University consolidation could benefit athletics, ASU director says

 

Consolidating Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities offers an opportunity to consider taking ASU’s athletics program into the top NCAA division, Athletic Director Clint Bryant told the Consolidation Working Group on Tuesday.

That could mean adding some sports, but not football, at least for the foreseeable future.

Bryant’s was one of three major reports the group heard on the considerable amount of work going into creating Georgia Regents University, the proposed new name for the consolidated school. At one time, ASU had been Division I as a founding member of the Big South conference but it is now Division II in most sports, except in men’s and women’s golf, Bryant said.

And it has done well there – the men’s team won back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011, Bryant said.

To get to Division I in all sports will not be cheap – it costs $1.48 million just to make the application and it must come with an invitation from a conference, which is going to want to see that the university has the right facilities and infrastructure support, such as training rooms, Bryant said. And it will take much more than ASU’s current $3.5 million budget.

“In order for us to make that move, we will have to have somewhere between an $8 million to $12 million budget to even start that conversation,” Bryant said.

Within the next nine months, he is hoping to present to the administration a potential strategic plan for how to achieve that over several years.

GHSU President Ricardo Azziz joked that he was “looking forward to seeing that strategic plan with numbers” attached. Bryant said if the move is made, the university could look at adding some sports, such as men’s and women’s lacrosse, but football would add several million to the price tag.

“I don’t say that football is not down the road,” Bryant said. “It’s way down the road.”

But the consolidation – and especially the move to provide more of a residential campus with amenities recruits want – will greatly add to recruiting, particularly with the growing metro Atlanta area, he said.

“This involves an unbelievable potential opportunity for this university,” Bryant said. And it is one that is not getting talked about at the forums with all of the vocal protest of the Georgia Regents name, he said.

“There are a lot more positive and comprehensive things going on that really shines a different light on what consolidation is all about,” Bryant said.

And that might be a problem with the forums themselves, Azziz said.

“We’ve done too much venting and not enough talking about substantial issues,” he said. “We may need to just change the format.”

The school is about to embark on its branding effort soon and has applied for gru.edu to be its new Web address, said David Brond, the senior vice president for communications and marketing at GHSU.

The university is on the verge of hiring a marketing firm that will help it pick a new logo, new colors and essentially a new “brand” for the university. And that branding process means telling of the great work being done at both institutions, Brond said.

“There are some great things happening here,” he said. “We’re going to tell great stories and continue to build our brand for years and years to come.”

And in the end, that is what matters, Brond said.

“Our brand is not our name. It’s not our logo,” he said. “It’s what we stand for.”

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