Dear Panther Family,
Saturday was an exciting day in Knoxville for the Panthers! I hope that everyone who watched it on TV or listened to the radio broadcast was able to live the grit and determination of our football team. I know those who attended the game witnessed an incredible effort for four quarters. We are incredibly proud of them and are very excited about our home opener this Saturday night. Home openers are a magical day in professional baseball and we want to transition that same experience to our football game at Pete Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium. A night game provides plenty of time for pre-game tailgating and the game day experience has something for fans of all ages from the youngest Panther to our most seasoned supporters. The weather looks incredible, so I implore everyone reading this to be at the game. Your attendance makes a difference to our coaches and players.
As promised in last month’s State of the Panthers, I want to expand on two strategic initiatives for our athletics program. First, I want to discuss the evolution of our three Core Values – Compete with a Purpose, Selflessness, and Be Positive Leaders – that serve as foundational cornerstones for our Culture of Success. Our staff spent considerable time this summer developing these three unique characteristics to define our athletics program. We believe all three teach transferable life skills to our student-athletes well beyond graduation.
- Compete with a Purpose – Throughout our day, all of us are given plenty of opportunities to fill time. We can spend our time either creating Action or watching the clock participating in an Activity. The challenge is to fill our time with productive, results-oriented tasks that make us and those around us better in every facet of our lives. Efficiency and innovation are key determinants to accomplish more through intentional action.
- Selflessness – One of the attributes that drew me to Coach Rob Lanier during our basketball search was his fundamental belief in team play: “It’s Not About Me” is his team’s mantra. It’s complete buy-in to the process of winning through a genuine belief that the team is greater than anyone individual and no one wants to be the weakest link. It is an eagerness to sacrifice personal interests for the welfare of all.
- Be Positive Leaders – Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard work with any endeavor. One must truly enjoy what they do and this genuine determination must be self-generated and radiate to others for effective change to occur. This builds consistency through our thoughts, words, ideas, and efforts and creates trust throughout.
As a reminder, our Culture of Success is based on five attributes:
- Academic Achievement is measured by graduation and APR success.
- Competitive Greatness is having a love for challenges demonstrated by being at our absolute best when the situation calls for us to be our best, which leads to wins and championships.
- Ethical Behavior means operating responsibly.
- Social Responsibility teaches valuable skills to be members of our community.
- Community Engagement establishes experiences and traditions while cultivating relationships.
Secondly, any marketing initiative that we undertake to promote Georgia State Athletics is based on brand building, revenue generation and/or fan engagement to our very diverse audience, which we divide into over 60 stakeholder groups and growing. Our ideal goal is to consistently have 25,000 people at football games and sold-out basketball games as we build to the Convocation Center, so we plan and act accordingly. This is very realistic, but we need your participation!
How? As I mentioned in a previous edition, I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read this newsletter. It’s humbling, frankly. If each of you purchased 2 football tickets and attended games, we would exceed our goal and begin selling tickets in the stadium’s 400 level. If 25% of you bought 2 basketball tickets, there would be no single-game tickets available for sale in the Convocation Center! In addition to providing an unequaled home advantage that aids recruiting and builds our brand, the domino-effect of these provides additional revenues that build facilities, pays coaches, enhances student-athlete programming, and expands our brand-building and aspirational efforts.
Reaching our audience is not our challenge, activation is our opportunity.
Student engagement is a constant effort by our marketing team both for game attendance today as well as long-term affinity. Ideally, we would love to have 10,000 students routinely attend football games and 2,500 attend basketball games, so we work every day to accomplish this. We know how many students are on campus during game weekends, so we work closely with campus operating departments on logistics. We proactively reach out to our commuter students about game dates and times. We are optimistic that several campus partnerships are beginning to pay dividends. In July, we launched our student athletics brand ambassadors’ group. We have great demand from participants who will spread the word about our upcoming athletics events on our street teams. They will also enjoy the best student seating it the house! Also, with the help of University Housing, Spotlight Student Programming, Band/Cheer, student-athletes, and the new Student Body President, we hosted a Cinema Under the Stars and Pep Rally before classes started in the stadium! The attendance surpassed our lofty anticipated goal and will be a marquee event in the future sure to triple in size and stature.
Third, I want to leave you with a broader vision for our athletics program. Think BIG. Why not after Saturday?
As you recall, the original football plan was to build a successful FCS program, then grow to the FBS level at the appropriate time. However, in 2012, unanticipated national changes in conference affiliations for many schools created a vacuum at the FBS level, and Georgia State was extended an invitation to “move up” sooner than anticipated starting with the 2013 season, the fourth year of football’s existence. In five years at the FBS level, consistent competitive success has yet to occur, although we have played in two bowl games, winning one. It’s coming though. By comparison, Akron has played in three bowl games and Army just earned its third straight, but seventh in its athletics history. Other teams with few bowl appearances include Ball State (7); Duke (14); Memphis (11); Indiana (3 bowl wins in 11 games); and Rutgers (10). Likewise, teams that began FBS football around the same time as Georgia State experience similar results: South Alabama started FBS in 2012 and has two bowl appearances; Texas-San Antonio has one bowl appearance in its six years at FBS; Old Dominion has one bowl appearance since 2014; and Charlotte started in 2015 with zero bowl trips.
FBS football is not for the faint of heart. Every competitive program invests resources, has compelling reasons why their team should win and prioritizes game day on their campus. Every day, we are one step closer to fulfilling our mission. Without question, Georgia State can become a top football program. If Boise State, Troy, and Appalachian State among others can crack football’s top 25, then why not Georgia State in football, basketball, and other sports? The University’s academic reputation throughout the region has dramatically improved during the past decade and no one anticipates that student enrollment growth will stagnate or decline. Atlanta is an international city and a career destination for millennials. Georgia State alumni and friends are plentiful, and many are business leaders within this community. Again, your activation is our collective key. As all know, the acquisition and repurposing of Georgia State Stadium is a positive game-changer for the University. No competitive peer has a similar home football venue. The Convocation Center adds a second game-changing facility. Our peers also understand our future vision. We are proud that in short order to be the top academic program in the Sun Belt Conference, but we want to add consistent, competitive success to our portfolio. The planned Athletics Neighborhood encompassing the stadium area development will provide much-needed modern athletics facilities in close proximity to the downtown campus. In addition to propelling the athletics program forward, the benefit to overall campus growth and affinity cannot be overstated.
So, as we start the 10th season of football and build on the Tennessee win, we look to successful and more established peer programs as a guide, three core themes – Investment, Commitment, and Prioritization – will elevate and accelerate the benefits an aspirational athletics program will bring to the University community. Inevitably, the national landscape will change once again as many of the current alliances do not create natural rivalries or envisioned sustainable economic models. Our greatest asset is our location and our people. Atlanta is the country’s tenth-largest media market, and the city is recognized as the college football capital of the nation. Atlanta is also ranked as the number two city for professional opportunities and the top-ranked city for available internships. Georgia State is the largest university in Georgia and the 10th nationally. To appropriately capitalize and partner with true peer institutions, we must be ready versus plan to be ready, but we need your Investment, Commitment, and Prioritization to turn dreams into reality.
Director of Athletics