Almost a year ago, the Georgia State Panthers rallied to the University of Tennessee and upset the Volunteers 38-30 in their home opener. While the royal blue victory t-shirts were being printed and the social media trolling took off, there were some very impactful conversations happening as well. According to Forbes, the Panthers gained 2.5 million impressions across its social media platforms. Not only did this boost the program’s ability to recruit easier, but also stirred up the conversation about the program moving to a larger conference.
The Panthers, an NCAA Division I FBS level program that was founded in 2010, have currently been competing in the Sun Belt Conference since 2013. In just nine seasons of competition, the Panthers have made quite an impression with three bowl game appearances and six alumni now playing in the NFL. So when the University of Connecticut announced its plans to depart from the the American Atlantic Conference (AAC) back in 2019, some felt that there was plenty room for the Panthers at the larger conferences table.
The Panthers meet the initial criteria of being a research institution, and would become one of the largest in the AAC if they were to join. The Atlanta location of the school will also benefit the conference by adding a new media market and is also in a convenient location wedged between the Carolinas and Florida where several AAC teams are located. GSU’s football facilities aren’t as lavish as some of the vastly older teams in the AAC, but more money does come with more time.
This upcoming season could be a very pivotal one for the Panthers opportunity to make a transition to a bigger conference. With the school announcing earlier in the week their plans to host football games at limited capacity, this is a season where momentum can be on their side. Their schedule consists of battling the Power 5 Alabama Crimson Tide on the road, which is predicted to be a blowout but will offer an immense amount of exposure for a smaller D1 school that is Georgia State. The Panthers are also scheduled to face East Carolina University at home, and with the Pirates being a member of the AAC, there would be no better opportunity for the Panthers to make a statement to the conference that they could potentially belong.
As the Coronavirus is monitored and updated news is constantly being shared, we have seen many changes for this upcoming college football season. The announcement from the Big10 and the PAC12 that teams will be playing conference only games this upcoming season left a lot of questions about how the strength of schedule will play into the college football playoff picture. Also, will we see other conferences making this decision as well? Most likely. However, if we see the AAC or the SEC follow suit, then it will leave Georgia State without the opportunity to show its ability to keep up with the larger D1 programs. As the memory of last season’s upset over the Volunteers begins to fade, the Panthers need to keep the momentum up and secure some more key victories in order to solidify a seat at a bigger table.