Kennesaw State launches football program; will begin play in 2015
KENNESAW, Ga. – “It’s Our Time.”
Those words represent the tagline for Kennesaw State football after University officials announced that the Owls will open their first season of play in 2015 and play home games at newly renamed Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Kennesaw State president Dr. Dan Papp made that announcement during a press conference before more than 1,000 students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters at the KSU Convocation Center on Thursday. The long-awaited announcement came after the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved KSU’s feasibility and business plan at its February meeting on Wednesday.
“Are you ready for some football?” Papp asked an enthusiastic crowd as he began his opening remarks. “We are a major university in the south. Without football, it is hard to be a major university in the south and we are well on our way toward becoming a national university.”
Papp outlined the process that began when a 33-member exploratory committee, chaired by legendary former Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley, was formed in 2009 to study the feasibility of adding football.
Once it was determined that football would be beneficial to the university and enhance the student experience, three milestones -– obtaining student support by approving a student fee increase, securing the support of a financial donor, and having its business plan approved by the Board of Regents -- needed to be achieved.
The BOR approved the plan on Wednesday.
That major donor came from Fifth Third Bank, who agreed to a multi-year sponsorship agreement with KSU that will provide significant support for the start of the football program, as well as improvements to KSU Stadium and other athletics programs and facilities.
Highlights of the agreement include Fifth Third Bank becoming the “Official Bank of Kennesaw State Athletics” and the renaming of KSU Stadium to Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
“This is an exciting time for us to come in and be a part of the university,” Randolph Koporc, EVP, President of Fifth Third Bank Georgia, said. “Imagine standing at Fifth Third Bank Stadium with your friends and family on Saturday afternoons, black and gold colors around the stadium.
“Students here at KSU are in an enviable position,” Koporc added. “They get to say, ‘I was there when we signed our first football coach. I was there when we first ran out of the tunnel’.”
Gaining student support also was a key element in the process, and three former Student Government Association (SGA) presidents, as well as current president Rosalyn Hedgepeth, were on hand at the press conference. They were closely involved in the process and were enthusiastic supporters as representatives of the student body and in its desire to have football be part of their college experience.
“There is nothing like the unity and spirit that college football can bring,” Hedgepeth said. “In addition to bringing financial help, it will bring a sense of pride and value to our university and degrees. I’m excited about football and cannot wait to attend. Go Owls!”
Kennesaw State Director of Athletics Vaughn Williams, who assumed his position in May of 2011, played an integral role in the process and, through his stewardship of the Department of Athletics, aided the University’s efforts in making Thursday’s announcement possible.
“Come on, let’s go! We did it!” Williams said as he began his remarks. “What a great day this is and I can’t tell you how happy I am for this institution.
“I want to thank the best president in the state system, Dr. Daniel Papp,” Williams added. “I just feel very honored to work with the cabinet and the presidents. I want to thank the students, without them, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Williams went on to talk about what will follow as work begins in preparation for that first game in Aug. 2015.
“A lot of things need to be done, but where do we go from here? The future will start in 2015,” Williams said. “We will field a team and we will have a marching band. We will find a conference, or a conference will find us.
“The search for a football coach will start immediately,” Williams added. “We will need to find someone to lead us onto the field.”