Here is Part I of a three-part Q&A with Georgia State football coach Bill Curry.
I will post part II in the morning. Part III will go up on Wednesday.
Q: With the discipline issues the team has experienced the past two years, are you surprised that you are still having to dismiss players, that lessons haven’t been learned?
A: Yes. I’m disappointed, bitterly disappointed and very surprised. Having been in established programs before, we all understand that there are moments when dismissal becomes necessary. But they were few and far between. This run of this kind of behavior is really disappointing.
Q: Do you chalk the issues up to immaturity or players trying to take advantage of the coaching staff and the rules?
A: Well, we work on it daily. We reiterate what our stands are daily. We have a code of honor when it comes to academic dishonesty and yet we’ve had some student-athletes who thought it was OK to have a shot at being academically dishonest. I’ve had to drop people for that.
We have very strict standards for what we do in the public and how we relate to people that are not student-athletes who might have a certain perception of us and how we are supposed to respond. If someone has snide remarks to say we give very specific instructions what to respond.
We don’t look down our nose at anybody because of race, creed, religion or gender preference. We work on that constantly. To have a few of the guys blatantly disregard all of that is really disappointing. It’s become clear that, thought I detest it with all my heart, dismissing players has become necessary and that it will get their attention. I don’t want to do that.
I didn’t want to do that with us with scarce numbers … I’ve been more likely to give a guy more chances than I have in the past but I’ve had to stop doing that. I regret that. At the time I felt like it was the wisest thing to do.
We’ve disciplined people who broke the rules but we didn’t drop them. Now we are finding that we have to dismiss them more quickly than we have been.
If I had to do it over again I would do the same thing I did because I would have thought it would have worked and I would do it better.
But you asked me if I’m disappointed. I’m bitterly disappointed.
Q: Now that you have had some time to mull the Sun Belt, what are your thoughts on that two weeks after the news officially broke?
A: It just happened so much faster than I thought it would. I knew at some point Georgia State would move up because of the will of our leadership. Our president and athletic director understand that we are an institution close to 32,000 strong in the media market that Atlanta is in the middle of almost 6 million people, a few blocks from CNN, the universal conduit to the world, with the outstanding coverage, and I mean this sincerely, we’ve been given from the AJC, the local stations and frankly the national media. It’s been heartwarming that we’ve gotten all this attention when our performance in my view didn’t merit that kind of attention.
The cooperation from high school coaches around the state … high school coaches can’t send you players but they can keep you from getting players. They can tell them, “You don’t want to go there.” We’ve been welcome because they believe in the way we do things and we believe in the excellence of high school coaches. My point is, in all of that, I knew Georgia State would move up but I thought we would have to get in the CAA and really, really grow in order to compete in that very demanding league. And then years from now, six years from now or something, maybe get a shot. Because of the seismic shifts that we’ve experienced in the last two years things began to move so fast and conferences began to blur and move.
It’s like the class merger-and-acquisition life in corporate America. There are times of extreme interest, the down times and super-high times when things happen. These are the super-high times in intercollegiate football. So in the middle of all this I don’t think it’s going to stop but I do think it’s going to slow down.
If Dr. Becker and Cheryl Levick did not have the wherewithal to conduct the study, jump in with both feet and communicate well with the various opportunities I don’t think it would have happened.
I would have loved for this program to have had at least five more years to prepare for this, but we aren’t going to get that so we have to hustle.
I’m thrilled on the one hand and would love to be better prepared on the other.
Q: I know that you aren’t making your decision on your future until after the season is over (Curry nods). If we can assume for the moment that you will still be coach, with the 22 extra scholarships that are coming, would you imagine using them all at once or will you sprinkle them out to balance the classes as you go?
A: There’s not a rubber-stamp template. We don’t know how many we will have for next year. You don’t learn anything until you go through the application process with the NCAA. When that happens, I’m told that, because we have two people that have been through this — Coach Pugh went through it at UAB and Ben Pollard at Texas State – (we’ll learn) how many of the NCAA rules changes will affect us. We will find that out. How many additional grants-in-aids we get, we’ll find out. We don’t know yet.
There’s another complication. We have a number of student-athletes that are on half-grants. FBS only has full grants. A decision will have to be made for those guys. If they continue to earn their way they will go to full aid. If they are trouble-makers or are unproductive in the classroom or on the field then someone else will receive that full grant-in-aid.
Q: There’s also a coaching staff size difference.
A: FBS coaching staffs are also one less.
Q: What surprised you most about spring practice?
A: I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the defensive intensity. I thought that would happen. I knew we were embarrassed coming out of last year. I knew that Anthony Midget has a certain capacity to, how do you say, energize people. I love that enthusiasm. That’s not to say JT [former defensive coordinator John Thompson] didn’t have enthusiasm. He certainly did. Anthony’s younger and has a different way of expressing it. The guys responded to that, I think.
Somebody needed to come through to show that he could throw the ball to the right place and get us into the right play and learn the system and Ben McLane did it. That doesn’t mean the other guys won’t. He just did it quickly.
Q: I imagine that you didn’t go into spring practice with the belief that Ben McLane was going to be the starter coming out of the spring.
A: We didn’t go in with any belief. You try hard to go into spring practice giving everybody a chance. It’s the simplest thing we told our quarterbacks: “We want to know who is going to memorize the system, who can learn the new up-tempo things we are doing immediately, convey it to people on the field, make the read, do the check-offs, if you see something strange turn and look to the sideline knowing that we can call it from the booth, make the change, take the snap, get the ball and throw it to the right place at least 70 percent of the time.” Ben did it. He just did it.
I wasn’t surprised. The other coaches might have been. You’d have to ask JB [offensive coordinator John Bond]. I watched him a lot in high school. He’s a coach’s kid. He was on a team that was not real good his sophomore year, got better his junior year and won it all in the Dome his senior year by scoring a lot of points in [Class] 5A football. Even though they are a traditional power they didn’t come from a traditional power.
Anybody that does that at the upper levels of Georgia high school football is a real leader. He’s a superb student. He doesn’t ever miss class. He doesn’t walk into meetings late. He’s always prepared.
I asked him one day, he threw him an interception and I was standing back behind the huddle, I asked him, “Do you know who I hiked the ball to?”
He said, “Yes coach, I do.”
I said, “What do you think they did when they threw an interception?”
He said, “I don’t know. What?”
I said, “Nothing. They acted like it was an accident and that there will never be another one. Now get back in the huddle and play.”
When you start to say stuff like that to people do their eyes light up? Do they respond?
He did. He responded. He wasn’t intimidated.
It was a rock ’em, sock ’em, knock-down, drag-out spring. We had 52 guys who made 15 practices. They wear T-shirts now that say “I hit for 15” on the back. He’s got one. That’s hard to do in spring practice. Even really good players had to miss some because of injuries because you get hurt. There were some really good players who were not injured but were in pain who came out. Ben was one of them.
So, he shows up in the weight room, pumps iron. He’s the leader that he hoped he would become.
The only thing that surprised me was his accuracy was as good as it is. I thought it would be OK. I give credit to him and to Bond for that.
Q: I didn’t get to see him throw too many deep balls at the spring game. He threw one that was dropped and one that he misthrew. How is his touch? You’ve got a lot of speed at wide receivers with Albert Wilson, Danny Williams and those guys.
A: He’s got nice touch but he’s going to have to get better. His arm is plenty strong. We threw an awful lot of deep balls. That was one of the reasons. Deep ball doesn’t mean you throw it 80 yards. It means you throw it 52 yards with a great accuracy and the right trajectory.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu. We are on the verge of surpassing 1K followers.