Building the Foundation
Across our great nation students are heading back to campuses, and on many of our campuses there is excitement about the start of the college football season. Intercollegiate athletics is uniquely American. While athletics is part of the college experience elsewhere in the world, nowhere else is athletics playing as prominent a role in the college experience as it does in the U.S.
of a Winning Tradition
At Georgia State our athletics program is relatively young, at least when viewed as a comprehensive program competing at the highest level of the NCAA. We do not yet enjoy the strong traditions and faithful allegiances institutions such as the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have. We are in the early stages of building, and several developments over the past weeks and months point out we are headed in the right direction. It will take commitment and time to build those traditions and allegiances. The evidence is clear that we are on our way.
Most recently, the flood of national media and attention afforded our Georgia State football team following our thrilling win over Abilene Christian was spectacular. Through a few hours of national television coverage topped by some late-game heroics, many more people know the name of Georgia State and associate it with major universities across the land. That kind of exposure and attention is one of the significant rewards of competing in intercollegiate athletics at the highest level.
There are naysayers who are skeptical of intercollegiate athletics and highly critical in more extreme cases. In this day and age of 24/7 coverage on social media and numerous cable channels, intercollegiate athletics lives under a microscope. The great moments, be they exciting victories or heart-rending human-interest stories, share the stage with all too frequent stories of greed and abuse. Leadership matters in setting the tone and conduct of an athletics program, and in that regard the Athletic Director has a prominent role.We searched for a new Athletic Director this summer following Cheryl Levick’s announcement that she wanted to transition to the next stage of her professional career. Ms. Levick had established a high bar for conduct and success at Georgia State, and in the search for her replacement we sought to hire someone who would build on the foundation she established. Charlie Cobb, our new Athletic Director, more than fits the bill. He has an outstanding record of accomplishment and success, has deep roots in Atlanta and has earned an excellent reputation throughout the world of intercollegiate athletics.
A particularly gratifying element of the search that brought Mr. Cobb to Georgia State is that the candidate pool was large and rich with talent. One message ran through all of the interviews leading to Mr. Cobb’s hiring. The word is out across the nation that Georgia State is on the verge of doing something truly big and great in athletics.
There are many factors contributing to the rise of Georgia State athletics, such as outstanding records of competitive success over the past couple of years in women’s cross-country and tennis and men’s basketball, golf and soccer. Positive momentum across other sports and the recent NCAA approval of Georgia State to compete at the Football Bowl Subdivision level are other positive factors. Yet, the one factor that has captured everyone’s attention, including those well beyond Atlanta, is the potential for Georgia State to develop a portion of the Turner Field property for athletics. This is the one thing I am asked about everywhere I go, almost every day.Georgia State’s proposal for redeveloping Turner Field, if it is accepted, will occupy only about one-third of the land vacated when the Atlanta Braves leave downtown. This would include building a 30,000-seat football stadium where Turner Field stands today and a collegiate baseball stadium where Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium once stood. Carter & Associates, a nationally recognized Atlanta-based developer, is our partner for the Turner Field project and would carry the bulk of the financial responsibility for the overall project. They would build and develop single-family housing, student housing, retail businesses and associated parking on the remaining two-thirds of the site. This is a transformative opportunity for Atlanta and Georgia State. With Georgia State as an anchor for stability and security, this proposal will pay homage to the history of the 1996 Olympics, the Atlanta Braves and Henry Aaron’s historic home run to break Babe Ruth’s career record at the same time it builds a vibrant community that will benefit surrounding neighborhoods. Our history in downtown Atlanta has proven that Georgia State is a credible and reliable partner for driving transformation.
Georgia State is relatively new to the world of so-called “big-time” intercollegiate athletics, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us to develop the rich traditions and allegiances that can greatly enhance the student experience. We will get there by committing ourselves to excellence on the field, on the court and in the classroom, and by drawing on the same grit and determination that Georgia State has demonstrated for 101 years as it has transformed from an evening school of commerce in 1913 into one of the most vibrant and dynamic urban universities in America today.