CollegeAD Conversation: Georgia State AD Charlie Cobb

September 5th, 2019 | by CollegeAD
CollegeAD Conversation: Georgia State AD Charlie Cobb

charlie cobbFresh off an upset of Tennessee last week, Georgia State is set to open its home schedule on Saturday by welcoming Furman to Georgia State Stadium. The Panthers are set to begin their third season of play in the stadium. The stadium site is part of the master plan by the university to revitalize the area and create an all-inclusive entertainment district that will be home to Georgia State athletics. CollegeAD recently had the opportunity to sit down with Georgia State AD Charlie Cobb and discuss a number of topics pertaining to GSU athletics. 

CollegeAD: Football is set to begin it’s third season playing at Georgia State Stadium, the old Turner Field. How has that been and where does the rest of the project stand?

Charlie Cobb: The transformation of the Summerhill neighborhood, which is part of the stadium project has been an incredible program to be involved with. We’re certainly very proud of the repurposing of the stadium, the Georgia State Stadium.

We had two primary objectives when we went in there: One was we wanted to make sure people saw it as a football facility and that we weren’t playing football in a former baseball stadium. And the second thing from a branding standpoint was that this spoke Georgia State and not Atlanta Braves. We really did a lot that first summer to get ready to play games.

We just recently this past spring finished the football operations center that’s underneath the stadium. We’ve got close to 90,000 sq feet of usable space for our football program. We’ve got a weight room, training room, sports medicine center, hydrotherapy pools, a locker room, coaches’ offices, a meeting space, and we’re pretty proud of how that’s turned out. Now we’re looking to finish up some of the external branding on the stadium.

But as far as the 70-acre development, it’s going great. Our private developer will open a private 700-bed dorm this fall. We’ve got about four restaurants that are online right now with another four that will come out by the end of the football season. They’ll start construction on an 800-bed apartment complex so we’re trying to adjust some of our parking that’s in the stadium but at the end of the day, the housing components are coming along nicely.

One of the underlying themes of the whole project of the 70 acres is that 35 acres has to be revenue-producing in terms of a tax base like housing and retail, so it’s been fascinating to watch that public-private partnership develop.

CollegeAD: What is Georgia State trying to accomplish with the Summerhill project?

charlie cobbCharlie Cobb: There are two components to it. When you think about where we’ll be in five years with the stadium operable. A baseball stadium built on a former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium site and then the Convocation Center where we’ll play basketball.

This athletics neighborhood that’s being created amongst this bigger project that’s being developed. You’ve got liveability 24/7. It’s estimated somewhere between 8,000-10,000 people will actually reside in either dorms, apartments, or housing within that footprint so with that comes all the other things that you see when you’re in a community: grocery stores, the retail components, dining, and so on.

We’ve created the idea, that one, you can live there which means you can walk and then other part when you come into that area like the Braves have done with The Battery Atlanta. You don’t necessarily just come for the game, you come for mealtimes and other social activities that exist.

Millennials are drawing back to the urban markets and we’re trying to be ahead of that curve. We do it within the confines of that we’re 7/10ths of a mile away from our campus, so we’re really extending our campus down the interstates through the area.

CollegeAD: What are some of the current challenges you’re dealing with as you look to build up facilities and the athletic department as a whole?

Charlie Cobb: We’re fortunate that it’s a puzzle we get to create. It’s been exciting and a challenge knowing that this fall will be a 150 year celebration of college football and Georgia State is celebrating our 10th year of playing.

So trying to manage expectations and certainly the idea is that we want to be competitive and we want to win, but it’s also being patient to the process of saying ‘hey we’re developing a program’ and when you think that we’re competing against teams in our league with the exception of Coastal Carolina who’ve been playing football for a few years.

We’re the new kids on the block so there’s an immediate expectation of success that frankly, we haven’t reached, but we’re going to reach. And that’s easy because of where we are, the location of being in the city, being connected to the university. It’s going to come and that’s the fun part.

Getting our facility house in order, when you think about where Georgia State was 5-10 years ago and where we are now, everything we’ve been able to build has been first class, and it shows the commitment of what we’re going to build moving forward.

When we finish the neighborhood, we’ll have all our sports join the campus, and that experience not only for student-athletes but also for building student engagement and community engagement within the footprint of our campus is crucial in terms of what we’re trying to do to grow our brand.

CollegeAD: With all of the facility expansion, the growth of the University, and the market in which GSU resides, how much do you pay attention to all of the external talk about any sort of potential expansion or realignment?

Charlie Cobb: It’s simple, I want our program to be the best it can be at Georgia State and the president wants us to be the best we can be at Georgia State. What does that look like and what does that mean going forward? There are conversations during the course of a semi-annual or even an annual review of strategic planning processes.

But the reality is that we have everyday challenges especially from a facilities standpoint, a fan engagement standpoint, a student engagement standpoint. That’s where our focus is. We’re trying to make our teams better, programs relevant, combined with that and our facilities at the end of the day, we want to be a dominant program in the Sun Belt. We think we have a plan in place to make that happen. I think people spend too much time trying to hypothesize, but we know where we sit in Atlanta, we know all about the market, we know the fact that it’s the center of the South and one of the leading cities in our country and even our world so there’s some inherent advantages to being in that market, and there are some challenges as well. charlie cobb

CollegeAD: What’s next for Georgia State athletics?

Charlie Cobb: Next for us is figuring out the football piece. Winning games, and we’ve got to grow our fanbase. Like any new endeavor, it’s obviously a challenge. People want to be a part of a successful program.

We’ve got to monetize basketball success, and we’ve got to continue this path of building facilities that meet our expectations and give our coaches a chance from a recruiting standpoint to sell the vision that is the University.

We’ve been in this incredible run as a campus; lots of national recognition for student success led by an incredible leader in Senior Vice President of Student Success Tim Renick on our campus. President Mark Becker is a passionate leader for our campus, so we’ve got a lot of things that are a high priority in the university. Athletics can share that vision and be a part of that success and help to add to that legacy.

When you tell people that you work on a campus in downtown Atlanta with 53,000 students the largest school within the Georgia system, we affect change and outcomes in Atlanta everyday.

It’s a matter of tying that connectivity from our alumni and our students back to our campus but selfishly back to our athletics program.

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