Now that Georgia Southern University students have voted to pay a fee to support a move to college football’s highest level, two steps remain.
One is a vote by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, which will receive the results of the student vote for a $75 per-semester activity fee to pay for the move to the Football Bowl Subdivision, along with two other new fees. The other is an invitation to join an FBS conference.
The Georgia Southern Eagles are currently in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Students also voted to fund expansion of the Allen E. Paulson Stadium by 6,300 seats and a new deck, as well as to fund “sustainability and green efforts on campus.”
If the board approves the increases, the sustainability and greens efforts ($10 per student) and stadium improvement fees ($25 per student) will go into effect in fall 2013.
The $75 per student per semester fee supporting the move to FBS would not go into effect unless the university receives an invitation to join an FBS conference.
“This is a big hurdle,” said GSU President Brooks Keel, who spoke after the vote was announced at noon Friday at the Russell Student Union Rotunda. “It is an unbelievable statement our students have made. I don’t think there is anything they could have possibly done to speak louder.”
The fees lured about 55 percent of eligible voters to vote online. A record 9,390 students cast votes.
About 70.4 percent of the voters approved adding 6,300 seats and a new student deck to Paulson Stadium. About 74.7 percent of voting students approved the sustainability and greens fees, and 61.2 percent of students voting said “yes” to funding the move to FBS status.
After Dominique Quarles, the president of the university’s Student Government Association, announced the results, a small crowd of students who gathered to hear the news cheered loudly.
Zoe McFall, 20, a pre-nursing student from Douglasville, said she voted “yes” on all three measures.
“Gotta support those Eagles,” she said. “This is a big turn in the history of GSU.”
Keel said Georgia Southern has “been in contact with the Board of Regents all along” and will forward the proposed fee increases to the board as soon as possible. The increase is “the first major increase (at the university) in years.”
Students ran a website, went door to door to generate interest and voting participation, and had signs on campus promoting the voting opportunity.
If the Eagles move to the FBS level, Georgia Southern will garner more national attention, Keel said.
“That’s what I am particularly excited about,” he said.
The move also would make it possible to recruit the best athletes, he said.
GSU head football coach Jeff Monken was all smiles during the announcement.
“I think it’s great for the university to have a student-led vote, and be able to voice their hopes and dreams,” he said. “It’s fantastic the students were able to vote their opinion on what they think is important.”
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.