GSU athletics’ future uncertain

Jackie Gutknecht

The fate of Georgia Southern University’s opportunity to expand Allen E. Paulson Stadium and move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision is now in the hands of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

“It is an exciting opportunity for athletics in general,” President Brooks Keel said.

FBS fee: $75

  • Estimated 4.4 million dollars required for conference move
  • Fund 22 new athletic scholarships
  • Fund additional women’s athletic tea

5,748 students voted yes to support the potential move up to the FBS and support a $75 fee to move to a new level of competition. The fee will allow for more student-athlete scholarships and an additional women’s sport.

“Long-term, it certainly raises the profile of Georgia Southern Athletics. It provides an opportunity for our more than 400 student-athletes to compete at the highest level,” Flathman said.

“Being at the FBS level will allow all of our sports to be more competitive in recruiting absolutely the best talent that we can,” Keel said.

The state of Georgia does not fund athletic department operations, so this fee will ensure that GSU has the funding to make the move up if a conference invitation is presented.

“Georgia Southern’s reputation, as it has continued to grow, I think the opportunity for athletes to be a part in that and to take the next step is an important one — I think long term. I think it also helps our reputation and the overall impact of the institution but specifically with athletics the opportunity to take the Georgia Southern brand, not just regionally, but nationally, by competing with some of the top teams in the country certainly will have an impact,” Flathman said.

There are no current plans to charge students for tickets.

“We’ve said all along its going to take about 4.4 million dollars, this is what we have figured as an addition to the athletic budget, and that is across the board, that’s mostly scholarships, about half of that is going to be scholarships, the move from the FCS to the FBS we go from 63 to 85 scholarships in football, that’s 22, and we have to have an equal number of scholarships in women’s sports as well for title nine which will go to the existing women’s sports and also allow us to add another team,” Keel said.

There is not a set date for when the FBS fee will go into effect. It is all-dependent on an invitation.

“The NCAA requires you to have 16 teams to play in a league at the FBS level. We were looking at adding another team in women’s sports. We were looking at sand volleyball, golf or competitive rifle,” Keel said.

70.4 percent of the students that voted said yes to the expansion of Paulson Stadium. This expansion will not only affect athletics but other aspects of GSU, including graduations and future concert opportunities.

“The additional seats will benefit far beyond just athletics. Certainly, athletics will be impacted in a positive way by expanding the seating capacity of the stadium, but I think obviously it has a further impact that reaches into other areas in the institution,” Flathman said.

The vote to support the expansion of Paulson Stadium supports a $25 fee to add more than 6,300 seats to the student/visitor side of the stadium was supported by 6,612 students.

The stadium has 4,000 seats currently dedicated to students, but with more than 20,000 students at GSU only 25 percent of the student body was able to sit during football games. This expansion will position GSU for a future move to the FBS, but the expansion was supported by 864 more students than the FBS fee.

“This past weekend we had 21,000 announced attendance at the game to watch Georgia Southern beat Samford, of that 14,444 had a seat, so 7,000 individuals were either in the grass or standing,” Christian Flathman, director of Marketing and Communications, said.

Breaking ground for Paulson Stadium depends on the timeliness of the Board of Regents approval.

“It will take us over 20,000 actual seats in the stadium, all dedicated to student seating, we don’t have enough seats for the students that are showing up now. We have more than 6,000 students that are showing up for games every week, so it will create seats for all of the students that are coming, as well as the people that are sitting on the grass,” head coach Jeff Monken said.

The vote to expand the stadium is a vote to add 6,300 seats dedicated solely to student use.

“Having an expanded stadium also helps with recruiting expected athletes. I think coming in and seeing a larger facility certainly as we compete for outstanding athletes across the country, I think seeing a larger facility will help recruit perspective athletes to Georgia Southern. It will have a very positive impact from an amature reputation as well,” Flathman said.

“With this vote, our students are excited about it, they’re going to want to see the change, they’re going to want to see that fee be put into action,” Monken said.

The majority student vote gives confidence that the Board of Regents will approve the student fees

“I think anytime you have a majority of students, especially in the case of this vote, where such a large majority of students voted and voted in favor certainly does not hurt its chances, but we are not presumptuous enough to think that that alone will get these fees approved. Certainly it is up to the Board of Regents to make that decision, but we are certainly optimistic that given the strong vote of confidence from the Georgia Southern student body displayed at the vote this past week that they will take that into consideration,” Flathman said.

“I think it says that the students want their voices to be heard, and they made it loud and clear that they were in strong support of this,” Flathman said.

Monken said, “I am happy to know there’s a majority of students on campus that support our program and want to see it succeed and want to give us the resources as a football program to be able to compete and compete for championships and play at as high of a level that we can.”