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Georgia State taking 'baby steps' on football drive
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By Charles Odum

ATLANTA - Mary McElroy says she knows that some refer to Georgia State's opening months of its fundraising drive for a possible football program as only "baby steps."

McElroy, Georgia State's athletic director, also acknowledges the first small six-figure steps must become bolder seven-figure leaps before the school can commit to a football program.

McElroy said Thursday the school has raised about $400,000 since the campaign was launched in April. That's only about one-fifth of what she says is a "soft goal" of $2 million to $3 million by fall, when she will report to Georgia State president Carl Patton and other administrators.

"We're trying to get that as a number to show good faith as I go before them," McElroy said, adding that Georgia State ultimately needs to raise $8 million.

McElroy also is awaiting the result of a key vote to raise student athletic fees by $85 per semester.

The fundraising efforts will continue, with the consulting help of former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves, as the focus turns from big-money donors to smaller pledges from supporters and alumni.

McElroy, a former senior associate athletic director at Georgia Tech, said the money raised thus far is "peanuts" when compared with campaigns at Tech and the University of Georgia.

"But we're in our infancy," she said. "We can still take it as a positive. We've gotten a couple of people to give the size gifts that athletics hasn't seen here before - $50,000 for things other than endowments. One donor said even if we don't start a football team we can keep the money for unrestricted needs."

McElroy and Reeves have spoken at dinners held for potential donors.

"There's a positive buzz in the room now in regards to their feelings about athletics and the university, and I'm proud to be a part of that," McElroy said.

McElroy said the football program would not have to make money to be a success.

Publicity generated by football can help boost enrollment and possibly create more funds for other athletic programs, including men's basketball, according to McElroy.

But McElroy said she won't force the addition of football if there is not sufficient support.