No longer a novelty act, Georgia State embarks on Year 2

It was another winning night for the guys in blue. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

It was another winning Opening Night for the Panthers. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Georgia State football was new last season, and new is almost always fun. This year stands to be more successful — having gone 6-5 in 2010, the Panthers should better that — but less noteworthy. The novelty is gone. What’s left is a college team trying to carve a niche in a market not lacking diversions.

The Panthers played their first-ever game Sept. 2, 2010, drawing the surprisingly robust total of 30,237 patrons to the Georgia Dome. That was, however, the maiden voyage’s emotional crest. In six subsequent Dome games, Georgia State didn’t once break 17,000.

Year 2 for GSU began Friday night, and it wasn’t quite the same. The Dome’s lower bowl, which accommodates 28,155 and was packed on Opening Night 364 days earlier, was only two-thirds full. (And the “visiting” team was Clark Atlanta, which sits within the Dome’s shadow.) You could argue that there’s a lot happening this holiday weekend — Georgia Tech and the Falcons played Thursday; Georgia faces Boise State on Saturday; the Braves are at home and there’s DragonCon and NASCAR to boot — but that’s the issue.

This is Atlanta. We’re a big city. There’s always something happening. (If you don’t count the NHL, which is gone again.) Georgia Tech plays in a BCS league and has graced 14 consecutive bowls but has had a hard time filling its seats. What’s going to happen two, three, 10 years down the road for Georgia State?

“We took a gigantic leap last season,” said Cheryl Levick, GSU’s athletic director. “We have to take another leap this season to get ready for the CAA.”

GSU begins conference play in the Colonial Athletic Association next season, which means the schedule — last year it included everyone from Lambuth to Lamar to Alabama — will stabilize. Still unclear is whether the likes of Delaware, Richmond and William & Mary will move the attendance needle. And if you’re thinking, “Hey, there’s more to college football than attendance” … you’re right. But it’s hard to run a successful program on good will.

“We needed to establish a quarterback and a running game and a defensive front tonight,” Levick said. “That’s [the coach's] job. Cheryl’s job is to make sure the program takes the same leap. We’ve got 8,500 students here, and that’s hugely important on a Labor Day weekend.”

Georgia State has worked hard (and well) to establish itself as a serious university. Enough people connected with the school believed football could build the brand and enhance the GSU experience. But the question remains: Will enough people ever care about this program to render it more than a footnote?

We can’t know the answer today, and we might not know it five years hence. But one thing we can know: Georgia State hired a good football coach in Bill Curry and he has produced a team that hasn’t embarrassed itself. (Take away the 63-7 loss in Tuscaloosa last November and GSU has been competitive in every game it has ever played.) If you watch these Panthers, you won’t see a bunch of guys who can’t line up onside. You’ll see a purposeful little team.

Georgia State handled Clark Atlanta with dispatch. If you hadn’t known this was the first game of the second season of GSU’s existence, you couldn’t have told it by looking. And there’s reason to believe, Levick said, that better days are ahead. “I have to see progress,” she said.

She mentioned the 21,000-square foot practice facility that has been built. She noted that another big donor had just stepped forward, cash in hand. Again, she noted Friday’s crowd. “I’m not disappointed,” she said. “I’m delighted we have 20,000.” [Announced attendance was 26,273.]

Then this AD, who’s as driven in her way as Nick Saban is in his, said: “We want to be competitive. We want to win. We’re not here for fluff.”

By Mark Bradley

64 comments Add your comment

GA DAWG

September 2nd, 2011
10:01 pm

FIRST…GO GA STATE!!!

Mark Bradley

September 2nd, 2011
10:02 pm

Kudos, GA DAWG.

WJB

September 2nd, 2011
10:03 pm

WOO! Go GSU!

AtlantaDude

September 2nd, 2011
11:18 pm

Big city. Modest academic standards. Large and growing enrollment. Can you foresee a day when GSU joins the ACC or SEC

spider

September 2nd, 2011
11:19 pm

i was there, very nice crowd, if we could get more people who pay too watch pro sports to come and watch real athletes, that would be great.

Jonathan

September 2nd, 2011
11:26 pm

Sort of a back-handed article for a team in year two. Almost like you don’t want them to succeed.

mike s

September 2nd, 2011
11:32 pm

Atlanta Dude……not in mine or your lifetime, even if you are an infant.

Charles Martel

September 3rd, 2011
12:02 am

Mike S, only because by then the SEC or ACC will no longer exist as we know them today. In the future, expect larger and larger “super conferences”. Perhaps, one day, GSU will be in the same 32-team conference as GT and UGAg.

There should be some arrangements for Panther supporters to stay Saturday night in Jacksonville. I forget how late Jefferson’s stays open, but I bet they could accommodate a bunch of Atlantans with money to spend!

Itmeagain

September 3rd, 2011
12:03 am

I firmly believe that that 26000 attendance is solid enough to prove where things are going. As stated, this isn’t the first year and the novelty isn’t there anymore. 2000 more and that would be a full lower bowl (if the didn’t start filling the middle bowl before the lower was full). It says to me that the games can draw a very decent crowd on a none novelty season. If we can get around the same average as last season for the rest of the games, we’re in really good shape. And if we draw more, them that’s progress. I’m perfectly happy with where we are and where we’re going. GO PANTHERS

straightshooter

September 3rd, 2011
12:08 am

Don’t get ahead of yourself boys….you just beat a very poor DII team.

Simon Bar Sinister

September 3rd, 2011
12:15 am

I’m still amazed that people call Bill Curry a “good coach”. Look at his record at Tech and Kentucky.

Ty

September 3rd, 2011
12:16 am

No one asked you, you straight shooting douche. It was a fun night and a good start to their second season

gordopez

September 3rd, 2011
12:18 am

Just look at what South Florida has been able to do in their brief history…Potential is there for GSU, but it won’t be easy.

GSU2012

September 3rd, 2011
12:24 am

Ever the pessimist, aren’t you Bradley?? But thanks for the write up anyway. GSU WILL do GREAT things in the future! Let’s GO STATE!!!!!!!!!!!!

dawgmatic

September 3rd, 2011
12:26 am

At least GSU played a team I’d heard of, unlike the cupcake the tech honey bees played in front of an even smaller attendance. The NERDS woke up this morning as the #2 college football team inside I-285, and Clark Atlanta may pass them by too. Big boy football starts tomorrow, so you NERDS should take a break from Dragon Con and anime porn to see a real college football team play.

GStateBen

September 3rd, 2011
12:27 am

Our attendance tonight would have been better than the average per game attendance for 39 schools playing FBS in 2010. People around FBS conferences want the Atlanta market. They want the Dome (Sun Belt Championship game?)

We are building something great at Georgia State. Get Right or Get Left.

Thanks for the coverage Mark and I cannot wait to see what the future brings. Don’t be a stranger!

GStateBen

September 3rd, 2011
12:30 am

@Straightshooter You are correct. Clark is a weak D2 team. This was the equivalent to what Georgia Tech did to Western Carolina on Thursday night. They trounced a weak one step down in division team.

On to ODU!

GSUgrad

September 3rd, 2011
12:58 am

Mr. Bradley, I’m not sure if you are giving State a high-five or the finger. I’m pretty sure that 26,000 is better than 98% of the other FCS schools and better than MANY non-AQ FCS schools. Why not a little, “look what these guys have done in 8 home games when dozens haven’t done this after decades”? I sense a cynic.

Currry vs Burn

September 3rd, 2011
1:00 am

Curry never beat Auburn while at Tech, never beat Auburn while at Bama, never beat Auburn while at KY. 0-12 I believe is the number.

southern bell

September 3rd, 2011
1:10 am

The Students pay 130 dollars each for this football team so that is why there is students at the game.

PantherAlum

September 3rd, 2011
1:11 am

GREAT GAME, GREAT atmosphere!! Thank you Panthers for making us proud. 26k is nothing to sneeze at, I was a little dissappinted at the CAU turnout but I’m sure they knew what was coming. Their band however was great and they should be very proud of their effort(they did not give up). I look forward to next week’s game avenging our loss to ODU. And to all you haters out there.. GET A LIFE, the Panthers are for real and you just need to move on.

Thrashers Season Ticket Holder

September 3rd, 2011
1:38 am

Each member of Atlanta Spirit Group should burn in Hell.

gsu01

September 3rd, 2011
1:46 am

Thanks for the coverage Mark! Great turnout by our students tonight!

[...] Read More from original source- No longer a novelty act, Georgia State embarks on Year 2 | Mark … [...]

Cathy D. Wright

September 3rd, 2011
2:16 am

I am an alumni of Clark Atlanta and am big enough to say “Congrats” GSU Panthers. You strategized, optimized and motivized and bested us!

a fan

September 3rd, 2011
3:19 am

Great GAME GSU

Jackets 2011

September 3rd, 2011
6:53 am

Also congrats Clark Atlanta for giving Tech all we could handle in basketball last year.

Jackets 2011

September 3rd, 2011
6:59 am

Goff, Curry and Shula: three football playing alums who undeservedly got promoted to their schools top job. Did Shula ever beat Auburn?
In these three gentleman’s defense, they never should have been given the head coaching job in the first place.
They had not paid their dues.
Why is Smitty a good coach with the Falcons?
Because he has been around long enough to make good hires for assistants.
Goff, Curry and Shula had not and I suspect their assistants were crummy.
For whatever reason, they were not ready to make the most of their promotion.
Bad AD’s promoted them too soon.

ajg-marietta

September 3rd, 2011
7:29 am

The Panthers played well and took care of business against an opponent they were supposed to beat. They did it with their punter at QB. The students showed up in force, filling not just their end of lower bowl, but packing the mezzanine above.

Tailgaters were out in force yesterday even though the first season novelty is over. People are excited about this talented young team, only two years old. The students section is packed. How could this be? GSU football IS building a brand in this busy city, Mr. Bradley, whether you like it or not.

GSUMEXPANTHER

September 3rd, 2011
7:46 am

I’m a proud alumni! Go Panthers! A true fan will always support their team in the good and the bad! 26,000 is still damn good and this is only the beginning so don’t be such a pessimist Bradley.

AgentOrange

September 3rd, 2011
8:16 am

Go Panthers! Bradley – why so mad?

Really?

September 3rd, 2011
8:50 am

@Southern bell — first it’s Southern Belle (unless you worked at the old phone company), second its ‘are students’ not ‘is students’, that sort of fee is hidden in all schools fees, third, you must have gone to Tech or UGA
Finally to @Atlantadude — modest academic standards… really…. check the facts.?

BarrowCountyPanther

September 3rd, 2011
8:51 am

I’m a proud alumni, too–and a realist. Except for the defense playing out of their @$$e$ and the kicker doing his job, we did not look very good at the beginning of the game. It took way too long for the offense to show up. The [not-very-big] CAU defense pushed us around the entire first half. We do that against ODU, and you can bet your season tix we’ll be down two or three scores before we know what happens. The offense better go to work this week. Ya’ heard?

Not Possible

September 3rd, 2011
8:54 am

As long as Bill Curry is coach they’ll never go Division I. He’s one of the most overrated coaches in college football history. His record sucks. That said, I do believe GSU has potential with the right leadership to go Division I. Just not with Curry.

Not Possible

September 3rd, 2011
8:59 am

GSU has the potential to go Division I, but not with Bill Curry. He’s one of the most overrated coaches in college football history. There’s a huge pool of talent in this state and as a alternative to the Bullpuppies and the Yellow crappies, GSU could be the next Miami.

Go Panthers!!

September 3rd, 2011
9:03 am

Reminds me a lot of the thrashing we put on Shorter last year to open the season.

However, I don’t expect a Lambuth-type letdown this year. If the team isn’t looking at next week as the biggest two games of the season, I’d be stunned.

I am more excited about the ODU game than I could have ever thought about being for Clark Atlanta.

Dr. Phil

September 3rd, 2011
9:18 am

Football was the dream of President Carl Patton that was not strongly supported by the student body. GSU is a fine school that provided an educational opportunity to older, working students, primarily through evening classes. These working students were not pleased with the add on activity fees for the Lefty Drisell experiment and the bigger fees associated with football. Basketball at GSU has been a big flop. It remains to be seen what will happen with football. There are some well-heeled alumni in the Atlanta area who would like to see football succeed. I doubt if there will ever be much student support.

GSU Dawg

September 3rd, 2011
9:23 am

Like many GSU Football fans in Atlanta, I did UGA for undergrad and then GSU for graduate/professional school. I am very proud of how fast GSU football has caught on and the amount of support it has garnered in such a short time period. It’s only natural. So many professional Atlantans are connected to GSU in one way or another and they SHOULD show support. Any long-time UGA fan would have to admit that the GSU students should be given a lot of credit for the way they showed up last night. They were packed in WAY before kick-off, something you would NEVER see at UGA, and carried a ton of enthusiasm and noise throughout the game. Definitely caused CAU a false-start at one point. Long term, I think GaSouthern is in trouble. Another note: very disappointed in the CAU band… Isn’t that supposed to be the “Drumline” school? Their band was only about 25 people and their act was way more conservative than expected. Was the varsity band at a competition somewhere?

GSUAlumBaseball81

September 3rd, 2011
9:41 am

Well, keep an eye on this “purposeful little team” from the ATL because we have ODU, Jax State, and Houston coming up! Should make for some interesting write ups in the next three weeks. I’d say a second year program drawing 25,000+ isn’t too shabby and with numerous Alums who are still hidding in the bushes just waiting for the BIG game success before putting on their Blue and White, things are just going to get better and better! As Kung Fu says: Patience Grasshopper! Being at all of the home games last year and a couple of away, I believe that the tailgating that started at 3:30 yesterday was a marked improvement! Come on man we just started football so don’t expect GSU to just miraculously come up with traditions and attendance that took other schools many years to develop! Heck many schools started playing this game in the 1890’s! Oh and by the way, Donald Russell is a tank with tremendous speed! Let him have 25 carries a game and see how many times he scores in FCS. Also, great game Bo and all the rest of the GSU PANTHERS! Thanks for the write up Mark and GO GSU PANTHERS in 2011!!!

GSU Dawg

September 3rd, 2011
9:46 am

Like many professional Atlantans, I’m a UGA undergrad/GSU grad-professional school alum. Great to see all the support for GSU Football. And we SHOULD support them! It’s not trying to be UGA! It’s trying to compete with the Ga Southerns and it’s already well on the way to establishing itself in that classification. That was a great crowd last night! (just ask Tulane football fans). And kudos to the GSU students. They showed up WAY before kickoff, something you would never see out of UGA students, and were very rowdy and enthusiastic; even causing a false-start for CAU at one point. By the way, was anyone else disappointed with the CAU band?? Isn’t that supposed to be the “Drumline” band?? Their varsity must have been at a competition last night..

Tommy Maddox

September 3rd, 2011
9:59 am

Hey Simon – go be a drip somewhere else.

Go you fuzzy Panthers!

blazerdawg

September 3rd, 2011
10:18 am

Why the doubtful/negative slant? Name another NCAA FCS school that will draw 26,000 this weekend or event this season. Georgia Southern, App State? That’s about it.

In any other city the local newspaper would have front page news about the successful record and robust attendance. When UNCC draws 15,000 for their first game next year the Charlotte paper will treat it like winning the Super Bowl.

Logan M

September 3rd, 2011
10:40 am

Some of you people are ridiculous. To say the students of this school don’t support and don’t want this team is absurd. Just look at the attendance of the students. last night students completely filled their sections in the lower and middle bowl of the dome. Thats probably about 12,000-14,000 seats. How is that not supportive? Yes, we did see a spike in school fees of about $100 each, but I’m fine with it. GSU used to be a night/commuter school with a niche interest to older, working students, but ya know what, maybe that isn’t what GSU wants to be anymore. Maybe GSU want to be bigger than that.

Now that being said, the GA Dome is not a place conducive for rowdy and raucous student sections. That’s just a fact, plain and simple. And the dome CANNOT be the permanent home for GSU. Unless there were some kind of major changes made IF the falcons got a new stadium, the dome is just too big for GSU in the next 10 years. Even playing in front of 30,000-40,000 people in the dome is still just not a big deal. Too many empty seats. I have no idea if the University has plans to build their own stadium, but I hope they do. That would be awesome. I know I will never see one as a student here, but maybe future panthers will. But for playing mostly DII/NAIA/1AA opponents 12,000 or so average at GSU games is pretty good especially for such a young program. Until GSU starts having some serious success (which may happen in the next few years) attendance will always be about the same. For now, for students, GSU football is more of a social event, than it is about winning.

GSUAlumBaseball81

September 3rd, 2011
10:44 am

Wow, 25,000+ and not such a big deal! NOTE: FCS not BCS. Second year football program not a program playing football since the late 1890’s! A University learning a new tradition with Alums galore in the ATL just waiting on a BIG win to start wearing their BLUE & WHITE. A traditional commuter school now with 6,000 plus students living on campus with more to come. Come on what the heck do you expect! As Kung Fu Says: Patience Grasshopper! The next three games against ODU, Jax State and Houston should give you something to say about this “purposeful little team” from the ATL! Oh and by the way, Donald Russell can man handle the FCS on the ground! He’s a tank with a fast motor! He’s the real deal! Great game Bo and the rest of the GSU PANTHERS!!! Get ready for ODU next week! GO GSU PANTHERS!!!

PantherCJ

September 3rd, 2011
10:48 am

The haters will hate. But GSU is here to stay.

If we find success in CAA. Then the big boys may have to worry.

Clark Atlanta is our season warm-up. We started a backup QB (4th string last year, starting punter, and at one point starting wide receiver due to injuries in our Receiver corps) who also started as punter in last nights game. He played 4 downs on every offensive possession.

Go Panthers! On to ODU!

Go Panthers!!

September 3rd, 2011
11:17 am

26,000 is a very commendable number. I certainly think those that expected anything approaching last year’s debut were people overshooting logical expectations.

Compared to a Falcons game or tonights UGA game, it certainly seems less impressive.

And seeing that number in the Dome makes it LOOK less impressive.

We could make it LOOK and SEEM more impressive if we wanted to spend $120 million building our own 28K seat stadium.

But why? The Dome is still a superior venue, and it’s on campus anyway. We simply can’t build anything better.

Plus the money that a new stadium would require is far better spent building an on campus replacement for that craphole we call Panthersville.

Ga519

September 3rd, 2011
11:45 am

Why spin the attendance into criticism of Atlanta area sports fans (your readers)? Is it tunnel vision or just a lack of understanding the big picture that caused you to omit the fact that thousands of football fans chose to attend a high school football game much closer to home last night? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why other colleges don’t schedule Friday night games…Ga. Tech for example.

Wayne stuck in AL

September 3rd, 2011
12:36 pm

I’m still trying to figure out why an admitted commuter school has a football program.

Itmeagain

September 3rd, 2011
1:18 pm

Admitted commuter school? I think you’re on the wrong thread

PerimeterCenterJacket

September 3rd, 2011
1:26 pm

State and Tech attendance comparisons make me chuckle. Bradley, please make a note in the article that GT’s home opener attendance was over 42k. These GSU kids need to stop thinking Tech draws a smaller crowd than them. Here’s an idea – maybe come hang out at GT before a Tech game. 120+ years of history might teach you something about being a traditional college football program. No, we’re not playing in a 90k+ palace, but the number of teams that do is very few even among BCS teams. But seriously, lay off it, GSU is not going to supplant GT as the best college team inside I-285. Congratulations on starting a college football program, and congratulations for winning your opener. That is always exciting. Also, I do hope wish you the best when you join a conference and begin playing for postseason bids. But barring one of them shutting their doors entirely, GT and UGA are the best college teams in this state (by a massive margin). For the third best team in the state, though, you might want to go head-to-head against Southern. They might be more your speed.