currently underway to hire a head coach and plans are to announce an initial signing class in February 2014. Kennesaw State will compete in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS/formerly Division I-AA). Currently a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the University also will explore its conference options since the A-Sun currently does not sponsor football.
Yesterday’s approval by the Board of Regents completed the final step in a six-year process of studies, student voting and fundraising aimed at bringing NCAA Division I football to the state’s third-largest university. The possibility of bringing football to Kennesaw State has been a detailed and steady process that initially began in March 2006, when the Kennesaw State University Foundation contracted with Turner & Associates to conduct a feasibility study about the future of Kennesaw State’s athletics program. The study, published in June 2007, focused on the University’s readiness for a capital campaign to help support the growth of athletics. Among its findings was the determination that the addition of football would “significantly enhance KSU’s prestige, visibility and fund-raising potential.”
In December 2009, Papp appointed a 33-member Football Exploratory Committee, chaired by legendary University of Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley, to look more closely at the possibilities and implications of establishing a football program at KSU. The committee announced its findings in September 2010, and concluded that there was solid support for a collegiate football program at Kennesaw State. The committee also cited the need for external funding sources.
“It is an honor to be a part of Kennesaw State’s journey toward starting a football program,” said Dooley. “Historically, football has defined the unique culture of an institution through its proud colors, mascot, songs, and traditions. In my experience, football provides a sense of pride and point of connection to a broad audience of supporters in the community and around the state. I am excited for the next chapter in Kennesaw State Athletics and look forward to being a part of it in any way that I can.”
Following the exploratory committee’s recommendation, KSU’s Student Government Association (SGA) and the Office of the Vice President for Student Success in November 2010 conducted an SGA-led vote to assess the level of student support for a fee of $100 per student/per semester to initiate a football program and additional Title IX women’s sports at KSU. The students voted to support the fee request. In October 2012, the KSU Student Fee Committee then voted to support the fee increase request, allowing Papp to move forward with a formal request to the Board of Regents.
“Throughout the process, Dr. Papp has been resolute about making sure students were actively engaged, giving them the chance to voice their opinions and ask questions regarding football and its impact,” said Vice President for Student Success Jerome Ratchford. “Ultimately, their decision to support football is what made this a reality – and their excitement and enthusiasm for Kennesaw State is what makes this University second to none.”
The intercollegiate athletics program at Kennesaw State was launched in 1983. The school competed in six sports — women’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s track and field — as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Kennesaw State moved to the NCAA Division II level and joined the Peach Belt Conference in the fall of 1994. The program experienced immediate success, winning back-to-back softball national titles in 1995 and 1996 and a baseball national championship in 1996. In fall 2005, Kennesaw State University transitioned to NCAA Division I joining the Atlantic Sun Conference.
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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 80 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing and a new Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 24,600 from 130 countries.