Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lessons from Georgia State

ATLANTA -- With football for the Charlotte 49ers officially on the way in 2013, I headed down Interstate 85 on Wednesday to Georgia State, where the Panthers will play college football for the first time this season.

I’m writing a story that will appear in The Observer within the next few weeks about how the Panthers have made it to this point -- and what lessons Charlotte can take from them.

But here are a few early observations from downtown Atlanta, where Georgia State’s campus is located:

-- There are plenty of similarities between Georgia State and Charlotte -- two state universities in big cities, both with “commuter” school reputations that play in the shadows of more established programs in the ACC and SEC. The biggest difference is Georgia State’s campus is as urban as you can get, while UNC Charlotte is located on the outskirts of town and has built up its own surrounding community. Another difference: Atlanta is a huge college football city. Charlotte, not so much.

-- As the 49ers prepare to build their own on-campus stadium, Georgia State is swinging as far the other way as possible. The Panthers will play in the 71,228-seat Georgia Dome, a seven-minute walk from campus. The school has sold 3,187 season tickets. Athletics director Cheryl Levick says the goal is to sell out the lower bowl of the Georgia Dome, which seats 28,155.

-- Georgia State’s best move so far appears to be hiring coach Bill Curry, a former Georgia Tech and Alabama coach who grew up near the Georgia State campus in College Park, Ga.
Curry is a local guy whose wife Carolyn is a Georgia State grad. He’s totally committed to making it work. He’s got the credentials, contacts, experience and charisma to help get the program off to a solid start.
Charlotte athletics director Judy Rose says she might have a coach hired by early 2011. She would do well to find someone like Curry.

-- Curry’s staff is also impressive. Defensive coordinator John Thompson is a former head coach at East Carolina. Offensive coordinator John Bond probably didn’t have to move, coming from Georgia Tech, where he coached ACC rushing leader Tashard Choice in 2007.

-- Just because Georgia State is a start-up, it doesn’t mean there aren’t quality players on the roster. The Panthers’ 90-player roster, while dominated by freshmen, also has a healthy dose of transfers. Chief among them are quarterback Star Jackson, who played in five games as a redshirt freshman last season for Alabama, and offensive guard Joseph Gilbert, a two-year starter at Georgia Tech. Freshman quarterback Drew Little threw for 9,003 yards in high school in McDonough, Ga., the second highest total in state history.

-- Georgia State’s first freshman commitment is from Charlotte, sort of. Linebacker Mark Hogan played high school football in Sudbury, Mass., but his family moved to Matthews after he graduated. He was the only football player on campus when he enrolled in January 2009, and worked out by himself the entire semester. Five other players joined him that summer before the rest of the school’s first class of football players joined them last fall.

-- Curry says the economy has been the biggest challenge that the school has faced in starting the program. “That’s affected everything you do, it’s the most unpleasant thing I’ve had to deal with,” said Curry. “Just like it’s affected everybody in the world, everybody is suffering the same way. Here we are attempting to raise funds, which is worthy, but is it more worthy than an earthquake victim? So we can’t wallow around in self pity, because everybody else is suffering the same way.”

-- That said, the school received a $1.5 million donation from a local businessman Wednesday. The booster -- Parker H. Petit -- will perform the coin toss before the first game.
Is there anyone out there who would write the 49ers that kind of check?

-- The Panthers’ schedule features a mixture of smaller schools, some of similar size and one very big challenge on a Thursday night in November. Georgia State’s first two games are against NAIA schools Shorter (Ga.) and and Lambuth (Tenn.). Many of their next games feature FCS teams, including Jacksonville State, Morehead State, Savannah State, N.C. Central and Old Dominion. Lamar, which will play the Panthers Nov. 6, is playing football for the first time since 1989. Campbell, which hosts Georgia State on Sept. 25, is in its third season of football and Old Dominion (Oct. 23) is in its second season.
And on Nov. 18, Georgia State will play Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

-- Unlike Charlotte, Georgia State has no plans to play beyond the NCAA Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) level. The Panthers will play as an FCS independent in 2011 before joining the Colonial Athletic Association in 2012.
Look for the 49ers and Panthers to be play each other regularly.

Georgia State’s 2010 schedule

Sept. 2: Shorter (Ga.)

Sept. 11: Lambuth (Tenn.)

Sept. 18: Jacksonville State

Sept. 25: at Campbell

Oct. 2: Morehead State

Oct. 9: Savannah State

Oct. 16: N.C. Central

Oct. 23: at Old Dominion

Oct. 30: at South Alabama

Nov. 6: Lamar

Nov. 18: at Alabama


Anonymous said...

Wow! Only 3187 season tickets sold?? And they have 1 month until kickoff. The 49ers have nearly 4000 sold and have 3 years until kickoff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article, it was good.
This University is depending on you to give us some good PR. A lot of your previous O coworkers have not done that, it is far overdue. We are depending on you. I look forward to the full article.
-Charlotte student

Stanton said...

I'd love to see you expand on this "lessons learned" theme and do articles on ODU, Campbell, Coastal Carolina, South Alabama and especially USF. Would love to hear Jim Leavitt's and Paul Griffin's (former USF AD) ideas and perspectives.

Keep up the good work. We Niner fans look forward to increased O coverage with the coming of football.

Anonymous said...

Awesome write up. Looking forward to more from ya!

Matt said...

Lessons I learned:
1. Hire a good coach

Georgia State and Charlotte have very little in common. As Stanton said, USF would be a much better comparison.

Also, try not to sound Anti-Charlotte Football.

Anonymous said...


You got it all wrong....GSU is much like USF, not Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Remember when this comment section would be littered with "they can't even fill up their basketball stadium".

Charlotte average 6156 fans per game, Georgia State . . . .. . . .1385

Anonymous said...

the previous post was in regards to basketball attendance for 2010.

(Source: )

Anonymous said...

Charlotte needs something to boost its school image. A lot retailers don't carry Charlotte sports products. What you see is a lot of ACC, East Carolina, and App State merchandise. Hopefully this will change some of that.

Anonymous said...

UNCC has a huge image problems. To most people it's still a school full of kids who couldn't get into any of the other state schools or transferred in after 2 years at CPCC. Fair or not, that's how the majority of people from Charlotte see it. I've still to meet a person who aspired to go to UNCC from a young age.

Anonymous said...

ODU is actually a much better comparison to Charlotte than GSU. They sold out their 20,000 seat stadium for every game last year and went 9-2 against a weak schedule, but better than the one GSU put together (minus Alabama). They have a nice on campus stadium where GSU is playing in the Dome. Would like to see an article on how the UNCC program can learn from the Monarchs start up experience.

Anonymous said...

10:58 poster..........give me a break, you need to get out more.

Anonymous said...

I've got an even better comparison you can do - UAB. They started in Division III in 1991, then moved to I-AA, then to I when they joined Conference USA. They play in Legion Field where Alabama used to play. They started with an unproven coach with a big name (Watson Brown, younger brother of Mack Brown). I would also like to see an in-depth comparison to ODU.

I'd like to see Charlotte in the CAA, not only in football but all sports. Yes, it's a step down from the A-10, but our basketball team would be to the CAA what Florida State was to the ACC in the '90s. At least we'd make the NCAAs every year.

Stanton said...

J, the CAA would be good for all our sports BUT basketball. There are enough good basketball teams in the CAA to make getting that conference's 1 NCAA tournament bid extremely difficult. Just look at the pounding the Niner took against ODU and you'll see that the CAA is no cake walk in Bball.

The UAB comaprison is extremely out of date (20 years). You can no longer start as DIII and we don't have U of Alabama's BoG telling us who we can and CAN'T have on our football staffs.

KMAC said...

Call me crazy, but after looking at a few colleges, I chose Charlotte, UNCC, UNC Charlotte, or whatever you want to call it now. I graduated in 1989, got a job locally, moved to their NYC headquarters, added an MBA from Seton Hall, and all told life has been pretty good. I know a few ACC grads who would love to have the career I have. The bottom line is college is what you make of it, what you do after that is up to you. 21 years later, if you are still relaying on your shingle from college you're no better than a high school jock reminiscing about the 5 TD's he scored against East Side High. Go Niners!!!

Anonymous said...

I turned down unc-ch and unc-r to attend Charlotte.

Haven't looked back and now make triple digits.

Anonymous said...

I transferred here and love it. I wish I had started here, but I knew nothing about this school even trying to research it I still thought man what a krap school. Now I love this place and wouldn't want to graduate from anywhere else!....Go Niners!

Anonymous said...

I think ODU is a better comparison to the 49ers. They have sold out their 14,500 season tickets. School about the same size, has good basketball programs both men's & women's and seems to be heading in the same direction as Charlotte. I also think the CAA has more schools that are similar to Charlotte, being large state schools in large cities. That's a plus with the CAA schools in larger cities, it gives the 49ers another footprint for DC, Norfolk-Va Beach, Richmond, Baltimore, Boston, Atlanta. But in reality when starting a new programs, you need to take notes from who ever you can.