MACON — If it’s happened on or around a football field, Bill Curry has probably seen it, understands it and knows what to do about it.
He was an All-Pro center for the Baltimore Colts in the 1960s. He’s been the SEC, ACC and the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year. And for 11 years he worked as a college football analyst for ESPN.
So when Curry admits that the tasks laid before him are sometimes overwhelming, it says a lot about how much work goes into getting a college football program off the ground.
"It has been overwhelming at times; it’s been an adventure every day" said Curry, who became Georgia State’s first head football coach almost a full year ago.
Unlike his fellow coaches at Tuesday’s Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Curry is still 15 months from kickoff.
He’ll probably need every second of it.
Coaching the games is no problem for Curry. He’s played and worked under greats of the profession like Dodd, Vince Lombardi and Don Shula. He’s won bowl games at Georgia Tech and Alabama.
Working with the kids, even after a decade-long absence from the locker room, is no sweat either.
But his current set of circumstances comes with a complete set of unknowns.
How should he construct a roster so that he’ll be competitive immediately and a contender shortly after? How should he structure a full season of practice when there aren’t any games to look forward to? How can he recruit to a team that’s never played a down?
It’s a lot to tackle.
"I’ve never done this," Curry said.
And that’s part of why he came back to coaching.
"I love to do things that people think you can’t do," he added.
Curry said he doesn’t feel pressure to win quickly at Georgia State, "it’s more like a necessity," he said, adding that he’s been reminded of the early success Erk Russell had at Georgia Southern.
Things won’t be as easy for Curry and the Panthers, though.
For pointers, Curry’s been in contact with Howard Schnellenberger, who revived the football programs at Miami and Louisville, and Jim Leavitt, who launched the program at South Florida.
"Me and my staff were on the phone for an hour and a half, just firing questions at coach Schnellenberger," Curry said. "They had 185 kids in their first camp. We’re not going to have that luxury. We’ll have about one-third of that number."
Part of the reason why, Curry explained, has to do with the academic progress rate now being tracked by the NCAA, which has released APRs since 2005 and subjects low-scoring teams to sanctions, including the loss of scholarships.
All of that means Curry will have to be more discerning about who he allows on his team than coaches were in the past.
"Both Howard and coach Leavitt said to me, ‘look, we had hundreds of guys out there, and you’re not going to be able to do that,’" Curry said. "So for us to think that we’re going to be able to accumulate the kind of talent that those guys did in the first few years, that would be insanity."
But Curry’s far from a pessimist, calling his first recruiting class "a dream," and lauding the exploits of his coaching staff and the football enthusiasm on Georgia State’s campus.
"Of course we expect to be competitive," he said. "Football’s a very unforgiving sport. It doesn’t allow any excuses for anybody. If you run out on the field and say ‘oh, but we’ve only got freshmen and sophomores,’ you’re not going to get a lot of mercy.
"We expect to succeed, but we’re realistic when assessing the numbers."
Right now, that number is one. Mark Hogan, a running back/wide receiver who transferred in from Lincoln-Sudbury College in Massachusetts, is the only player on campus until the remaining members of the Panthers’ first recruiting class enroll Aug. 11.
Curry said he’s got the first few weeks of practice planned and that the team will hold numerous intra-squad games throughout the season. Beyond that, he’s not sure what the next few months hold, but he’s ready to get going.
"For the most part now, I believe that all my years will pay off for us," he said. "I think that’s what I owe the school and my staff and our players; to think about what I’ve learned from the great people I’ve worked with and apply those things. And when I do that we can proceed in orderly basis, and we’ve just do that for a few years, we’ll end up with a really good program."