Kennesaw State prepares for milestone jump to highest level of college football

Two Kennesaw State University Owl football players work on drills during an afternoon practice at the university-owned "The Perch" sports park in spring 2024. (Courtesy of Kennesaw State University)

On a clear and cool April morning, the Kennesaw State University Owls are at The Perch, a university-owned sports park, scrimmaging against each other in full pads.

While preparing for their upcoming spring game on April 19, the football players focus on perfecting and running drills. Helmets crash into each other as playful yells and high fives are exchanged after each play.

In the middle of the lively practice, and the heavy smell of grass and sweat, head coach Brian Bohannon observes his team intently.

Going into his tenth season with the team, Bohannon, 53, has been here from the beginning.

“We started this thing from scratch, you know. And there’s a lot of guys out here that put in a lot of hard work — a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to create a brand that everybody can be proud of,” said Bohannon. “It’s been a journey, right?”

Kennesaw Owls head coach Brian Bohannon observes a team scrimmage at the university-owned “The Perch” sports park during an afternoon practice. (Courtesy of Kennesaw State University)

And with the team’s next season, the journey only continues.

Since the program began in 2015, the school has played in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The team has seen a string of successes, including Big South Conference Championship wins during the 2017, 2018 and 2021 seasons respectively.

“We’ve won a lot of football games here. And established a brand of football of guys that play hard, play tough,” said Bohannon.

Beginning this season, The Owls are members of Conference USA in the Football Bowl Subdivision, or FBS — the highest level of college football.

Coming off of a previous season record of 3-6, the team will start off their first FBS opponents with an away game against the University of Texas San Antonio.

“I’m so excited man,” said David Bryson, the team’s sophomore starting quarterback. “[It’s] a great opportunity to make history in this program. Do something that’s never been done before here.”

“Now we go play FBS football, not only just FBS, but we’re going to a national TV.”

Kennesaw Owl players participate in a pre-season practice at The Perch sports park in early 2024. (Courtesy of Kennesaw State University)

With national television comes greater exposure for the team, and in turn, a potential of higher merchandise revenue and scholarship opportunities.

Bohannon and team associates says that the team’s motto is “EAT”: effort, attitude and toughness.

And with the Owl’s first game in the new division less than four months away, they’ll need those three traits now more than ever.

Bohannon, himself a former wide receiver for The University of Georgia, says that this off-season, the program emphasized recruiting bigger, faster and stronger athletes.

And as for expectations, the coach believes that despite potential adversities that may come from battling against future opponents, the team’s overall goals will remain the same as it has since day one.

“I think the big thing is, I want us to go out and play our brand of football,” said Bohannon. “So we got to go get that first one [season win], and we’ll go from there.”