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Water Cooler: The Collegiate Cash Drop

Sometimes, I wonder what I'm going to write about the world of FCS on a Friday afternoon.

But then, an idea drops in from out of the sky.

Almost literally.

That's after I discovered, thanks to Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated,  of Georgia State's effort to buy fans get students and fans to show up at a football game featuring a nationally-ranked opponent in FCS facing off against your 0-5 team.

That's to have - get this - a halftime drop of cash.

The Facebook promotion to my left is no joke.  No joke at all.  At halftime, Georgia's Own Credit Union is going to be dropping $10,000 cash from the rafters in order to booster attendance at their game against nationally-ranked New Hampshire this weekend.

It's probably not the dumbest idea in all of sports, but it's certainly up there.

This sort of promotion has been tried before - in minor league baseball, where a cash drop of a much, much smaller scale ended up with a boy being hospitalized.

Today we hear about another harebrained promotion, one that ended badly over the weekend—the West Michigan Whitecaps dropped $1,000 from a helicopter and had kids on the field scramble for the money. Predictably, one 7-year-old boy ended up in hospital after being trampled. Team officials don’t even sound fazed. Says one coolly: “It’s for fun and games. This is why we have everybody sign a waiver.”
One can only imagine the potential issues from a drop from the rooftops of the Georgia Dome, with college students (ostensibly) in attendance.  (Let's hope they sign a waiver.)

Mr. Staples had a different question:
I was curious as to whether Georgia State basketball post players, who would have an obvious cash-grabbing advantage because of their height, wingspan and leaping ability, could participate given the NCAA's rules against extra benefits. So I asked John Infante, a former athletic department compliance officer and the author of the essential Bylaw Blog, for an interpretation. Infante wrote that since the cash drop is open to any student, then it would not qualify as an extra benefit for a Georgia State athlete. To all those grabbing for the cash, good luck in the scrum.
What's a bit more troubling, though, is the idea that Georgia State feels like they need to rely on dangerous gimmicks to boost their attendance numbers.

The Panthers, in their last year in the powerful CAA, are starting the transition to the non-BCS world of bowl football starting next season, eventually to end up in the Sun Belt Conference.

At least part of Georgia State's case for moving up to FBS involved their market, according to a blog posting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when the Panthers' FBS feasibility study came out:

Because the university has more than 30,000 students, more than $16 million of its $22 million in the revenues listed in the report come from student  fees. He said that financial support is an important plus, outweighing the barbs of those who have asked why Georgia State would conduct the study so soon after starting football. Athletic director Cheryl Levick has declined to comment on the study.

“The quality of competition doesn’t matter at all,” she said. “The market drives it more than the on-the-field product.”

 Evidently it's a market that, um, hasn't really caught on to the delights of Georgia State football. 

While the (often-ignored) attendance minimum to become an FBS school is 15,000, Georgia State's last game at the Georgia Dome drew 9,476 - not a bad number for FCS, but well under the amount the NCAA "requires".

That 0-5 Georgia State feels showering their students with cash to attend games is not an image that will leave the Panthers easily as they enter the world of FBS.  In fact, it's such a bad idea it seems to transcend the promotion and highlight the sheer madness of it all.  I mean, who wants to play the team whose attendance was so bad they had to pay the students to come, almost literally?

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