MACON — Bill Curry will always have strong ties to Georgia Tech.
He played for the Yellow Jackets and coached the football team from 1980-86. Two years ago, Curry was a runner-up to Dan Radakovich when Tech hired a new athletic director.
But now that he’s building Georgia State’s football program from scratch, Curry is asking everyone for advice, even Georgia coach Mark Richt.
"I have such great respect and affection for Mark Richt," said Curry, speaking by telephone during an annual meeting for college teams at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
"He really helped us out with a volunteer situation with our church in Atlanta when he didn’t have to. He’s an unbelievable person."
References to Richt, who has led Georgia’s national ascent over the last seven seasons, can’t hurt Curry in his attempts to re-establish connections with state high schools and start relationships with prep coaches.
Curry’s last season at Georgia Tech was 22 years ago, but he is already mapping out ways for the Panthers to recruit. When he reports July 1 for his first official day at Georgia State, Curry hopes administrators at the downtown commuter school will approve four hires to the football staff.
Those coaches likely won’t be coordinators, but Curry wants the Panthers’ plan in place when the NCAA lifts its annual summer "dead zone" in recruiting.
"As soon as it’s legal, I’m going to be in every high school in the state," Curry said. "That will be done."
Only a few days remain in Curry’s two-year stint as a director of leadership at the Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he taught leadership skills and helped develop personal awareness curriculum for high school kids.
He spent about 75 percent in academia and the other 25 percent in fundraising. His skills in raising money, however, will mean more to Georgia State over the next few years.
Even though they don’t play a game until 2010, the Panthers have a seemingly endless list of needs.
"There’s recruiting, fundraising, a practice facility, a computer and video capacity — all those things, even down to a clipboard," Curry said. "I’ve even joked, ‘Well, we better get a football. We don’t have a football.’ "
In a 17-year combined career at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky, Curry never faced this kind of rebuilding job. Not even going 2-19-1 in his first two years at Georgia Tech or a dreadful 1-10 season at Kentucky in 1994 can compare to his responsibilities with Georgia State.
"I think the biggest challenge right now is to make sure we don’t spray a lot of energy in a bunch of directions without focusing in an orderly fashion on that what matters the most," Curry said.
That means Curry has face-to-face meetings planned with other coaches who have built successful programs from the ground up.
He plans to speak again with Alabama-Birmingham’s Watson Brown, South Florida’s Jim Leavitt and Florida Atlantic’s Howard Schnellenberger, who resuscitated football long ago at Miami and later at Louisville.
"I don’t think there’s magic to it, but I think there’s certain things you must don’t do and certain things you don’t do," Curry said. "I need to learn those because I’ve never done this before."