August 22, 2019

 

Welcome Panther Family,

 

It’s time to say hello again after taking a few months off to re-evaluate the format of State of the Panthers. I appreciate your patience and thank those of you who reached out to say you enjoy this inside perspective on our athletics program.  Your positive confirmation is greatly appreciated.

 

First, I want to offer my condolences to Arkansas State Football Coach Blake Anderson over the passing of his wife, Wendy, to breast cancer earlier this week.  Simply stated, she was a warrior.

 

Secondly, and on a much more positive note, I welcome Keith Gill as the new Sun Belt Conference Commissioner. Keith is a long-time colleague and respected administrator, who I looked forward to working with over the next several years to advance the SBC. It was great to host him last week, show him Georgia State and let him meet our staff, coaches, and student-athletes, including an unscheduled interruption of court volleyball practice.

 

I write this after watching our men’s soccer team earn an exhibition 5-1 win against Montevallo. The start of another school year and athletics season for us here at Georgia State University is always an exciting time.  Although our fall sports teams have trained for several weeks, the time of the year when all student-athletes are back on campus creates a different energy. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, you will take the opportunity to read the season previews researched and developed by our sports communications staff on GeorgiaStateSports.com and @GSUPanthers.  These will provide you with the best sense of expectations around our teams from embedded writers who know our coaches and student-athletes best.

 

Summer was a very busy time for our staff and student-athletes. First, we welcome several new head coaches and their staffs to the Athletics Family.  We welcome back Brad Stromdahl to GSU as our baseball coach.  Brad was a big part of our recent successful teams and enjoyed an incredible run starting the program at Georgia Gwinnett College.  We welcome Jessica Steward as our new Women’s Golf Coach.  Jessica comes to us from Lamar and we are very excited about her future at GSU.  Third, we promoted Kyle Stevenson to Head Track and Field Coach after his very successful run as our sprints and hurdles coach.  Chris England will continue to coach our cross country team and distance runners.  We also added several new assistant coaches as well, including Matt Taylor, Daniel Furuto, and Dean Sando (Baseball); Travian Robertson (Football); Nick Mackay (Men’s Golf); Matt Williams (Men’s Tennis); Sherill Baker (Women’s Basketball); Erin Dixson (Softball); Wayne Holly (Beach Volleyball) and Chris Duenow (Court Volleyball).  Please help welcome them when you meet.

 

As most are aware, we also completed construction of the Football Operations Suite at the stadium.  Without question, Pete Petit Field at Georgia State Stadium gives us a competitive advantage in building our football program.  With the addition of high-quality offices, meeting spaces, training center, and weight room, we now have one of the best football-centric spaces in America at any level.  For the first time in our 10-year history, all team activities are housed under one roof.  And with football’s move to the stadium, we started the process of converting 188 MLK to a soccer-specific facility as part of our overall Athletics Neighborhood plan, which will ultimately bring all athletics facilities downtown and closer to campus.  More to come on this exciting step for our soccer programs as we execute this next step in our vision for building a competitively successful athletics program.

 

Several new NCAA mandates are now enacted, specifically to enhance student-athlete graduation and rules compliance by coaches and boosters.  I’m very proud of the academic accomplishments of our student-athletes and support from our coaches and academic staffs primarily to ensure that our kids earn a life-altering college diploma.  Summer school and our freshmen summer academy were very successful.  As a department, we concluded the academic year with a 3.12 cumulative GPA.  I don’t expect most reading this to grasp the correlation of GPA and the Academic Progress Rate (APR), which every team and athletics program is evaluated annually, but please understand their direct correlation is hugely important for all our teams maintaining eligibility to participate in post-season.  We also met the NCAA threshold to qualify for the new academic funding from the NCAA.  This is significant because, in three years, a share of the academic funding will surpass a participating share of the NCAA Basketball tournament.  From a compliance standpoint, the requirements place a new level of responsibility on us all to ensure we compete and recruit appropriately.  GSU is proud of our history of no major violations and with everyone’s participation, we will be diligent to continue this going forward.

 

Football game days will also feature some new developments in 2019. I am confident all will appreciate the new video board inside the stadium as well as the graphics package around GSUS.  These are among several upgrades that will make experiencing games more enjoyable.  We also hope that most of you will take advantage of the Victory Plaza Tailgate space this season.  Come early!  With all the improvements and related construction happening around the stadium, we want to take advantage of the plaza’s proximity to the entrance gates for pre-game activities.  For those looking to explore, several of the restaurants on Georgia Avenue are open for business pre- and post-game and each is fantastic and we are very appreciative of them and our partners from Carter in developing the stadium neighborhood.

 

During the summer, our Leadership Team spent considerable time evaluating our business practices.  As our GSUAA Board is well aware, we just completed our fifth-straight year in “the black” financially.  Fiscal management is a key component for any business, and especially an athletics program that aspires to grow.  We don’t have the luxury to spend beyond our means, so valuing every expenditure is key for us to develop future programs and ideas, like our facilities projects or other specific student-athlete programming.  Certainly, anyone can agree or disagree on our spending priorities, but I’m confident we’re spending to advance our overall program toward our mission of providing student-athletes with an opportunity to compete athletically and earn a college education.  It’s a simple mantra, but if you want us to do more, then we need you to give more.  A second opportunity for us was to evaluate our core values, especially as they provide the backdrop to define our Culture of Success.  After much consideration, we settled on three specific core values that we want to be unique for GSU Athletics – Compete with a Purpose, Selflessness, and Be Positive Leaders.  In future updates, I will expand on our rationale for these three values, but I want to share with our student-athletes first in our back-to-school meeting later this week.

 

A key marketing objective for the foreseeable future is to personalize our athletics program.  Our coaches, student-athletes, and staff are the best part of our program and we want the Panther Family to get to know us, so we’ve kicked off a few exciting new endeavors this summer.  My next State of the Panthers will outline the multi-level marketing program that we’ve undertaken to promote Georgia State Athletics over the past several months.  However, before then, I want to highlight several new key initiatives.  First, we just taped the second episode of our “Panther Insider” podcast.  It’s available on GeorgiaStateSports.com, via social media, and other avenues where podcasts are aired.  This will highlight coaches, staff, and key stakeholders within athletics.  Secondly, we’ve empowered our student-athletes to share their journey via a social media partnership with INFLCR, so follow your favorite GSU coach or student-athlete to gain an inside perspective.  Third, we offer a second-to-none game day experience for groups, especially kids.  Hopefully, you’ve seen some of our recent videos about Pounce Town at the stadium, for example.  So if you know any group who want unparalleled access to college athletes, please let us know and we are happy to provide the experience.  Fourth, we want to follow you on social media.  Tag @GSUPanthers on Twitter and we will follow you.  We are easy to find across multiple platforms, but should you run into issues, please contact our Digital Media Coordinator, Will Owens, at jowens33@gsu.edu.  He is happy to help you navigate our content.

 

As the University expands our commitment to our students through our “College to Career” strategic initiative, I want our student-athletes to benefit from this focus as well.  Therefore, if anyone reading this newsletter works for a company that offers internships, part-time employment, and entry-level positions, I would appreciate if you would send your contact information to Crystal Moody, our Career and Employer Specialist, at cmoody@gsu.edu.  Crystal works with our student-athletes daily to prepare them to join the workforce like us.

 

I know this a lot of information, so I thank you for hanging in and reading it all.  I hope you will join us in Knoxville next weekend for the Tennessee game and/or on September 7, for our home football opener against Furman at 7:00 p.m. or any other GSU event.  Again, so as to proactively reinforce this message, GeorgiaStateSports.com and @GSUPanthers are your sources for all our team schedules and information related to Georgia State Athletics.

 

Lastly, if you have a question, concern, or comment about any aspect of our program, please contact me directly via email at ccobb13@gsu.edu or call me at (404) 413-4004.

 

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for your support of GSU Athletics!

 

Charlie Cobb

Director of Athletics