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Football study leaves questions
Budget would double if program moves to FBS
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Georgia Southern University Athletic Director Sam Baker speaks to local news media about the University's football reclassification analysis report Thursday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    The anticipation of a feasibility study to determine the steps Georgia Southern needs to take to move its football program to the Football Bowl Subdivision — the highest level of NCAA football — has been building since the consulting firm of Rosser International, Inc., McGee-Geiger and CSL International began the process back in June of 2008.
    The university released the results of the study at a press conference on campus Thursday.
    The conclusion?
    With Dr. Bruce Grube, president of GSU, retiring in December, the destiny of the Eagles will be in the hands of the next leader of the university, who has yet to be named.
    “(Grube's) tenure ends in December,” said GSU athletics director Sam Baker. “He doesn't want to make any decisions that will impact the new president. I'm sure that when he or she takes over, this will be one of the many things that they'll have on their desk.”
    Baker cited that the decision will not be made solely by the athletic department, and that a number of groups will factor into making the call.
    The study did not advise the university on whether or not the football program should make the move. Rather, it provided a roadmap for what needs to be done were the decision to be made.
    Baker did not reveal the direction in which he would advise the new president.
    “I'll answer them behind closed doors,” he said.
    Grube stated that the move has always been considered inevitable, but the current state of the economy would not allow it any time soon.
    “It's never been 'if we could do it.' I think all of us want to do it,” said the GSU president. “Part of the reason for the study was to find out how the University can deal with the economic circumstances that are currently in place. … While there may be some institutions that decide they're going to enhance athletics, at exactly the same time they're doing pay cuts, they're laying people off and they're placing their personnel on furloughs.
    “Georgia Southern's not going to be one of those — at least not while I'm here. I think we have moral and ethical responsibility to the people that work at Georgia Southern to impact them as (little) as possible with what we do. You've heard people say, 'You're only as good as the people around you.' Well we've got some tremendous people here at Georgia Southern, and I need to keep them here, keep them busy and keep them working. There are some things that will take priority here, and for me, people's livelihoods take priority over enhancing football. … It is an important ingredient in the life of a university, but it's not the primary thing we do.”
    Grube gave some specifics surrounding the impact the economy has had on GSU, the largest being a 12.5-percent overall budget cut that will carry over into the 2010 fiscal year.
    Additional furloughs and other cuts could be applied in August.
Grube was also adamant that the responsibility for additional funding would not be the burden of the students.
    “One of the first things that Dr. Grube made very clear when he met the individuals that were doing the study was that this was not going to be done on the backs of the students of Georgia Southern,” Baker said, “meaning that there was not going to be an increase in student fees to fund something like this.”
    While the study was unbiased and provided no advice on a move, it does provide the information for what a move to the FBS would take financially.
    Factoring in costs associated with a new conference affiliation as well as the cost of facility renovations, the study estimates that GSU would need to double its athletic budget of $9.2 million.
    With an estimated $3 million in additional revenue associated with the jump, the university would need to come up with roughly $7 million per year to fund the move.
    The study compared GSU's budget with those of fellow Southern Conference schools, as well as schools affiliated with the Sun Belt Conference, Conference USA, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
    “In all cases and in all comparisons,” said Ron Core, vice president for business and finance at GSU, “Georgia Southern was at or near the bottom of all these rankings.”     
    Travel within a new conference affiliation was also a factor taken into consideration. Several options were cited, including the formation of a new FBS conference.
    “That's just one of those things that's sort of a hypothetical for people to look at,” Baker said, “but it's certainly one of those things for people to at least explore.”
So what now?
    “I think it gives us a road map for what we need to do now,” said Baker. “This is the world we're living in right now and we still need to fund our program to be able to continue the way we want to. We want to win FCS championships right now. We want to be able to compete in the baseball and the golf tournaments and different tournaments around the country that the NCAA sponsors.”
 
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