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GSU Faculty felt timing was right for FBS study
Chicago Bears running back Adrian Peterson, top, carries the ball in a brief snow squall during the first quarter at Soldier Field in Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 23. Peterson says he’d like to see his former school make the move to the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. - photo by Associated Press
    Georgia Southern’s faculty members are well-versed in the decades-long debate of whether or not the Eagles should upgrade their football program, and with the recent NCAA moratorium, they felt timing for exploring a potential move couldn’t be better.
    That’s why the University Athletics Committee — a group of faculty and administrators across the school serving as recommendation body to GSU president Dr. Bruce Grube —decided in October to push for a feasibility study.
    Grube approved their suggestion in late November, giving the school permission to hire an external firm to examine moving the Eagles from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A).
    “It’s something folks in the community have talked about for quite some time,” said Dr. Jerry Ledlow, chairman of the University Athletics Committee and a professor in the College of Public Health. “Various components, departments and colleges on campus have mentioned it over the past few years as well. It was the appropriate thing for the University Athletics Committee to discuss and come up with a decision to at least start the process or not. We thought the most appropriate thing to do was to recommend it to president Grube.”
    Enacted last August, the moratorium sealed off Division I and halted movement between its subdivisions for four years, making now an ideal, unbiased and pressure-free setting to conduct a study, Ledlow said. The school is in the planning stages of commissioning the project, which could take three to six months to complete, athletic director Sam Baker said.
    “We thought the most prudent thing for us to do is really study this and see what makes sense for Georgia Southern University,” Ledlow said. “It’s advantageous to do it in an environment where some of the stress of either staying or moving is removed because of the NCAA moratorium.”
    News of GSU going forward with a study was welcomed by numerous members of the Eagle Nation, including current football coach Chris Hatcher and former star Adrian Peterson.
    “I think it’d be great because we have the athletes to not only compete but to win at the next level,” said the Chicago Bears running back and 1999 Walter Payton Award winner. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”
    Like Peterson, Jayson Foster, the 2007 Payton honoree who recently wrapped up his own outstanding GSU career, was also glad the Eagles are looking into making a jump.
    “It’s a great opportunity for all the players and coaching staff here,” Foster said. “It’s going to be a great recruiting tool. It’s good for the school to get an opportunity to play a I-A schedule. I think it’s what a lot of players want.”
    Dr. Alice Hall, a University Athletics Committee member and a professor of child and family development, is also in favor of conducting the study.
“It’s a complex issue that many alumni, fans, faculty and students don’t understand completely,” she 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.”
    GSU men’s basketball coach Jeff Price, whose team along with the entire athletic department would be affected by a football move, agrees the study will provide a better understanding of the financial impact of a reclassification.
    “I think it’s great, but I understand it’s nothing but a study,” he said. “We study a lot of things. Wherever we go, I’m going to be here doing what I have to do to win.”
    Ledlow, a former Southern Conference athlete who played football at Virginia Military Institute, understands the colossal role of sports in a university community and also supports the study.
    “I think it’s what a prudent organization would do given our history, our success with football, where we are as a university, the size of the university and the group of community members and faculty and staff that show an interest in moving to the FBS,” he said. “It makes sense to do the study, and hopefully the study will have some thresholds that make sense for us. Once we meet or exceed those thresholds it’s another element we’ve met to move us in the direction for a decision.
     “President Grube is very much in favor of looking at this in a responsible, reasonable way so we can make the best decision for Georgia Southern if it’s now, a few years from now, a decade from now or 20 years from now.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.