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The football team will certainly surpass that, having sold more than 3,000 season tickets. Then again, that will look like a mere speck in the massive Georgia Dome, even with the Panthers only using the lower bowl.

Also, the Panthers couldn’t have picked a worse time to start a program. The economic downturn has made it much tougher to raise funds, which have lagged behind projections and forced the school to phase in the completion of its new football training complex.

While the football team moved onto a new practice field in the spring _ sandwiched next to railroad tracks and a MARTA rapid-transit line, it epitomizes as much as anything the school’s urban setting _ the adjoining facilities are still a work in progress. Only part of the building is set to open this season.

“The most unpleasant part has been the economy,” Curry said. “That’s affected everything we’ve tried to do, like it has affected everything in world. We certainly couldn’t wallow around in self pity because everyone else was suffering the same way.”

In the meantime, the Panthers have found ways to make it all work. The locker and weight rooms are located in the school’s basketball arena. Meetings are held in whatever classrooms happen to be available around campus.

For someone such as Gilbert, who was playing in the Orange Bowl seven months ago, it’s been quite a change.

“The biggest thing is the walking,” he said. “We have meetings in one building. The locker room is in another. We go eat in a building over there. That’s been a big adjustment, I’m not going to lie. I got a bit lazy while I was at Tech.

“But it’s no big deal. I needed the exercise.”