Georgia Southern president Dr. Bruce Grube has authorized an external feasibility study to examine a potential move of the school’s football program from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A).
Numerous Georgia Southern fans have pushed for a jump to the FBS, or at least a study of it, with the latest lobbying coming from the grassroots movement SouthernFACTS.org. With an unprecedented six national championships and an average attendance of nearly 19,000 per game this fall (fifth-best in the FCS), the Eagles are one of the top programs at their level.
“No one should confuse the idea of having a study with that we’re going to move right away,” Eagle athletic director Sam Baker said Thursday. “(You’ve) got to know (what) it is you’re getting into before you do it. So that’s where we’re at.”
If GSU decides to make the leap, it wouldn’t happen until August 2011 at the earliest because of an NCAA moratorium enacted in August that sealed off Division I to new members — and halted any movement between its subdivisions — for a four-year period. First-year Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher, who led the Eagles to a 7-4 finish this season, was enthusiastic to learn of the impending study.
“We are excited about it, just to see where we stand,” he said. “Taking a step up is something we discuss often, and to take the next step with a study to see if that’s a possibility is exciting for the university, the team and the entire community.”
Marc Cyr, an associate professor in Georgia Southern’s Literature and Philosophy Department and chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, said Grube told the senate about his decision at its monthly meeting Tuesday.
Cyr said there was little discussion on the possibility of moving the program up, and he sensed senate members were interested in the upgrade but wanted to see what the study concluded.
“We know it will be very expensive, but we don’t know the specifics of how much,” Cyr said. “We won’t have a lot to talk about until we get the report from the consultant on the exact costs.”
The study will provide a comprehensive systematic evaluation of the requirements, costs and impacts of a move.
Commissioning the study is currently in its planning stages, and GSU said further details will be released as they become available.
“At this moment no consulting firm has been hired, and there is no timeline,” Baker said. “It’ll be an outside group consulting firm that does these types of studies on a professional basis. They then will come in and do, I’m sure, in-depth interviews, probably do market analysis and give us a strategic plan of how to go about a blueprint of following that. “It’s one of those things that will take anywhere from three months to six months to complete. Then they’ll bring their report back, and it’ll be up to us to go through and meet with the campus community and talk to them about what all is involved and see if there is interest in pursuing it from that direction.”
Alice Hall, an associate professor of child and family development and a member the University Athletic Committee, is in favor of conducting the study. The committee approved presenting the idea to Grube at its meeting last month.
“I support a feasibility study because it’s a complex issue that many alumni, fans, faculty and students don’t understand completely,” Hall said. “It’s worthwhile to look into. The study will provide accurate information, and then a decision can be made based on factual information done by the company. I’m glad we are doing it.”
Chad Bishop and Jim Healy contributed to this report.
Georgia Southern 2008 football schedule
Aug. 30, at Georgia
Sept. 6, Austin Peay
Sept. 13, Northeastern
Sept. 20, Elon
Sept. 27, Wofford
Oct. 4, at Chattanooga
Oct. 11, Open
Oct. 18, Appalachian State
Oct. 25, at Western Carolina
Nov. 1, at The Citadel
Nov. 8, Samford
Nov. 15, Furman
Kickoff times to be determined later.