Curry lends instant credibility to GSU football

“Are you ready for some football?” asked Dan Reeves last Thursday from a podium in the Georgia State Sports Arena. Based on the enthusiastic response from the more than 300 people that watched Bill Curry get introduced as the Panthers’ first head coach, GSU certainly is.

Reeves, who was hired as a football consultant more than a year ago, might have been the popular choice to lead the Panthers into the unknown, but was admittedly lukewarm on the prospect because of his lack of college experience. However, athletic director Mary McElroy assured us back in April that some other big names were considering the head-coaching position at Georgia State. She was telling the truth.

McElroy, an ambitious AD who cut her teeth in the athletic departments at the Naval Academy and Georgia Tech, went after an old Yellow Jacket to start the Panther football program. She made the right decision.

“What we set aside as a parameter that we were looking for was a recognizable name, who was going to bring not only instant credibility to Georgia State but was also going to get people fired up in the community of Atlanta as well as the Georgia State community,” McElroy said. “Naturally we were also looking for someone with outstanding coaching ability. And we definitely found that with Bill Curry.”


If McElroy wanted a coach that would immediately get the attention of the Atlanta sports community, she couldn’t have hired anyone better.

Curry is certainly a familiar name around these parts, and his Atlanta roots run deep. He was born and raised in College Park, and his father even worked at the old downtown Rich’s. With the high-school talent in the metro-Atlanta area, having local connections will be key: if Curry can come in right away and steal recruits from the Georgia Southerns, Furmans and Tennessee-Chattanoogas of the world, the Panthers will have an adequate talent base to compete in the FCS’ Colonial Athletic Association, which has had a team in the title game in three of the last five years (two champions, one runner-up). Of course, the ultimate goal is to sway talent from – dare we say it – Georgia and Georgia Tech. It’s not that farfetched, people; in nine years, South Florida has built a nice little recruiting base on local talent alone, and is now sending a good number of players to the NFL.

Speaking of Georgia Tech, his hire is sure to evoke mixed emotions in the Yellow Jackets fanbase. Those that remember the Bobby Dodd era remember Curry as the hard-nosed center from the early 60s who came back to coach his alma mater with mixed results before leaving for (what looked like) greener pastures. As a coach, Curry may be most remembered for being the guy that directly preceded two title-winning coaches. At Tech, he left four years before Bobby Ross led the Jackets to a National Championship in 1990, and at Alabama, he left three years before Gene Stallings won it in 1992. Read into that what you will; the fact is that he left two programs in good enough shape to win a title in less time than the career of a four-year player.


Several years ago, after having served about a decade as an analyst and contributing writer for ESPN, Curry was once again on the minds of the Tech faithful. It’s widely known that he was an unofficial finalist for the athletic director position after the resignation of Dave Braine, but was passed over for the younger Dan Radakovich. However, soon after that disappointment, he received a phone call from McElroy that would change his life. 

“She shocked me out my mind when she proposed this possibility,” Curry said about his initial conversation with McElroy. “I sat there in a stupor for several seconds. Then I said [to McElroy], ‘I’m shocked at two things. I’m shocked, number one, that you would propose this possibility. I’m shocked even more that my heart is pounding out of my chest and I’m thinking about blocking sleds’.”

Curry, at 65, has a five-year contract with Georgia State and should be manning those blocking sleds as early as next spring, when the Panthers will hold their first spring practice with the first recruiting class of 30 players, which will have been signed earlier in the year. During the presser, Curry regaled the crowd with anecdotes from his long career and spoke inspirationally about the brotherhood that college football engenders in its athletes. One quote neatly sums up why he chose to return to the game: “I am a football coach. That’s who I am.”

As for Georgia State, they should feel lucky to have this football coach on their side.

Ewalt can be reached at

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