KSU football plan approved, hopes to field team in 2015

A timeline of Kennesaw State football:

  • Sept 2008, Aug. 2009: Board of Regents briefed on KSU Sports and Recreation Park, including possibility of football
  • Dec. 2009: KSU puts together a football exploratory committee led by Vince Dooley
  • Sept. 2010: Committee recommends adding football
  • Nov. 2010: Student referendum supports football
  • Oct. 2012: Student Fee Committee supports fee increase of $100 per semester 10-1
  • Dec. 2012: Board of Regents declines to add Kennesaw State to the agenda
  • Jan. 2013: Board of Regents subcommittee asks for more information
  • Jan. 25, 2013: Subcommittee meets with KSU to review financing plan
  • Feb. 13, 2013: Board of Regents approves KSU football plan

Kennesaw State has its football program.

The Board of Regents approved the university’s financial plan to support football and other Title IX initiatives on Wednesday, fulfilling a dream that began in 2008. KSU hopes to play as possibly as early as 2014, but more than likely will start in 2015.

Sitting slightly away from the Regents, KSU President Dan Papp pumped his arms and athletic director Vaughn Williams exhaled noticeably after the unanimous vote.

"It’s absolutely memorable," Papp said.

The Regents approved an increase in student fees of $100 per semester that will begin in the Fall semester. The increase will bring the total earmarked to athletics at KSU to $252 per semester. The fee increase was supported by a 55.5-percent vote of KSU students with more than 7,000 participating in 2010 and reaffirmed by the student fee committee in Oct. 2012 and again by the student government association in January. Multiplied by the university enrollment, which is nearing 24,500, the increase is expected to produce as much as $4.8 million in revenue in its first year.

In documents to the Board of Regents, the university detailed that it also has a sponsorship for $5 million over 10 years. That sponsor will be officially named on Thursday along with a timeline for hiring a coach. KSU also reported eight letters of intent for suite rentals at KSU Stadium for $35,000 each for a total of $280,000 in its first year, as well as a letter from the KSU foundation promising support of $200,000 annually.

From these sources, KSU projects revenues starting in the 2014 fiscal year of $5.7 million and increasing to $8 million by the 2018 fiscal year. It projects expenses of $4.2 million in 2014 increasing to $7.6 million in 2018. The projections would result in a five-year reserve of $2.8 million.

Should these projections prove too optimistic, KSU also produced a financial report with reduced expenses that resulted in a five-year reserve of $2.1 million.

Papp said that there was some concern raised by students about increasing fees, particularly as education costs have increased. But he noted that after this approved increase there are still seven state schools that have higher fees than KSU.

Papp said adding football is about more than just game-day experiences. He said the addition will raise the profile of the university and add values to degrees, using examples of how when he worked at Georgia Tech, whenever we went somewhere to ask about fundraising he was usually first queried about the football team’s potential.

“It’s simply a tremendous way to increase the visibility of the university,” Papp said.

After raising the possibility of football in 2008, KSU announced in Sept. 2010 that, after a committee chaired by former Georgia coach Vince Dooley spent 10 months examining the possibility, it was going to move ahead in hopes of adding football by 2014.

It was a tough task.

The Regents declined to add Kennesaw State to its December agenda. KSU’s plan was heard by a subcommittee in January that asked for more information, delaying the start of a team by another month.

Members of a committee focused on KSU met with Papp to go over the revenue projections. During that Jan. 25 visit, the Regents also gave opportunities for anyone concerned about football to voice their thoughts. The committee met with 12 people who had questions.

In its final report to the Board of Regents, the committee found that the financial plan “is sound and is anticipated to bring benefits” to KSU. It also noted the primary uses of the fee increases “to be reasonable, necessary and supportable expenses.”

Papp said the delay didn’t affect anything going forward and that he wasn’t surprised that it took five years from the beginning of the dream until final approval.

“We had a very, very orderly set of things that we had to do,” Papp said. “As we passed each milestone we moved on to the next one. This is the final milestone. We are very excited by this.”

There is still work to be done. Papp and Williams need to hire a coach and find a conference. The Atlantic Sun, KSU’s home for its other sports, doesn’t sponsor football. Three FCS conferences -- Southern, Big South and Ohio Valley -- would make geographic sense. Williams, whom Papp said will lead both searches, said he just wants to find a home for football and wouldn’t rule out playing the sport in one conference and remaining in the Atlantic Sun for the other sports.

The team will play at the KSU Stadium, which seats slightly more than 8,000. KSU is considering a renovation to the suites on the West side of the stadium. The stadium was constructed with the addition of football as a possibility.

The team will likely practice in a field adjacent to the stadium, which is on the east side of I-75. Most of the campus is on the west side.

With the addition as many as 63 scholarships for football on the FCS level, to remain Title IX compliant KSU has added women's lacrosse and said it will be fully funded to 12 scholarships between 2014-16. It will also fully fund women's track and field and cross country to 18 scholarships by 2014.