ATLANTA — Mary McElroy says she knows that some refer to Georgia State’s opening months of its fundraising drive for a possible football program as only ‘‘baby steps.’’
McElroy, Georgia State’s athletic director, also acknowledges that the first small six-figure steps must become bolder seven-figure leaps before the school can commit to a football program.
McElroy said Thursday the school has raised about $400,000 since the campaign was launched in April. That’s only about one-fifth of what she says is a ‘‘soft goal’’ of $2 million to $3 million by fall, when she will report to Georgia State president Carl Patton and other administrators.
‘‘We’re trying to get that as a number to show good faith as I go before them,’’ McElroy said, adding that Georgia State ultimately needs to raise $8 million.
McElroy also is awaiting the result of a key vote to raise student athletic fees by $85 per semester.
The fundraising efforts will continue, with the consulting help of former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves, as the focus turns from big-money donors to smaller pledges from supporters and alumni.
‘‘It’s promising. I wish it were more promising, of course,’’ McElroy said.
McElroy, a former senior associate athletic director at Georgia Tech, said the money raised thus far is ‘‘peanuts’’ when compared with campaigns at Tech and the University of Georgia.
‘‘But we’re in our infancy,’’ she said. ‘‘We can still take it as a positive. We’ve gotten a couple of people to give the size gifts that athletics hasn’t seen here before — $50,000 for things other than endowments. One donor said even if we don’t start a football team we can keep the money for unrestricted needs.’’
McElroy and Reeves have spoken at dinners held for potential donors.
‘‘There’s a positive buzz in the room now in regards to their feelings about athletics and the university, and I’m proud to be a part of that,’’ McElroy said. ‘‘Dan Reeves gave stirring talks about what the potential is for football. ... If we can get behind this, it’s going to happen, and I think it’s going to happen.’’
Added McElroy: ‘‘The support to this point indicates we can do this and should do it for strategic reasons.’’
McElroy said the football program would not have to make money to be a success.
Publicity generated by football can help boost enrollment and possibly create more funds for other athletic programs, including men’s basketball, according to McElroy.
But McElroy said she won’t force the addition of football if there is not sufficient support.
‘‘I’ll be OK either way,’’ she said. ‘‘This is not a mandate from me or Dr. Patton.
‘‘Some have said we’re taking baby steps. Well, this is a big task and we would be ill-advised to just jump into it.
‘‘We’ve seen it does make sense to pursue it, but it does not make sense to pursue it if the support is not there.’’
McElroy says Georgia State would play its home games at the Georgia Dome but has not found a potential site for practice fields and a football building.