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Georgia State president excited about football program
Georgia State University President Mark Becker speaks to the Rotary Club on Monday during a meeting at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Georgia State University President Mark Becker shared his fervor for football with Rotary Club members on Monday.

Becker, who assumed the Georgia State presidency in January, said the fledgling Panthers football team has begun practicing in temporary facilities for its first game on Sept. 2 at the Georgia Dome.

"We are indeed adding football," Becker said. "It’s not only true, it’s months away. ... The excitement of the student body and the alumni body is overwhelming."

The Georgia State Panthers will share the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons, who play on Sundays. Becker said the Panthers football team will be made up of freshman and red-shirt freshman, and he has "calibrated" expectations for the first season, but is looking forward to seeing the team grow under the guidance of head coach Bill Curry.

While the Panthers will begin the season playing a Thursday game against Shorter College, they will end the season playing against the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 20.

Curry, who also coached at Georgia Tech and Kentucky, was Alabama’s head coach for three years beginning in 1987.

"The interest for that game is overwhelming. We can’t get enough tickets," Becker said.

He said the University of Alabama is paying Georgia State about $450,000 in compensation for the away game.

Becker also told Rotarians that Georgia State has its largest student population this year with 30,500 students. He said applications were up 20 percent over last year. He attributes the spike in applications mostly to the university’s quality academic programs, urban setting and increase of on-campus residencies.

Becker said also that the university campus has not experienced as much crime as some Atlanta colleges and universities have in recent months. He said petty theft, assault and aggressive panhandling are crimes typical of the area, but Georgia State University Police have "a very active policing approach."

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