Welcome to FBS, Kennesaw State: The History of the Owls

    The Kennesaw State Owls begin CUSA life in the upcoming season, and we welcome them to the FBS by looking at the program's history.

    There will officially be a fifth FBS football program in the state of Georgia starting this year, with the plucky start-up Kennesaw State Owls ready to jump into Conference USA this season.

    How did the Owls get here? A lot of determination and a lot of winning, as demonstrated by this look at the brief but bountiful history of the Kennesaw State football team. 

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    History of the Kennesaw State Owls

    The Owls were independent in 2023 after accepting an invitation to join CUSA in 2022. Now, Kennesaw begins a two-year transition into the FBS, where it will compete in CUSA. However, they’ll be ineligible for postseason competition and conference championships until 2026.

    Quite a rise for a team that hadn’t even played its first game 10 years ago. Gridiron glory was just a hope and a dream among the Kennesaw faithful back then. Now, they are experiencing that reality at the top collegiate level in the nation after years of fans pushing for the inception of a team.

    Located 15 miles outside of Atlanta, Kennesaw State in Kennesaw, Georgia, is one of the biggest “little” schools in the nation, with a reported fall 2023 enrollment of 45,152. Despite its robust size and location in the football hotbed of Georgia, there wasn’t a football team at Kennesaw for the first 50 years of the school’s existence. 

    The wheels of change began to turn in 2007 after a football feasibility survey by the Student Government yielded a 77.6% approval from students that participated. This was the catalyst of a years-long process that culminated in the State Board of Regents’ acceptance of a proposal on Feb. 14, 2013, allowing Kennesaw to begin forming a football program.

    After two years and accepting an invitation to the Big South Conference, the Owls came out swinging, winning the first game in program history 56-16 over East Tennessee State to start the 2015 season. 

    That was the beginning of what might be the best start for any program in college football history – a combined record of 62-18 through its first seven seasons (2015-2021), four FCS Playoffs appearances (2017, 2018, 2019, 2021) and three Big South Championships (2017, 2018, 2021).  

    The consecutive conference championships in 2017-2018 were the first time that happened in the Big South since former member Liberty did the same in 2007-2008. Kennesaw has a 5-4 record in the FCS Playoffs, advancing to at least the second round in all four playoff appearances, including two quarterfinals appearances in 2017 and 2018. 

    However, Kennesaw’s hot start has cooled off the last two seasons, with back-to-back sub .500 campaigns, 5-6 in 2022 and 3-6 last season in a shortened, nine-game season as independents.

    The Owls lost to a current or future CUSA foe in each season, losing 35-28 in overtime at Jacksonville State in 2022 and 24-20 at Sam Houston State last season. 

    Sam Houston was the only FBS opponent for Kennesaw last year, a far cry from its slate for their opening campaign in CUSA.

    MORE: 2024 CUSA Transfer Portal Rankings

    The Owls have 11 FBS opponents scheduled, including three decent Group of Five opponents in non-conference to start the season – at UTSA on Aug. 31, at home against Louisiana on Sept. 7, and at San Jose State Sept. 14. The Owls also get a rematch against Jacksonville State (Oct. 4) and Sam Houston State (Nov. 16), this time at Fifth Third Stadium. 

    The Owls will have a steady hand on the wheel to guide them into CUSA, with Brian Bohannon heading into his 10th season as the program’s first and only head coach. A former receiver at Georgia (1990-1993) before his coaching days, Bohannon boasts an overall record of 70-31 as the head coach of the Owls.

    Owls Career Record Holders

    • Career rushing leader: Chandler Burks, 2,813
    • Career rushing touchdowns: Chandler Burks, 56
    • Career passing yards: Chandler Burks, 3,638
    • Career passing touchdowns: Chandler Burks, 33
    • Career receiving yards: Justin Sumpter, 1,989
    • Career receiving touchdowns: Justin Sumpter, 21
    • Career total tackles: Bryson Armstrong, 320
    • Career tackles for a loss: Desmond Johnson, 43
    • Career sacks: Bryson Armstrong, 18.5
    • Career punting yards: Nicholas Jones, 4,126
    • Career field goals: Justin Thompson, 53

    Kennesaw State Players Selected in the NFL Draft

    While he may not be on the career leaders board for the Owls, former Kennesaw defensive lineman Travis Bell has the distinct honor of being the first and, so far, only player drafted to the NFL from Kennesaw.

    MORE: 2024 Conference USA College Football Schedule 

    Bell was taken in the 7th round of the 2023 NFL Draft, number 218 overall, by the Chicago Bears. In five seasons with the Owls (2018-2022), he played in 54 games, making 68 tackles, 24.5 for a loss, with 11 sacks.

    Kennesaw State 2024 College Football Schedule

    • at UTSA Roadrunners, Aug. 31
    • vs Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, Sept. 7
    • at San Jose State Spartans, Sept. 14
    • vs UT Martin Skyhawks, Sept. 28
    • vs Jacksonville State Gamecocks, Oct. 4 (Friday)
    • at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, Oct. 15 (Tuesday)
    • vs Liberty Flames, Oct. 23 (Wednesday)
    • at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Oct. 30 (Wednesday)
    • at UTEP Miners, Nov. 9
    • vs FIU Panthers, Nov. 23
    • at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Nov. 30

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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