Georgia State AD Cheryl Levick Disccusses School's Fledgling Football Program
Georgia State AD Cheryl Levick this weekend will oversee the start of the school's second season playing in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision. In the lead up to kickoff, she has renewed the team’s contract to play at the Georgia Dome for two more years, spearheaded the construction and opening of a football facility and hosted a sold-out luncheon. But her contributions to the school have gone beyond football. Since beginning her tenure in '09, Levick has approved the addition of the university’s 19th sport, signed Nike as the university’s exclusive apparel provider and witnessed the school's merchandise sales quadruple. Levick recently spoke about pigskin, marching bands and a woman launching a men’s sport.
Q: What is the biggest difference in being an AD at a school with football versus one without football?
Levick: Sheer numbers of student-athletes is the number one thing you need to look at. Anytime you’ve got a football program, you have a minimum of a hundred more student-athletes in the program. You’ve got a lot more coaches and you’ve got a lot more services that need to be provided, so you have a bigger program all the way around -- not only from a student-athlete standpoint but staff and support staff you need. Your time demands when you’re running football; it is very time consuming in the fall. There are a lot of press needs, there are a lot of facility needs, there are a lot of coaching needs, lot of student-athlete needs.
Q: Any talk of a possible on-campus stadium?
Levick: We’re very happy in the Dome. And we’ve just extended that contract by two years. What we are looking at is, is there some kind of an indoor facility where we can practice with rain and lightning and that kind of thing? So looking at the viability of an indoor practice facility, that would be something we look at in the next five years.
Q: How has it been trying to raise funds in the economic climate you started in?
Levick: We’ve had quite a bit of success. I know we have more than doubled, in some cases tripled, the amount of fundraising that has happened in the previous years. Each year we’ve had a million-plus donor give us money toward football. So we have been very happy with that. We have a lot more we need to raise because of our facility needs, but they (donors) have been generous. We’ve been flexible with the payment plans.
Q: Georgia State plays Houston this year, what are the discussions/negotiations like and what do games against higher-caliber teams mean for the revenue of the program?
Levick: We decided -- and we being President Becker and coach Currie and I -- actually talked when we were looking at playing Alabama whether we wanted to play a big team every year, every so often, how do we feel about it. So we ended up playing Alabama last year as our last game and our fans actually loved it. We’re talking about doing a big game a year or however it fits. We are moving into CAA conference play next year and they are pretty tough, so we also need to stay focused on our conference play. But our fans like that so we'll look for big games where our fans can drive or a natural rivalry in the Southeast where that might work. … Our budget is not built on requiring a big game a year, so it’s not absolutely mandatory that we do it.
Q: But is it a big windfall for the program, and is there a perk in playing one of these bigger teams?
Levick: There’s certainly a guarantee that they pay us. Last year the payout for Alabama we actually put into a fund that would cover coaches' bonuses and some other things we were putting together. We really try to build a solid budget where we’ve got some money when we need it.
Q: You've mentioned the addition of more women’s sports with the launch of the football program. Where is the department in that process?
Levick: We’ll be adding two more women’s sports. The one that we’ve already approved and are in the process of adding is sand volleyball. We’ll be building three sand courts on campus, so we’ll have court volleyball in the fall and sand in the spring. We’ll start sand volleyball next fall as our 19th sport here. The other one, we are going to do a survey of the students and double check whether we need to do a team sport or an individual sport. We really need to evaluate the interests of the students. … I think it will be around 20. That’s where I think we will probably settle out.
Q: What challenges have you had as a female AD that perhaps your male counterparts don’t encounter?
Levick: I think because of the years of experience I have had in athletic administration there was an accepted level of respect for my directorship and leadership. I really didn’t feel anyone not supporting what I was doing. I think a lot of people ask me some football questions and some other leadership questions to see if I know my business if you will, but I really never felt that someone didn’t think I could do that job.