Georgia State University President Mark Becker announced today that Georgia Perimeter College students and teachers are officially part of the #PantherFamily after the Georgia Board of Regents voted their approval .
”With this vote, Georgia State University becomes the largest university in the state and one of the largest in the nation, with more than 52,000 students. We are committed to honoring Perimeter’s mission of increasing access to higher education and we know the nation will be watching our progress,” said President Becker in an email to students.
MatchCollege.com compiles a list of the 300 largest colleges and universities and ranks Georgia State University as the 70th highest student enrollment prior to the merger with 32,556. With the edition of the GPC students, Georgia State will leap to a Top 10 ranking.
Does student enrollment necessarily equal success in college football?
To answer that question I took 3 sample sizes of colleges and universities based on student enrollment with a college football team who has played football at least 10 years.
Time Span – 2005 to 2014
The Upper includes Texas A&M, UCF, Ohio State, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona State, Michigan State, Florida, Rutgers and Penn State. These teams have been playing an average of 118 years with an average enrollment of 52,847. This is the group Georgia State should fall into once toe meets leather in the Fall of 2016.
The Middle includes Iowa State, NC State, San Diego State, South Carolina, San Jose State (remember them?), Colorado, Utah, Colorado State, Virginia Tech and LSU. To select this group, I used Georgia State’s current enrollment as the median and then selected the 5 Division 1 schools above and below Georgia State in total enrollment. This group has been playing football for an average of 119 years.
The Lower includes Western Kentucky, Mississippi State, Nevada, Troy, UAB, Miami (Oh), Appalachian State, Stanford, Miami (FL), and Bowling Green. A few of these names will look familiar to Panther fans as some of these are current or former Sun Belt members. This group has been playing football for an average of 99 years with an average enrollment of 18,480.
The Upper has won an average of 65 percent of their games from 2005-2014 with Ohio State leading this group with 84 percent and Minnesota as the only team in the group under .500. The Middle has won an average of 52 percent of their games in the same timespan with LSU as its leader with a 78 percent winning percentage. Only four teams had won greater than 50 percent of their games with Colorado at the bottom with 31 percent. The Lower overall actually has more teams with over 50 percent of their wins, but the group as a whole has only won 49 percent of their games. Stanford led the pack with 60 percent and only three teams did not exceed 50 percent with Miami (Oh) and UAB nearly tied for last with 31 percent.
Overall there was a decline in winning percentage by 10% between the Upper and the combination of the Middle and Lower. The top 10 teams with the best winning percentage of all three samples included 6 Upper teams (Ohio State, Texas, Florida, Penn State, Michigan State, UCF) and 4 Middle teams (LSU, Virginia Tech, Utah, South Carolina). They have an average enrollment of 44374 and won 71 percent of their games. No teams from the Lower sample made the top 10.
Wins vs Top 25
Winning Percentage is great and all, but to be the best you have to beat the best. The Upper has won an average of 31% of their games over Top 25 teams playing an average of 33 teams ranked in the AP Top 25. Ohio State, once again, leads the group with a 69 percent winning percentage and has faced 40 AP Top 25 teams. Minnesota, however, has only won 4 percent of their games versus 33 Top 25 opponents. The Middle declines in wins over AP Top 25 opponents by 8 percent but facing nearly as many ranked teams. LSU dominates this pack at 52 percent versus 53 teams with South Carolina right on their tails with 49 percent over 46 teams. There is a huge drop in winning percentage with The Lower down to 12 percent. No team has won more than 50 percent of their games over ranked opponents. While Mississippi State has faced more ranked teams with 44, Stanford has won more of these match-ups at 45 percent.
Overall LSU has faced more ranked opponents (53) than any team of any sample in this study winning 52 percent of those games. Ohio State has a higher winning percentage at 69 percent but only faced 40 teams in the AP Top 20. Rounding out the Top 5 are South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi State and Ohio State. Mississippi State, who arguably plays in the toughest division in the most competitive division in the entire country, is the only team from the Lower sample to make the top 5. The highest ranked non-Power 5 team is San Diego State who has faced 19 ranked teams with only a 5 percent of those wins.
There is a domino effect of expectations of building a winning program. Once the wins start to tumble in, the often lofty expectation of winning a Conference championship soon follows and a National Championship not far behind. The Upper once again dominates this category averaging 2 championships and 8 teams either winning outright or sharing a conference or national championship. Ohio State leads this category with 6, the majority as B1G conference champions, and Florida (who beat Ohio State to win the National Championship in 2006) lead the group. Minnesota and Texas A&M are the only teams in the Top 25 who have not won a title of any sort. Only 4 teams from The Middle have won or shared a conference title with LSU (followed very closely by Virginia Tech) leading and as the only team to have won a National Title from the group. The Lower has more teams with a title with GSU conference rival Troy leading with 3 SunBelt titles. More than half the teams in this study have not won a championship of any sort.
The Money Factor
Many say defense wins Championships, but the fact is money builds winners. Like it or not, it is likely the most important factor to the success of any program. In terms of total revenue generated there is quite the disparity between our sample groups. The Upper generates an average of 108 million compared to The Middle with 68 million and The Lower with about 36 million. In other words, the Middle and Lower samples combined still do not make more than the Upper sample giving those teams a significant advantage to provide better facilities which in turn (usually) generates better athletes. Only three teams from the Upper sample do not make the Top 10 of the combined samples. Two teams from the Middle, LSU and South Carolina, and only Stanford (who very narrowly edged out Rutgers) from the Lower made the Top 10. Texas leads all teams in this category with a Total Revenue of $161,035,187.
Note: This data was pulled from the USA Today and did not include Miami (Fl). They were left out of this portion of the study since the most recent data available for the Canes was from 2008.
Every coach will tell you this is where it starts to building a championship level program. The Top 5, according to AthlonSports.com states for recruiting the best college football talent are Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Ohio where 489 of the best players from 2009 to 2012 were recruited from. While the entire country makes a decent attempt at raiding the talent from these states, the locals typically have a leg up on all the competition. 5 teams (Florida, UCF, Texas, Texas A&M and Ohio State) from The Upper have the immediate access to these players followed by 4 teams (Miami (Fl), Stanford, Miami (Oh), and Bowling Green) from The Lower and then 2 teams (San Diego State and San Jose State) from The Middle. Combined these schools have won 57 percent of games played in the 10 year span. The dominoes fall again in order with the Upper leading with 67 percent, 53 percent for the Middle and 51 percent for the Lower.
What This All Could Mean For The Panthers
Size can matter, as the saying goes, when you factor in student enrollment to the success of a college football program. The Upper sample dominated nearly every statistical category in this study and in many cases it wasn’t even close.
Does this mean immediate success for the Panthers once the merger is complete? Certainly not. GSU still has a lot of investment and growing pains to endure that many of these teams have been through over and over and over again throughout the last century. You can expect that things do trend well for Georgia State to equal its rivals in The Upper echelon. Over time, the winning percentage should continue to improve, they should face and compete with better competition and one day, hopefully, championships will follow as long as the university continues to make significant investments into the program like the recently completed enhancements to the strength and conditioning facility and redeveloping the Turner Field property. Like many of the universities in this study, a rabid fan base will emerge with increased revenues to follow which should lead to more improvements and success in other sports.
Georgia State has never been a university to do anything organic in the traditional sense. They have and will continue to be one of the most aggressive and innovative universities that does things their own way. Not many universities can say they have led an effort that transformed a downtown community for one of the largest cities in the entire country not to mention a hub for the entire southeast. The rise of Panther football will be as non-traditional as the university has been. This study shows what GSU is capable of achieving. However Georgia State has a lot of ground to cover and to be successful with this approach they must continue to keep their foot on the gas.
Woody Bass is a writer for Peach State College Sports and can be found on Twitter at @WoodyBass.