The men behind KSU football

It’s official. The football is teed-up and awaiting the opening kickoff at Kennesaw State. On March 26, KSU announced the hiring of Brian Bohannon as the first coach of the school’s NCAA Division I football team slated for play in the fall of 2015. With the announcement, Bohannon becomes the face of the first D-1 football program outside Atlanta, but still in the metro-Atlanta area.


The hiring of Bohannon, a long-time assistant to Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, marks another milestone in a process that began in 1999. Long-time KSU president Betty Siegel then formed a committee to study the viability of adding a football program to the school that dominates the northwestern intersection of interstate 75 and Chastain Rd. in northern Cobb County.

Following the timeline of bringing college football to Kennesaw, it’s an easy parallel with the school’s ascendance from a junior college in the mid-1970s to becoming the state’s third-largest university with almost 25,000 students. The brains at KSU recognized the importance of bringing football to their campus and also realized that a proper foundation was necessary to make the lengthy and uphill challenge worthwhile.

In 2009, legendary University of Georgia head coach Vince Dooley was hired to lead a committee tasked with deciding if the timing was right for KSU. Dooley was a perfect fit for the job and added credibility to the process.

Not only is Dooley legendary for his coaching exploits, he also served as the athletics director of UGA’s nationally renowned athletics program. Dooley has expertise not just on the gridiron, but on how to start athletics programs from scratch, understands the role of facilities across different athletic teams within a university and is experienced with adding men’s sports to programs in the Title IX era.

During Dooley’s tenure as athletic director at UGA (but after he stepped down as football coach) one of his student-athletes was a wide receiver from Griffin named Brian Bohannon. “His wealth of knowledge and experience is beneficial to this athletic department,” said Bohannon, speaking from the KSU athletic offices last week even before he knew his new email address. “He was one of the first contacts that I made when I knew I had interest in this job.”

In 2010, KSU Stadium opened up a long field goal away from the main campus just east of I-75. In February, Fifth Third Bank agreed to join the momentum of KSU athletics and purchased the naming rights to the 8,300-seat facility already equipped with luxury suites and football locker rooms.


While Dooley was the face of the exploratory committee, his boss on campus, Vaughn Williams, has proven that he has the mettle to oversee the role of football as the flag bearer of athletics. Williams arrived at Kennesaw State in 2011, rising from the role of Associate AD at the University of Connecticut. Since arriving, Williams has already revamped the Owl uniform logos, tweaked the color scheme, added women’s lacrosse, acquired a $1 million video board for the Convocation Center and installed a new fight song. Williams also signed athletic equipment apparel and equipment powerhouse Adidias as a partner for all KSU athletics and is literally putting a brand on the program.

Williams may not have the name recognition of Dooley, but he is a man with a carefully constructed message and a game plan moving forward. Canvassing the scope of his broad job he says, ”Athletics is part of the student experience. It has to be about the students. That’s the job of athletics.” Vaughn, speaking specifically about football, continued, “Football in the south is part of the culture. It’s a part of is what we do.”

If Bohannon has any say – and obviously he does – Dooley will be around for a while.

Bohannon added, “Vaughn Williams (KSU’s athletic director) and I just a couple days ago asked his opinion on a couple of different matters.”

Moving forward, Bohannon is obviously the keystone of the football program, and no one in the state of Georgia can claim his qualifications. Bohannon played at Griffin High School in the 80’s for his father, Lloyd, the winningest coach in that program’s history.

After becoming a starting wide receiver at Georgia, he worked as a grad assistant at West Georgia. Since, he’s coached in state at Georgia Southern, at the Naval Academy and most recently served as the quarterbacks/B-backs coach at Tech since 2008. His recruiting responsibilities at Tech included Cobb County. Bohannon knows football in this state like no one else.

Bohannon also knows that he wears many hats as the lead Owl. He’ll be the face, salesman, fundraiser, recruiter and eventually the “Head Ball Coach.” He hits the recruiting trail hard around April 15 as he continues to build his staff. The first football recruits will begin classes next February.

The recruiting pitch is straight forward and reflects the athlete as part of a bigger entity. “The state of Georgia is key,” said Bohannon. “You have a chance to stay close to home, and you get first chance to play. They’re going to play. There is a vibe on this campus unlike any I’ve been around in a long time. That’s amongst the students, administration and faculty, not just about football but about everything going on at this university.”

With obvious ties to Tech’s Johnson and the Yellow Jackets’ offense, the Owls will incorporate some elements of the triple-option, but Bohannon added, “We’ll also have a package in the shotgun, somewhat like the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins. I definitely want a dual-threat quarterback.”

Bohannon also stressed that they will custom fit packages and play calls to reflect the strengths of the players on the KSU roster.

More than bother worrying too much about the finer points of strategy before even the first player arrives on campus, Bohannon stresses true football fundamentals, “Three things have got to happen. We’ve got to run the football, we’ve got to play great defense and be sound on special teams.”

Kennesaw State University has waited 30 years for football and Bohannon has waited 17 years to become a head coach. Optimism is justifiably high in Kennesaw. Williams spelled out the common goal for football and beyond at Kennesaw State: “Our goal is to be the best mid-major program in the southeast. In student academic welfare, service to the community, and of course, excellence in competition.”

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