WGTC will hold the first of several open forums to discuss that possibility Thursday evening at 7 at the Murphy Conference Center on the Waco campus. The public and students are invited to attend.
WGTC President Dr. Skip Sullivan said there has been student interest in athletics in general for quite some time, but the main sport of discussion has always been football.
“I think everyone that is from this area knows that there’s just a ton of kids on this side of Georgia that play high school football and never had a chance to do anything else. A lot of those students happen to be students at West Georgia Tech,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also believes there are several potential students in the area that elected not to go to college, and he feels they may change their mind if given the opportunity to continue playing football after high school.
“With the interest being shown just by our current student body, we wanted to at least do some exploratory work to say, ‘You know, how many are interested in it? Is the community interested in it?’ So we think the right way to do it, of course, is to be slow and methodical. To understand the cost of this type of a program, which tends to be an expensive undertaking,” Sullivan said. “So we’re doing it this way because we think it’s the right way and we certainly want to measure the interest and value in our community, particularly the seven-county service area that we serve here in west Georgia.”
Sullivan said if the interest was strong enough and it is financially feasible, 2014 would be the earliest target date West Georgia Tech could field a football team.
“I can’t see us doing anything before that. We’ve got to solidify some facilities and some things for our current athletic programs right now. Get them on good, strong footing. They’re solid programs. Again, our men’s basketball won the state Division III last year. All of our teams are competitive and we expect them to be competitive. But facilities is an issue for our current athletic structure right now,” Sullivan said. “So we’re going to be very methodical, very careful about what we do and the decisions we make and when.”
Sullivan intends to contact some of the local high schools, as far as working with them on use of a facility.
“We would certainly look to find some partners to work with. If we do a football program, it’ll be a good football program. I’ll just say it’ll be a very competitive program and something west Georgia can be proud of,” Sullivan said.
Thus far, Sullivan has been encouraged by the initial feedback he’s received about adding football to the department’s growing athletic department and he looks forward to hearing further comments from the community and student body at the open forums.
“We’re putting those feelers out and so far we’re getting a lot of response from both students and a lot of response from high school coaches and college coaches who have some interest in having a JUCO-type system in Georgia. You know, certainly a two-year college program that might be a feeder school for some of the other schools,” Sullivan said.
And with WGTC serving a seven-county area that is rich in football history and tradition, Sullivan expects to be able to draw a strong pool of potential student-athletes from those schools and communities.
“If we can dangle the carrot of athletics in front of the student to get them to come to school and get a career and be able to support a family just with the carrot of athletics, we will do that,” Sullivan said.
“You know, very frankly, it’s an opportunity for kids that might not otherwise have any opportunity at all but might be good athletes and can come and begin their college career.”
So as the process plays itself out, WGTC will continue to examine the notion of starting a football program in the coming years. Sullivan said he has been tremendously pleased with the direction of the college’s athletic department under West Georgia Tech Athletic Director Walter Dunson, along with a strong core of coaches leading the student-athletes.
“I’m absolutely proud of our athletic programs, I’m proud of our students and the support of our faculty and staff. The venture of athletes and athletes being on our campus has been a transition piece for our college, but it’s been well-received and I’m excited about the number of students that we have participating in athletics,” Sullivan said.
“I’m proud of our coaches and the character they have. Certainly, the things that they work to instill in their players are something that are exemplary. I’m proud of West Georgia Tech, I’m proud of the Golden Knights and I’m proud of the job our athletic department does.”