It’s time to adjust our thinking about Georgia State

A tall, thin blonde woman walks into the room and men look up. Hey, it happens.

But when a thin blonde woman walked into the room the other day, Bill Curry wasn’t in a restaurant or a nightclub. He was in an administration building at Georgia State, and the old football coach realized he might be looking at his next boss.

“I sat in this room, and here comes this lovely sophisticated lady,” Curry said. “She wasn’t my stereotypical idea of an A.D. I read her resume and it was impressive. But I was skeptical. We’re all victims of our own prejudices. I’m married to a blonde scholar. She’s a great mom, but I don’t think she ought to be an A.D.”

Cheryl Levick must’ve broken the stereotype in a one-hour interview because she won over Curry. Her next challenge will be more difficult: breaking the stereotype of Georgia State.

She is Georgia State’s new athletic director. My guess is that few people even realized Georgia State had an athletic director until Mary McElroy announced that the school was launching a football program and hired Curry. Most thought it a monumental achievement, but the outgoing president, Carl Patton, was so impressed that he fired her.

Billy Curry admits his thinking was a little old school until he met his new boss. (But I wonder how her hiring would've gone over at Alabama?)

Billy Curry admits his thinking was a bit old school until he met his new boss. (But it's safe to say her hiring would not have gone over as well at one of Curry's previous stops, Alabama.)

One of the problems facing Levick — aside from trying to fund-raise at a time when nobody has funds to raise — is getting us to see Georgia State as relevant in athletics.

Basketball teams are easier and cheaper to grow, but the Panthers have never even managed a footprint in that sport. So how can we expect the school to get on our consciousness in Division I football, especially in the shadows of Georgia (from afar) and Tech (from next door)?

Curry believes State’s impact can be “huge.” It’s what you would expect him to say. He just recruited his first class for a team that won’t begin play until the fall of 2010.

“I don’t think anybody should expect some magical creation right away,” he said. “We are not an NFL franchise. We don’t have $500 million to build a stadium and lavish facilities. We’re an educational institution and things are built much more slowly.”

Cheryl Levick, the new Georgia State athletic director, did not take the job thinking the Panthers are going to be a doormat.

Cheryl Levick, the new Georgia State athletic director, did not take the job thinking the Panthers are going to be a doormat.

It’s a worthy goal. If it works, and the area suddenly has a third player in major college sports, it would be a significant boost for the market. Mark Becker, the new GSU president, has passed through Penn State, Michigan and Florida during his academic and administrative career, so he understands the potential impact of athletics. He talks about how George Mason’s basketball program raised that school’s visibility. But Levick is thinking even bigger.

“I don’t know if there’s a parallel [situation] for us, but we’ll probably take a look at several schools,” she said. “I want to look at Cincinnati, Houston, Pitt. We need to look at what they’ve done and where they’re going. But we will shape our own self — and we will be Atlanta’s college football team.”

Lovely. Early smack talk.

She won the press conference after she won over Curry. He is accustomed to meeting with aspiring coaches and administrators. He admits sometimes, “I want to run out of the room.”

But he said of Levick: “She has a business plan. She talked about needing this many dollars and this many moving parts. She loves fundraising. She understands football and the relationship it has with other sports. She wants to meet with every recruit for every sport. Do you know what that will do for the moms?”

Probably win them over, too.

51 comments Add your comment

David

February 26th, 2009
2:10 pm

Thank you, Jeff, for talking about Georgia State. I love the direction the school is taking in athletics. In fact, I already have my season tickets for our first football season. My wife and I are looking forward to great things. Go Panthers!

Too Easy

February 26th, 2009
2:36 pm

“Atlanta’s college football team”. I like it. Hope she succeeds. Don’t see much competition.

Rabun Dawg

February 26th, 2009
4:12 pm

I know that GSU plays in I-A in the sports that they currently have, will football also be started up in the higher classification? And, where will the home games be played? The state certainly has enough good players to go around, so I trust that Curry can get his share of the talent as well. Tech, UGA, and the other majors can’t get all of them, and I think UAB has recruited well in Georgia in the past. Time to keep those guys at “home”, so good luck to the Panthers!!

Rabun Dawg

February 26th, 2009
4:18 pm

Sorry, I just re-read Jeff’s article, and he does state that GSU will play in D-1. My bad!

leland

February 26th, 2009
4:22 pm

Dear Mr. JS–it’s great that GSU is getting a football team. They need it real bad. Until they get a practice field, they can practice across the street in that park with all the tulips. Hurt park, I think. If they haven’t selected a nickname yet, I suggest the Georgia State Stanch. Or how ’bout Georgia State Stance, or Standpoint. Georgia State Conjunctions. Your pal, Leland

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2009
4:42 pm

David: Thanks. … Too Easy: State’s schedule the first two seasons likely will be a hodge-podge, maybe some 1-AA and D-2 teams, even. But nothing’s been set yet. … Rabun, Leland: the Panthers will play home games at the Georgia Dome. They’re also building a practice facility within walking distance of campus, though they haven’t broken ground yet (they’re taking over a warehouse). JS

Big B CH 99

February 26th, 2009
5:15 pm

State should try to schedule their first ever game as a home game vs. GA Southern. Although State wouldn’t stand a chance in that one, it would be interesting ,b/c Southern will bring fans, they bring fans to UGA, & would to Tech as well if they ever play.

Although the AJC never mentions them, GA Southern historically has the best college football program in the State of GA. 6 NC’s (most of any I-AA school in the country) compared to 4 for Tech, & 1 for UGA. And Southern has only been playing for a little over 20 years.

BugKiller

February 26th, 2009
5:28 pm

Jeff, because GSU is has been trying to it’s image for years, first from a night school, to a commuter school, and now a full-fledged school with dorms and student facilities and such, I wonder if it isn’t time they take advantage of their metropolitan location and change their name.

Think: Atlanta University.

Seriously, name changes can work even better than uniform changes, or new coaches, or what-have-you.

In a state that already has a University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and a Georgia Southern, I think Georgia State needs to re-brand itself by associating itself with the great city it is located in.

Atlanta University sounds much better than Georgia State. All major cities with urban universities have the university named after the city.

New York University, University of Chicago, San Francisco University, University of Miami.

So maybe it needs to become Atlanta University or the University of Atlanta.

Chris

February 26th, 2009
5:31 pm

With the hope scholarship driving up demand for state schools well beyond supply and with a D-1 football program, in the next 10 to 20 years, Georgia State will go from being an afterthought to a genuine option for serious college students.

Ted Striker

February 26th, 2009
6:08 pm

Big B: I agree that a game with Ga Southern would be excellent for State. That said, there’s limited incentive for Southern to make it happen. Financially, State doesn’t bring much to the table. More importantly, ‘legitimizing’ State by playing them early could impact Southern’s own in-state recruiting. State’s recruiting targets could include some who are targets of Georgia Southern — and other D-I’s South Conference (SoCon) schools who play football. All of those schools carried Georgia players on their rosters in 2008: Ga Southern, Appalachian State, UTC, Citadel, Davidson, Furman, Elon, Samford, Wofford and Western Carolina.

Marshall

February 26th, 2009
6:08 pm

That comment by the reporter about Alabama (in the caption) has NOTHING to do with the story. Hell, it wouldn’t have gone over well at UGA, UF, AU, UT, USC, ND, OSU, UM, WVU, FSU, OU, aTm, PSU……

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2009
6:32 pm

Big B: It’ll be interesting to see who the first game is against. Southern would be good. But why not Tech? Yeah, they’ll get killed, but the game will get attention and they’ll get a great gate for it. …. BugKiller: I’ve got a better idea. How about UGA (University of Georgia at Atanta). And think of how well that will go over in Athens!!! Or not. …. Chris, I agree. The hope obviously has driven enrollment (and academic standards) upward at every state school. It can only have a ripple effect in athletics. …. Marshall: The photo caption referenced Alabama because Curry is wearing an Alabama hat — it’s obviously from when he coached at Alabama. It wouldn’t have made sense to use Florida or Auburn or anybody else as an example. … JS

Forrest Gump

February 26th, 2009
6:41 pm

Curry was a big hit at Alabama.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2009
6:44 pm

That’s right, Gumper. Didn’t you play for him? …. I’m sure all of those disgruntled Alabama fans would tell you, “Picking a coach is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get.” Or something like that.

Ben

February 26th, 2009
7:08 pm

I feel like the next move is a change of conference. I believe Mr. Schultz has written on just such a topic. GSU’s big rival in CAA is going to be…Delaware, Hofstra, or VCU? Ummm, no. No real rivalry there. We (I’m a GSU grad) need to be in CUSA to play Memphis, Southern Miss, Tulane, and Rice. Those schools would be great competition, and could make for better fan travel as well.

Marshall

February 26th, 2009
7:22 pm

You and everyone else knows it was a cheap shot that had NOTHING to do with the story. Cheap shot.

who cares

February 26th, 2009
8:16 pm

I predict after the first terrible season interest will quickly fade…. and they will draw about the same # of fans as the local WNBA team. Bad timing trying to launch a program in this economy!
And in a city that has ALOT more to offer than just football on a saturday night. Dont they know Ga state is a commuter school?
Shouldnt they give scholarships to the SMART kids instead of rewarding more egotistical meat heads with the average IQ of a 8th grader?

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2009
8:17 pm

Can anybody out there tell me why Alabama fans are so hypersensitive?

Ted Striker

February 26th, 2009
8:30 pm

Marshall: Who is this ‘everyone’ you’re talking about Kemo Sabe? I didn’t think it was a cheap shot. I thought it was highly relevant in a story about Bill Curry. Granted I don’t understand a fan base who justifies tossing a brick through a coach’s window after a 10-1 start….

PTC DAWG

February 26th, 2009
8:31 pm

Losing to Utah will get on your nerves. My few Bama friends still cringe when I mention football to them. :)

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2009
8:45 pm

Oh, I can see this is going to be good. We’re off to a GREAT start. Excuse me. I’m going to go get some popcorn and I’ll be right back.

EP Sports Fan

February 26th, 2009
8:53 pm

I do recall The Panthers making more than a mere footprint in hoops during the final 2 seasons of Lefty Driesell’s reign. The 2001 team, featuring Shernard Long, Thomas Terrell, Kevin Morris and Darryl Cooper, reached the 2nd round of the NCAA Tourney by defeating Wisconsin in Boise,ID before bowing out to a talented Maryland squad. The 2002 team reached the NIT after losing the conference tourney by a point in the last second. GSU also defeated a 15th ranked St. Joe’s team that featured Delonte West and Jameer Nelson in their starting line up. More impressive were The Panthers back to back wins over NCAA bound UGA….GSU 91 UGA 79 in November of 2000 and an 83-78 win over the Dawgs in the Dome in December 2001….Mark Bradley remembers! Long live Lefty!!!

Dan Dawg

February 26th, 2009
9:05 pm

Jeff doesn’t know the difference between major college football and the division Georgia State will play on. He is a bush league writer for a bush legue newpaper. However, with that said, I do wish Georgia State and Coach Curry the best in this new endevor.

Dan Dawg

February 26th, 2009
9:19 pm

Jeff, since when did Georgia state decide to play in the same division as UGA and Tech? This must be fact because you stated there will be 3 major players in the state when GSU starts their football program in 2010. Are you a bush league reporter writing for a bush leagus newspaper? owever, I wish the best to GSU and Coach Curry.

Mediator

February 26th, 2009
9:58 pm

What’s the complete story on McElroy? You touched on the subject very lightly, with the out-going President firing her. She must have been a big thorn in the old president’s side to get fired on his last day to retire. McElroy brought some big names to Georgia State…Curry…Reeves…Georgia Dome. What’s the real deal Jeff S.??? Football Fans want to know.

Ben

February 26th, 2009
10:10 pm

McElroy was apparently verbally abusive to GSU athletic staff members. It is assumed that Patton did it before he left so that he could take the heat. The new President could start with a hire, not a fire.

http://media.www.gsusignal.com/media/storage/paper924/news/2009/01/27/News/Fired.Ad.Mcelroy.Files.Appeal.With.Board.Of.Regents-3601149.shtml

Too Easy

February 27th, 2009
8:21 am

Jeff: You misread my intentions regarding Georgia State’s ‘competition’ in becoming ‘Atlanta’s college football team’. I wasn’t referring to the teams they would play. They may not fill up the Dome, but I see at least as many as attend North Ave. on non-UGA or non-Clemson Saturdays.

bull-gator

February 27th, 2009
8:38 am

A very good start for Ga State with Bill Curry. Time will tell about the new AD. She needs to build the program using the Univ of South Florida template, not Cincinnati, Houston or Pitt. Where did she come up with that idea? Does she know anything about college football? By that remark, it sounds as if she doesn’t. Also, need to change the panther logo…looks like the pink panther dressed in blue, not impressive or intimidating, looks like a cartoon character.

Red Clay Hound

February 27th, 2009
9:42 am

Jeff, is the picture of Levick your hottie for the week? Come on man. Your falling down on the job.

Jeff Schultz

February 27th, 2009
10:02 am

EP Sports: I remember Lefty’s years. But I define having a footprint as something more long-term than a couple of years, and I don’t think the University or the student body ever was fully committed (as Lefty probably would tell you). … Dan Dawg: grow up. … Mediator/Ben: We’ve written stories on Mary McElroy’s firing and the aftermath, and some alluded to difficulties she had dealing with people. But honestly I find the whole thing pretty suspicious and it seemed particularly odd that Patton was allowed to take her down with him as he was walking out the door. …. Red Clay: Hotties of the week come in the Tuesday Countdown (but come on, Cheryl Levick’s a pretty lady). … JS

EBMizzou

February 27th, 2009
11:19 am

why wouldn’t they start out playing at Grady? Or the old Clark U. stadium? Somewhere they can fill and make some noise instead of a venue that will be a cavern.

Mac

February 27th, 2009
11:49 am

Levick qualifies as a hottie to an old guy like me. In fact, when I was a 20-something in Sandy Springs in the 80s, I used to let cougars like that catch me all the time. Rowrr.

rhynster

February 27th, 2009
1:31 pm

I already have my season tickets. Don’t care who we play.

I would expect that Conference USA would be the long term vision, but that’s a long way away and the landscape will change many times before State makes the the jump to the FBS.

And anyone who says they should change their name to Atlanta University is completely unaware of how long Georgia State has been around and how many people have diplomas with that name on it.

Atlanta University? Har!

Oh, BTW, our new AD is hawt!!! What other schools can say that?!?!?

Pol Pot's ghost

February 27th, 2009
3:33 pm

The number of posts on this blog illustrate how steep a hill Georgia State has to climb. You’d be surprised how many people in this state have never heard of the school. I never had heard of it until my senior year of high school and it was time to look at colleges. Didn’t go there, choosing Georgia Southern instead.

rhynster

February 27th, 2009
7:18 pm

No one had ever heard of Georgia Southern before they had a football team, either.

Bobby Sox

February 27th, 2009
8:22 pm

Has anyone else noticed how many class act d-list babes are coming out of the spandex-yoga revolution of the nineties, man? One of the best was Tipper Gore, but then came Palin. Now dig this chick Levick. I be a lookin’, and I be a likin’. And they’re in their forties and fifties! Better, they’ve all gone Full Marharishi…….. (if’n U know what I be intimating 2U this day)……..

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

February 27th, 2009
10:11 pm

Frankly, I do not agree with another state school expending resources for a major athletic program. GA does not lack for football. Academically, it has a lot of needs. I’d rather see GSU go in a direction like the University of Chicago, than the University of Georgia. GT and UGA do have some fine programs and great scholars, but this state is big and needs more. An emphasis on health programs, in conjunction with the CDC, and transportation engineering- aeronautics (Hartsfield), high-speed rail (CSX, Norfolk Southern), power and energy (Georgia Power), those are synergies I’d rather see.

rhynster

February 27th, 2009
11:01 pm

Chris, the model isn’t UGA. The models are Pitt, Cincinnati and Houston. Nothing wrong with those, is there? Besides, what’s wrong with UGA?

Check your grapes. I think they’ve soured.

Too Easy

February 28th, 2009
8:42 am

Chris from Atlanta: This is a sports blog. Not sure where the politico/academia blogs are. And Georgia State is a fine name; just a shame that ‘GSU’ is claimed by 2 schools. Confusing for branding purposes. BTW, I believe that the Atlanta University’ name is already used somewhat by Morehouse, Clark, Spelman, Morris Brown and the other one. I’m wite, so I might be wong.

Mike

February 28th, 2009
12:56 pm

This is a mistake and Georgia State is going to lose money starting a new football program. Starting off playing in the Georgia Dome will not help either. IMO, start off in a smaller venue like the empty Morris Brown Stadium and work harding on building a basketball program. I think the new AD may have put her foot in her mouth with her statement about being Atlanta’s football team. Smart move burning a bridge with the school down the street.

Rabun Dawg

February 28th, 2009
3:12 pm

That may be a mistake playing in the Ga. Dome. UAB plays in Legion Field in B’ham, and while I have not seen one of their games, I hear they play in front of sparse crowds that look lost in that large of a venue. The Dome appears to be too large of a place for them to play in, and as someone earlier said,any crowd noise will be lost in that place. Why not Grady stadium, or one of that type venue to see how the response will be? Maybe save some money as well. It may be confusing to some to have two GSU’s around, but I guess not much can be done about that!

Jeff Schultz

February 28th, 2009
4:00 pm

Nice to see we’re still getting a little activity on this. Guess there’s hope for the non-Georgia blogs of the world. … EBMizzou: I know what you’re saying about the potential of State playing before sections of empties at the Dome. I’m thinking they’ll cover the top level. But I’m not sure playing at an older, smaller stadium is the right way to go. I don’t have a big problem with the Dome. …. Can I borrow somebody’s Bobby Sox-English/English-Bobby Sox dictionary? ….. Chris: I hear ya, but the reality is that more U’s go the way of Georgia State than the U of Chicago. Also, State has improved significantly academically in recent years, particularly since Hope. …. Mike, others: I can’t disagree with some of your points. I’d feel more comfortable with starting football if the basketball team was filling the gym, not drawing in the, what, hundreds? But this is their leap. … JS

Phyllis Byers

February 28th, 2009
4:05 pm

I had heard of Georgia State as I went there for my Master’s. I am excited about them having a football team. I do agree a smaller venue would be better. I have been to UAB games and the fan base is sparse. As an ECU graduate, I would love for GSU to play in Conference USA. For once, I would not have to travel far to see my team play. Yes, I would pull for the Pirates, not the Panthers. For those who are not aware, Georgia Southern is not a Division ! school.

Ron

February 28th, 2009
4:34 pm

You think they’re gonna fill the bottom half of the Dome?? To see who GSU-Western Kentucky or something? You’re kidding yourself, just like this lady AD is. They won’t draw half as well as the HS playoff games in the Dome

good lord people, grow up

February 28th, 2009
9:36 pm

if they fill the bottom of the dome, they’ll be doing more gate than GT ever does, except for when they play the ‘Dawgs. BTW, didn’t Curry win a conference title at ‘Bama?

rhynster

February 28th, 2009
10:21 pm

Phyllis, Phyllis, Phyllis, Georgia Southern has been a Division I school for decades. You’re mistaking Division I-AA, now called FCS, with Division II.

And as for football losing money at Georgia State, that’s true for most football programs…strictly on the balance sheet.

But football provides two intangible assets that go beyond a balance sheet. It’s enhances student life and helps promote the university. By improving those two historic problems for Georgia State, there should be an increase in freshman applications. That leads to a revenue boost and raised standards for admission.

If you don’t believe that, just take a look at the change that happened at Georgia Southern during the 80s and 90s.

And of course Georgia State won’t fill the Dome. But it’s a huge draw for high school recruits. What’s more attractive for a high school senior, playing in THE GEORGIA DOME or playing at another high school stadium?

GSU student

March 1st, 2009
12:22 am

As a GSU student I hate our athletics department. This comes from the 600 extra dollars I have to give them every semester for a football team I will never see and don’t care about. That is a lot of money for me right now that could easily be used for something worth a darn. If they want a football team they should not monetarily assault student body for it.

Pitbull

March 6th, 2009
4:44 pm

What is Jeff Shultz’s grandfather’s picture doing on the AJC Sports website?

Shane

March 6th, 2009
4:58 pm

They play football in Atlanta?

Daf

March 14th, 2009
8:41 pm

I’ve been around GSU Athletics since Lefty was there, and I have this to say to GSU student, the student body voted to increase tuition, so if you didn’t vote, or was not around to vote then too bad. It is vitally needed, and tuition at GSU is still well bellow tons of other state funded universities. In addition, I don’t think Conference USA is where the school is looking to go. The school had to get a football program b/c of its move to the CAA conference. The CAA is looking to become have all of its member schools house a football team by 2010, so there be it. And because of economics and the general lacadasical sport fan in Atlanta, the best conference for this school would actually be the Southern Conference which has the other GSU in GA. Travel would be easier and less costly, meaning no 15 hour bus rides for the kids the day before exams.
Also, in the Ga Dome, alcohol can be sold since it is not on a college campus. This is definitely an upside to trying to play in someone elses stadium with the restriction. The Dome is closer and although cavernous, basketball games seem to be fine there, including the two against UGA in Lefty’s final two full years with school, so I doubt the lack of a major crowd will be too much of a problem for those wanting to get drunk and watch their team play at the same time.