Dooley leading Kennesaw State football quest

Kennesaw State's quest to start a football program is being pulled in two directions by opposing forces: the desire of the student body, alumni and surrounding area vs. the realities of the recession.

The enthusiasm is easy to gauge. Whenever KSU President Daniel Papp makes a speech or delivers a presentation, one question follows:

"Every meeting I go to, every presentation . . . question 1, 2 or 3 will be, ‘When are you starting football?' And I refer them to Coach Dooley."

That would be former University of Georgia coach and athletics director Vince Dooley, chairman of the 33-member Football Exploratory Committee that will formally gauge support for a program at KSU. Launched in December and comprised of students, faculty, staff, alumni, business and community leaders as well as friends and benefactors of KSU, the committee will make a final recommendation to Papp in September.

Papp, president of KSU since 2006, has lived "within 15 miles of KSU ever since I came to Georgia in 1973," he said. "Without a doubt, the level of interest among the community for having a football team is tremendous. There are many questions that have to be answered.

The next question? "Obviously, funding," he said.

The recession has led to cutbacks in government services, including vast cuts in university budgets throughout the state and a drop in charitable contributions.

Therein lies the rub. All the desire in the area -- nearly 90 percent of students stated that they wanted football and two-thirds of those said they'd support an increase in student fees to fund a program -- doesn't mean much if the necessary money isn't available.

That's where Dooley is front and center. He has vast experience in running a football program from his years at Georgia. He watched as friend and former defensive coordinator Erk Russell oversaw construction of a successful football program at Georgia Southern. And as AD for the Bulldogs, raising money was one of his major duties. He will be the point man for the fundraising effort for KSU.

Dooley has maintained his connections throughout the college coaching community, especially in downtown Atlanta, where his old coaching foe and friend, Bill Curry, is building a program at Georgia State.

"I spent about an hour with Bill Curry and, of course, we've known each other for a long period of time," Dooley said. "He was very open and I got some good feedback with him. I also spent time with [Georgia State AD] Cheryl Levick. She came in after Coach Curry was hired. She is a well respected AD in the industry and shared some of the challenges and plans. They have been very beneficial to me.

"I also talked to three or four or five schools that are in the same type of status: They've started, are going to start or are exploring starting a football program, to get a broad prospective. And our AD right here is Dr. Dave Waples, who has been at Valdosta State."

Waples was an assistant at Valdosta when the program was begun there in 1982.

One problemmany football start-ups face has a ready solution at KSU: the existence of an on-campus stadium. The Owls recently built an 8,300-seat stadium for soccer, which also could accommodate a football field. (The women's professional soccer team, the Atlanta Beat, plays its home games there.)

Said Papp, "The next stage, we could go with temporary seating [to] about 15,000 and we have built the requisite infrastructure so that over time, it could conceivably expand to 22,000."

Dooley is in the exploratory stage.

"The really inner work going on right now is about the four subcommittees we established," Dooley said. "They have been doing the spade work, the ground work, the trench work. The first is basically responsible for asking, what is the cost? Secondly, after finding out the the cost, how will it be funded? The third is, what are the broader consequences? ... What effect will it have on Title IX? And the fourth, if its determined not to be in the best interest to start now, what are the alternatives if we can't do it?"

Dooley has spent time acquainting himself with the area and the community surrounding KSU.

"It has been a wonderful experience in the short period of time to learn about Kennesaw State, Cobb County," Dooley said. "At least (with the people) I have talked to, there seems to be a lot of interest, at least from the standpoint of the study."

Papp said he has learned at least one thing from the experience.

"I thought I had handle on how complex would be to start a football program," he said. "But after listening to Coach Dooley, the committees, I discovered how even more complex it would be."