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Monday, August 30, 2010

Ben's Sports Take: Like it or not, football at GSU is important

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As Georgia State University's inaugural football season approaches, many people—CL included—are still questioning the school's desire to start a football program.

With the increase in student fees and the falsely assumed triviality of collegiate athletics in general, it's easy to understand why current GSU students might not be quite as "football-giddy" as the throngs of alumni anxiously awaiting Thursday night's kickoff.

So, do the school's penny-pinching dorm dwellers have an argument? Or should they be submissively eternally grateful for the mere opportunity to attend an institution that boasts a football program?

As a former GSU student—and penny-pinching dorm dweller—myself, I felt compelled to help ease this quandary by offering my honest, albeit biased, opinion: Georgia State football is worth every penny.

First of all, if you think that the addition of a football program is an effort by the Georgia State administration to compete with their North Avenue neighbors (Georgia Tech) or the almighty Bulldogs of UGA, you're kidding yourself.

The engineers and Athenians have more than a 200-year combined head start with this whole football thing, so to even consider an entry-level program such as GSU's as a serious competitor is downright silly.

If you truly want to know with whom Georgia State is competing, take a look at the 250-plus schools across the country that already possess a football program—and how they're taken more seriously as academic institutions.

You see, it's public perception—not lacking athletic prowess—that GSU is trying to overcome.

For the entirety of its 97-year history, Georgia State has been aptly labeled as a commuter school—with roughly 10 percent of the student body actually living on campus, who can really argue the distinction?

But therein lies the very problem that the addition of a football program will attempt to solve.

Sure, the cost of GSU student fees has increased strictly to fund the program, but it isn't nearly as much as last week's CL editorial suggests:


Back in the fall of 2007, student fees amounted to less than $500 per semester. This upcoming semester, fees will total $814.

Sounds excessive, but $200 of that increase has absolutely nothing to do with the GSU football program as the University System of Georgia implemented the system-wide hike in fees in order to "help maintain academic quality in the face of significant reductions to the University System's budget fr the Fiscal Year in 2011."

Upon further examination of the heightened student fees, we find that only $85—less than 10 percent of the total institutional fee—goes towards funding the football program.

If Georgia State wants to shed the "commuter school" label and attract more students to live on campus, the addition and, more importantly, ultimate success of a football program is mandatory.

Not because the Panthers will be vying for airtime on ESPN—aside from their November 18 date with the No. 1 Crimson Tide—or competing for National Championships, but because football is the barometer by which all Universities' popularity—especially in the south—is measured.

And the more "popular" a University, the more attractive it is to prospective students.

Whether you like it or not, football is an important aspect of the college experience. Just ask the students in Athens or up the road at Georgia Tech—they've been paying these fees for decades.

Let me hear your side of the argument: Do you think that Georgia State's increase in fees in a big deal? Or should students embrace the addition of a football team? Leave your comments below, tweet them @SportsLoaf or share your thoughts on Facebook.com/CLSports.

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