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Kennesaw State Holds a Football Celebration

"We're here to stay, we're here to play," Owls athletic director Vaughn Williams said at Thursday's official festivities.

After offering the obligatory "Are you ready for some football?" exhortation, Kennesaw State University President Daniel Papp posed another question during a celebratory Thursday afternoon, and he had no intention of making it a rhetorical one.

"Why are we adding football?" he asked during the official launch of the school's varsity football program.

"We are a major university in the South."

"And we are on the way to becoming a major national university as well."

With that, one of many choruses of cheers rang out from several hundred revelers at the KSU Convocation Center.

Not only is Kennesaw State getting a football program, but it wants to use that high-profile sport to expose the school's academic and extracurricular offerings far beyond Cobb County, metro Atlanta and north Georgia.

After more than eight years of planning by KSU, the Georgia Board of Regents made football a reality on Wednesday, approving a funding scheme that calls for a $100-per student fee per semester for football and multiple women's sports required under federal Title IX mandates.

KSU also unveiled an corporate sponsor during Thursday's celebration, announcing that Fifth Third Bank will have naming rights to the current KSU soccer stadium that will the venue for football, and to pay for other athletics expenses.

The Fifth Third Bank sponsorship deal is worth an estimated $5 million.

KSU athletics director Vaughn Williams told Patch that getting a corporate sponsor on board was crucial to securing regents' approval.

"We can't go downtown without Fifth Third Bank," he said.

KSU's football exploratory committee was led by retired UGA coach and athletics director Vince Dooley, who was on hand Thursday. When a media questioner asked Williams if he was considering hiring the legendary Bulldogs figure, Dooley deadpanned, "I'm here to help, not to handicap."

While Williams said that a search for the school's first head football coach will begin immediately for the Owls' inaugural season in 2015, Papp was frank about his desire for the university to develop a broader public footprint.

With nearly 25,000 students, KSU is the third-largest university in Georgia, trailing only the University of Georgia and Georgia State University.

The university boasts 80 degree programs, including five at the doctoral level, in nine colleges. In the midst of a college football-crazed part of the country, adding the sport will give greater name recognition to KSU and "add to the value of a degree," Papp said.

"In my time here, we have added six degree programs," said Papp, who is in his seventh year on the job. "But you haven't heard that much about them."

Kennesaw State will play in the Football Championship Subdivision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the same level of competition as Georgia State, which began football in 2010.

But it's a level of football that does not produce revenues, unlike Georgia and Georgia Tech, which compete in conferences with lucrative national television contracts. Papp said KSU consulted Old Dominion University in Virginia, the University of South Alabama and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which have added or are about to add football, as it was developing its financial plan.

He said that between the student fees and the Fifth Third Bank sponsorship, KSU anticipates having nearly $3 million in athletic reserve funding toward the end of the decade.

But while plenty more numbers are to be crunched and as Williams and his athletics staff ramp up the football start-up, local officials are beaming.

Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, who was at the celebration with several city council members, said he can't wait for the first football homecoming parade to march through his town.

"It's just another great addition to the community," he said.

John February 15, 2013 at 02:40 PM
Having served as Alumni president for two years, a few years back I am solidly behind what Dr Papp and Coach Dooley had been able to build s far. Its a great day and being at the celebration was another rung in the ladder of continued success that has been a trademark of the school. GO OWLS.
Mel White February 15, 2013 at 05:05 PM
University system schools have had to cut their budgets, tuition has gone up..but there's always money for football! Don't tell me this isn't going to cost the taxpayers anything; it will. Scholarships, traffic control on game days..these things cost money. As for recruiting after dealing with the football worship at UGA as an undergrad, I chose to do postgraduate studies at an accredited nonfootball school--in another state, of course.
Davis McCollum February 16, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Now go hire local D-1 Coach Andy McCollum and lets get rolling!

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