By Cam Huffman
It’s a question that almost every Mountaineer fan has asked at one time or another since taking a look at the 2013 West Virginia University football schedule. Who the heck is Georgia State?
It’s a fair question. If it were the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech — or even Georgia Southern — the WVU faithful would know what they’re about to face. But Georgia State sounds like some made up school to be used in a movie or a television show, perhaps playing against the Screaming Eagles.
Make no mistake about it, Mountaineer fans, GSU is, in fact, a real school, and there will be a real game played in Morgantown this weekend.
Founded in 1913 in urban Atlanta, Ga., Georgia State University is a public research university with nearly 24,000 undergraduate students and more than 8,000 graduate students. It’s considered a commuter school, with 17 percent of all undergraduates living on campus.
GSU began as the Georgia School of Technology’s Evening School of Commerce. In 1947, it became affiliated with the University of Georgia and was named the Atlanta Division of the University of Georgia. It was removed from affiliation with UGA in 1955 and became the Georgia State College of Business Administration. It became Georgia State College in 1961 and Georgia State University in 1969.
The campus is less than a mile from the CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta.
William DuVall, the lead singer of Alice in Chains, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, rapper Ludacris, actress Julia Roberts and musician Ray Stevens all attended GSU at some point. It’s estimated that there are 100,000 GSU alumni living in the metro Atlanta area.
THE FOOTBALL PROGRAM
Before 2008, GSU didn’t even have a football program. But in November of 2006, the school completed a study and found that it was in a good position to field a football team, based on location and funding. The school hired former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves as a consultant in 2007 and began discussing that possibility of adding football to its list of sports.
In April of 2008, GSU officially launched its football program, and it soon hired former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky head coach Bill Curry as its first head coach.
In June of 2009, the Colonial Athletic Association announced they would admit GSU as a official member during the 2012 season.
The Panthers held their first practice during the spring of 2010 and the first game was played on Sept. 2 of the year, a 41-7 win over the Shorter Hawks in front of a crowd of more than 30,000 fans at the Georgia Dome, where GSU still plays its home games.
Bill Curry coached his final season in 2012, GSU’s first in the CAA. The Panthers won just one game that year and announced that they would be leaving the CAA after just one season to join the Sun Belt Conference and become a competing member at college football’s highest level, the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.
Trent Miles became the school’s second head coach when he was hired this past November, after helping turn around the program at Indiana State.
THIS YEAR’S TEAM
The Panthers weren’t too impressive in their first two games of 2013. They lost to Samford 31-21 in the Georgia Dome to open the season and then were blown out at the hands of Chattanooga last week at home, 42-14.
Aside from the matchup with the Mountaineers, a trip to face defending national champion Alabama also waits ahead for the Panthers.
Quarterback Ronnie Bell has thrown for 461 yards and three touchdowns this season, while Albert Wilson is the top receiving target with 15 catches for 299 yards and three touchdowns.
The Panthers have really struggled on the ground, averaging just 51 rushing yards per game.
Kail Singleton leads the defense with 15 tackles and a sack.
SEE FOR YOURSELF
Saturday’s game, scheduled for a noon kickoff from Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, will be televised regionally on ROOT Sports. Rob King will provide the play-by-play, with color commentary from former WVU quarterback Rasheed Marshall. Amanda Mazey will provide updates from the sidelines.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.