Jimmy John's Order Now

How Georgia State landed the home-and-home with Georgia Tech

Doug Justice talks about how the two games with the Yellow Jackets also provides another power-5 school for the Panthers to clash with. Photo by Anna Goricki| The Signal

I remember where I was when the news broke: Georgia State will face Georgia Tech in 2024 and 2026 in a home-and-home. I was at Rosa’s Pizza with Ben Moore.

I spoke with Moore, now at 247Sports, about the significance of the two games. We recalled how it will be the first time in history that the two programs have lined up across from each other on the field.

For Georgia Tech, this comes five years after their appearance in the 2014 Orange Bowl as the No. 12 team in the nation. Jan. 3, 2014 was the last time they were ranked. It was the last time another team in the state outside of the University of Georgia was ranked.

For the Panthers, it is another step in the right direction. Could this be the beginning of a new rivalry? Possibly.

When they march into Bobby Dodd Stadium on Aug. 24, 2024, it will be much more than just a football game. For the Panthers, this is an opportunity to become the second-best football team in Georgia. 

The home-and-home with the Yellow Jackets will conclude in 2026 when the teams play in Georgia State Stadium. It concludes a six-year stretch that will lay a foundation. 

Alabama Crimson Tide. LSU Tigers. Auburn Tigers. South Carolina Gamecocks. Army Black Knights. 

The Panthers will be playing all of these teams, and it cannot be emphasized how great it will be for both the school and its players.

Jimmy John's Order Now
Jimmy John's Order Now

“I think it brings more legitimacy for what we’re trying to do here,” Mike Holmes, associate athletic director, said. 

For the Panthers, the schedule does not mean that they will be able to leap into the Associated Press Top 25 Rankings any time soon, at least for the next few years.

“I’m not saying that because we’re playing a home-and-home with them in football, it puts us on equal footing,” Holmes said. “But it gives us a shot.”

Not a shot on the basketball court, where Holmes brings his son, 7-year-old LJ, who is in first grade. Instead, the aforementioned games bring in more coverage for the team in the heart of Atlanta. Not bad for a program that did not exist back when most of the students currently enrolled at Georgia State were in first grade.

“I think it is a piece in a much larger cog of getting brand recognition, named teams to come compete with us,” Holmes said about the Georgia Tech series.

But the man behind this did so much more than simply schedule a game against a few teams.

Doug Justice is the senior associate athletic director and chief of staff at Georgia State. He and Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb were the ones who engineered the train. The two worked together at Appalachian State prior to joining Georgia State’s program. While Cobb served as the director of athletics, Justice worked below him as the associate athletics director. Both arrived at Georgia State in 2014 with big plans.

“When I got here five years ago, it was one of those things that we wanted to play Tech at some point,” Justice said. “It just happened that this is one-time where were communicating and they said, ‘Hey, we’re interested. Let’s start talking about some mutual dates.’”

Obviously, 2024 is still years away. This year’s freshman class will be graduating undergraduate school and those who shocked the world in Knoxville last year will all be gone.

“We’ve been in touch over the last couple of years about playing,” Justice said. “It took quite some time and just patience. It’s not something that [happens] overnight. And you start talking about opportunities, and then you [ask the other teams,] ‘Is there a certain year you’re interested?’”

However, for Justice, it is never too soon to begin planning ahead. 

“One of my dear friends that lives right next door is a Georgia Tech alum. When it got announced, I texted them right away and asked them what they’re going to be doing in 20204 and 2026, cause I’d imagine it’s going to be at the game with us,” he said.

Justice is one of the few who have the job of planning out schedules for his respective teams. While his days at the office are usually 10 hours long, Justice is never under pressure in the situation. If a school is not available and does not have a date that works, it is on to the next one.

“It’s a big puzzle,” he said. “You don’t know when you’re paths will cross in the future. Like anything else, you can’t hold yourself to one option for one particular year.”

One team that was never part of the puzzle was the University of Georgia. It would be a tough one for Georgia State fans to watch, but Justice knows about upsets. He was at Appalachian State when they beat the Michigan Wolverines in 2007.

“We haven’t had that chance [to speak to UGA] yet,” Justice said. “It may happen down the road.”

With so many non-conference games scheduled for the Panthers over the next six seasons, a foundation will build by the program’s 16th year in existence. The only place to go is to the drawing board and keep working on his craft.

A year and a half ago, Georgia State had an opening in their schedule in 2020. Moving forward, it is likely that Justice will build off of the home-and-home that will be played with the Yellow Jackets.

“That’s going to be our philosophy moving forward,” Justice said. “To find schools that people know about and that people want to see and that our programs want to play and that people can get excited about watching.”