Georgia Southern Eagles football

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Georgia Southern Eagles Football
2014 Georgia Southern Eagles football team
GaSth 2490.png
Georgia Southern1.png
First season 1924
Athletic director Tom Kleinlein
Head coach Willie Fritz
Home stadium Paulson Stadium
Stadium capacity 24,300
Stadium surface Bermuda grass
Location Statesboro, Georgia
Conference Sun Belt
All-time record 275–101–1 (.731)
Postseason bowl record 45–10–0 (.818)
Claimed national titles 6
Conference titles 10
Consensus All-Americans 65
Colors

Blue and White

          
Fight song Georgia Southern Fight Song
Mascot Freedom (live); GUS (costume)
Marching band Southern Pride
Outfitter Adidas
Rivals Appalachian State
Georgia State (beginning 2014)
Website GSEagles.com

The Georgia Southern Eagles represent Georgia Southern University in football as part of the Sun Belt Conference under head coach Willie Fritz. The Eagles have won an unprecedented six FCS (I-AA) national championships and have produced two Walter Payton Award winners. The Eagles first continuously fielded a football team in 1924; however, play was suspended for World War II and revived in 1981. Previously, the Eagles competed as an FCS independent from 1984 until 1991 as the Eagles' main conference at the time, the Trans Atlantic Athletic Conference (now known as the Atlantic Sun Conference), did not sponsor football, and as a member of the Southern Conference from 1992 until 2013, winning ten SoCon championships.

History[edit]

Early years: 1924–1941[edit]

As First District A&M, the school began organizing football teams as early as 1909.[1] However, the college first continuously fielded a team in 1924. In 1929, B.L. "Crook" Smith, a sports standout from Mercer University, was hired as football coach and athletic director and would lead the football team for thirteen seasons. Football was suspended in 1941 at the outset of World War II and would not return for 41 years.

Erk Russell era: 1981–1989[edit]

In 1978, president Dale Lick decided that football should be revived at Georgia Southern College. Despite a faculty senate vote against renewing the sport, President Lick worked to generate support for the endeavor. In 1982, the school hired Erk Russell, the popular and charismatic defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, to coach the new football team. On the hire, humorist Lewis Grizzard said, "When they landed Erk Russell, they got themselves a franchise."[2] The Eagles fielded a club team in 1982 and 1983 and began official NCAA Division I-AA play in 1984. The next year, the Eagles would win their first Division I-AA national championship in Tacoma, Washington, defeating current Southern Conference rival Furman University, in only the team's fourth year in existence, second as a varsity team. The Eagles would return to Tacoma the next year and win the championship vs. Arkansas State. In 1989, the Eagles became the first college team to go 15-0 in twentieth century, winning the national championship on their home field vs. Stephen F. Austin. Soon after the game, Russell retired.

Post Russell era: 1990–1996[edit]

Tim Stowers was hired to replace Coach "Erk" Russell after Georgia Southern's 1989 (15-0) national title. Stowers was the 1989 Offensive Coordinator, one of only two coordinators since 1900 to direct an offense with a team 15-0 record. However, Stowers was never able to live up to the expectations set by Russell and was fired in 1995 after a 9-4 record, ranked as one of top 8 teams in 1995 (lost at Montana the eventual I-AA/FCS National Champion and beat # 1 ranked Troy State 11-0 on the road), by new AD Sam Baker who never saw Stowers coach a game. Stowers overall record of 51-23 (.689) vs. FCS/I-AA opponents. FBS/D-IA losses-Miami "Hurricanes" twice, Georgia "Bulldogs", Auburn "Tigers", and Bobby Bowden and Florida State "Seminoles". Coach Stowers had a 6-2 playoff record and a 51-18 (.739) overall record vs. I-AA/FCS opponents and lower. Stowers won the 1990 I-AA National Championship (12-3) and was named AFCA Kodak National Coach of the Year. Stowers also won Georgia Southern's first ever Southern Conference Title in 1993 (first year in league) and was named 1993 Southern Conference Coach of the Year. He was replaced by interim coach Frank Ellwood for one year. The 1996 season was the first losing season in the modern era as the Eagles fell to 4-7.

Paul Johnson era: 1997–2001[edit]

The next coach for the Eagles was Paul Johnson. Johnson found instant success taking the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season. He along with Eagle legend Adrian N. Peterson reached the 1998 national championship. However, the Eagles lost the game to the University of Massachusetts 55-43 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Eagles rebounded under Johnson and won back to back national championships in 1999 ( vs. Youngstown State) and 2000 (vs. Montana) played in Chattanooga, TN. After the 2001 season, Johnson resigned to become the head coach of Navy.

Post Johnson era: 2002–2009[edit]

Johnson was succeeded by Mike Sewak. Despite winning the Southern Conference championship twice in his tenure, his lack of postseason success as well as a falling out with former head coach Erk Russell led to his firing after the 2005 season. Brian VanGorder, a former defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, was hired to replace Sewak. In the first of many controversial moves, VanGorder scrapped Georgia Southern's famed triple option offense and did away with certain traditions such as the team's arrival on yellow school buses. Also, Erk Russell passed away unexpectedly on the Friday before the first game of the 2006 season; Russell had addressed the team on the night before. VanGorder led the team to a 3-8 record, the worst in the modern era of Georgia Southern football. After his unsatisfactory one year as coach, VanGorder left to take a position with the Atlanta Falcons. Chris Hatcher, formerly the head coach at Valdosta State University, whom he led to the 2004 NCAA Division II Football Championship, was named the new head coach on January 19, 2007. Hatcher led the Eagles back to a winning record with a 7-4 finish, barely missing the playoffs. However, Hatcher could not replicate the success of his first season, going 11-11 in the following two seasons. Hatcher was dismissed after the conclusion of the 2009 season, the team's third modern era season with a losing record (5-6).

Jeff Monken era and final years in the FCS: 2010–2013[edit]

On November 29, 2009, school officials announced that Jeff Monken, a longtime assistant coach under Paul Johnson, would become the next head coach of the Georgia Southern Eagles. Monken's hiring signaled the return of the triple option offense which brought success to the program in years past. In Monken's first year, the Eagles finished the regular season with a 7-4 record and made their first playoff appearance since 2005, advancing to the semifinals, where the Eagles fell to the Delaware Blue Hens.

During the 2011 season, Georgia Southern was ranked No. 1 in the FCS for the first time since the 2001 season.[3] Additionally, Georgia Southern clinched the Southern Conference Football Championship for the first time since 2004 and first time outright since 2002.[4] The Eagles finished the 2011 regular season with a 9-2 record; however, the Eagles were ousted in the semifinals for a second straight year by the eventual FCS champion North Dakota State Bison. In the 2012 season, the Eagles finished the regular season with an 8-3 record with a share of the Southern Conference Championship; however, the Eagles fell for a third straight time in the FCS semifinals, ultimately the team's final FCS playoff game, losing a rematch of the previous year's semifinal game against North Dakota State. In the team's final FCS season, the Eagles complied a 7-4 record. In the final game of that season, the Eagles earned an upset win over the Florida Gators 26-20, the team's first win over a FBS opponent in 21 tries. On December 24, 2013, Monken resigned to become the next head coach of the Army Black Knights.[5][6]

Willie Fritz and the start of the FBS era: 2014–present[edit]

After years of rumors and fan speculation, Georgia Southern formally announced its intentions to move to the Football Bowl Subdivision level in April 2012. The university plans to raise $36.6 million over 8 years to accommodate the move. Paulson Stadium will be expanded to FBS-standards by constructing a 57,000 square feet (5,295 m2) football operations center in the eastern end of the stadium and adding 6,300 seats on the north stands.[7] Additionally, students voted in favor of raising student athletic fees by $100 to accommodate the move. $25 of the fee increase will be used for the stadium expansion project while the remaining $75 is implemented as the "FBS Fee".[8]

On July 27, 2012 then-Athletics Director Sam Baker resigned. Baker was an ardent supporter of remaining in the FCS despite university president Brooks Keel's proclamation, mainly due to the financial ramifications of moving to a higher level. On November 12, 2012, President Keel named Tom Kleinlein the athletic director of Georgia Southern University.[9] On March 27, 2013, Georgia Southern announced its move to the Sun Belt Conference on July 1, 2014, becoming bowl eligible in 2015. In the 2013 season, Georgia Southern's football schedule remained the same, but they were ineligible for the Southern Conference title as well as the FCS playoffs. The University paid the Southern Conference $600,000 in exit fees.[10]

On January 10, 2014, Willie Fritz, formerly the head coach of the Sam Houston State Bearkats, was named as the Eagles' ninth modern era head coach and first of the FBS era.[11]

Coaches[edit]

Coach (Alma Mater) Seasons Years Games W L T Pct.
E.G. Cromartie (Mercer) 3 1924-1926 13 7 5 1 .583
H.A. Woodle 2 1927–1928 18 11 6 1 .647
B.L. Smith (Mercer) 13 1929–1941 117 44 66 7 .415
Erk Russell (Auburn) 8 1982–1989 106 83 22 1 .790
Tim Stowers (Auburn) 6 1990–1995 74 51 23 0 .689
Frank Ellwood (Ohio State) 1 1996 11 4 7 0 .364
Paul Johnson (Western Carolina) 5 1997-2001 72 62 10 0 .861
Mike Sewak (Virginia) 4 2002-2005 49 35 14 0 .714
Brian VanGorder (Wayne State) 1 2006 11 3 8 0 .273
Chris Hatcher (Valdosta State) 3 2007–2009 33 18 15 0 .545
Jeff Monken (Millikin) 4 2010–2013 54 38 16 0 .704
Willie Fritz (Pittsburg State) 1 2014 0 0 0 0 .000

Stadium[edit]

Georgia Southern home football games are played at Allen E. Paulson Stadium. Paulson Stadium was dedicated on September 29, 1984, and has an official seating capacity of 24,300. The record attendance was in the 1989 I-AA National Championship game as Georgia Southern hosted Stephen F. Austin University, where the attendance reached 25,725. Paulson Stadium is currently undergoing a major expansion project that includes the addition of a mid-deck and more than 6,000 new seats.

All-time record vs. Sun Belt teams[edit]

Official record (including any NCAA imposed vacates and forfeits) against all current CUSA opponents as of the start of the 2014 season:

Opponent Won Lost Tied Percentage Streak First Last
Appalachian State 11 15 1 .426 Lost 3 1934 2013
Arkansas State 1 0 0 1.000 Won 1 1986 1986
Georgia State 0 0 0 - - -
Idaho 1 0 0 1.000 Won 1 1990 1990
Louisiana–Lafayette 0 0 0 - - -
Louisiana–Monroe 2 2 0 .500 Lost 1 1987 1991
New Mexico State 0 0 0 - - -
South Alabama 0 0 0 - - -
Texas State 0 1 0 .000 Lost 1 2005 2005
Troy 3 10 0 .231 Won 1 1934 1995
Totals 18 28 1 .394

Awards[edit]

The Eagles have won six NCAA FCS National Championships, the most by any team in the nation.

National championships[edit]

  • 1985 - Coach Erk Russell and the Eagles won their first national championship vs. Furman University in the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. Quarterback Tracy Ham threw for 419 yards and rushed for another 90 to overcome a 28-6 deficit.
  • 1986 - The Eagles returned to Tacoma to defeat the Arkansas State Indians. Tracy Ham earned 486 rushing and passing yards and three touchdowns.
  • 1989 - In Erk Russell's final game, the Eagles defeated Stephen F. Austin in Statesboro, Georgia in front of 25,725 fans to complete a perfect 15-0 season. Quarterback Raymond Gross engineered 17 fourth quarter points, including a game-winning field goal with 1:41 remaining in the game.
  • 1990 - Tim Stowers' Eagles win their fourth national championship vs. Nevada
  • 1999 - Paul Johnson won his first national championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee vs. Youngstown State in Jim Tressel's last national championship game as a Penguin (Jim Tressel's last game as a Penguin was against the Richmond Spiders in the playoffs in 2000). Adrian Peterson ran for a championship game record 247 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns.
  • 2000 - The Eagles defeated the Montana Grizzlies to win their sixth and final FCS championship.

National runners-up[edit]

Walter Payton Award[edit]

Georgia Southern is one of five schools to have multiple Walter Payton Award winners honoring the top offensive player in the Football Championships Subdivision. Running Back Adrian Peterson won the award in 1999 and quarterback Jayson Foster won it in 2007.

Eddie Robinson Award[edit]

Two Georgia Southern coaches have won the Eddie Robinson Award winners honoring the top coach in Division I-FCS. Erk Russell won it in 1989 and Paul Johnson in 1998.

Traditions[edit]

Nickname[edit]

Gus the Eagle, the Mascot

The athletic teams of Georgia Southern University are referred to as the Eagles. However, the school has gone by a number of different nicknames. From as early as 1907 the athletic teams of the then First District A&M school were referred to as the Culture to reflect the agricultural background of the school.[12] From 1924 to 1941, the nickname was the Blue Tide. After World War II, athletic teams were referred to as the Professors reflecting the school's status as a teachers college. However, in 1959 when the school was renamed Georgia Southern College, a student vote was held to determine the new mascot; among the 104 entries, voters chose Eagles over Colonels by a narrow margin. In 1997, a contest was held to select the official name of the mascot, two incoming freshman Imen Edmond & Heidi Barber, won with the name GUS.[13]

Beautiful Eagle Creek[edit]

Beautiful Eagle Creek

When Georgia Southern resurrected football in 1981, it lacked tradition. A drainage ditch that the team had to cross several times a day during football practice came to be called Beautiful Eagle Creek by Coach Erk Russell. When the Eagles traveled to Northern Iowa during the 1985 playoffs, Coach Russell brought along a jug of this Eagle Creek water to sprinkle on the field.

The Hugo Bowl[edit]

In 1989 ESPN was to broadcast a Thursday Night Football game between the Georgia Southern Eagles and the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. However, Hurricane Hugo, a category 4 storm, was headed straight towards the coast of Georgia. Hugo ranked as the eleventh most intense hurricane at time of landfall to strike the U.S. this century, with the highest ever recorded storm surge on the East Coast. Nevertheless, the decision was made to continue with the game. For safety purposes, an open line was kept between the press box at Paulson Stadium and the National Hurricane Center in Florida. The Eagles went on to defeat MTSU by a score of 26-0 in a classic that will forever be known in Eagle History as the Hugo Bowl.

This was the first night game played at Paulson Stadium. Temporary lighting was used for the game because the stadium was not outfitted with permanent stadium lighting until the 1994 season. Many feared that the booms used to hoist the stadium lights would tip over due to the heavy wind. While it was expected initially to be a sellout crowd, due to the approaching storm the actual attendance was in the neighborhood of only 3,000.

Plain uniforms[edit]

When the program was revived in 1982, the school did not have a large budget and coach Erk Russell ordered solid blue helmets and asked the players to put a white strip of tape down the middle. At the time of the restart of GSU Football the equipment budget was so limited that only practice pants could be purchased. Hence, players wore the same practice pants as game pants. A simple limited monetary approach which has become a nationally recognized tradition The uniforms consisted of plain white pants and blue jerseys without names.[14] With the subsequent success of the Eagles, the basic simple design of the uniforms has remained the same. Sports Illustrated has ranked the uniforms as being the 3rd best in college football.

Yellow school buses[edit]

When the football team was started again in 1981, money was tight. In fact, there wasn't enough money to furnish transportation. The Bulloch County school system sold two buses for a dollar each to the team. The buses have been used by the team ever since as transportation to the Allen E. Paulson Stadium. Brian VanGorder, following his scrapping of the Eagles' triple-option rushing attack, ended the tradition of arriving on yellow school buses to home football games. The tradition has since been revived and the team now arrives to the stadium in the yellow school buses.

Black flag[edit]

In 2011, Coach Monken's team took the field leading with a solid black flag. The flag symbolized their motto "No quarter given, no quarter taken." During the game it was placed behind the bench. The flag was carried by safety Derek Heyden who suffered a career ending neck injury early in the season.

Fight song[edit]

Listen to the Fight Song - [1]

Wave the blue, wave the white
Hold the banner high
The Eagles are on the wing.
Sound a cry to the sky,
As we look for glory.
Victory now we sing.
Hail the blue, hail the white
Hail the team that's soaring
Upward to bring us fame;
Georgia Southern Eagles
Fight on to victory and
Win this game!

Blue and white-fight, fight!
Blue and white-fight, fight!
Georgia Southern-Eagles!
Fight, fight, fight!

Hail Southern[edit]

A victory chant.

"Hail Southern!"
(Response) "Hail Southern"
"Hail Southern!"
(Response) "Hail Southern!"
"Hail Southern!"
(Response) "Hail Southern!"
"Hail (The name of the defeated team)?"
(Response) "Hell no!"

The phrase "Hail Southern" is also used as a greeting to a fellow Eagle.

Future non-conference opponents[edit]

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
at NC State at West Virginia vs Jacksonville at LSU at Kent State vs Kent State
vs Savannah State vs Western Michigan at Western Michigan
at Georgia Tech vs The Citadel at Ole Miss
at Navy at Georgia vs Savannah State

[15]

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Adrian N. Peterson Running Back
Tracy Ham member of the College Football Hall of Fame, 1995 CFL Most Outstanding Player
Rob Bironas NFL kicker and Pro-Bowler, holds record most field goals in a game (8)
Fred Stokes Former NFL Player, Super Bowl Champion
Kiwaukee Thomas NFL player
Earthwind Moreland NFL Player
J.J. Wilcox NFL Safety for the Dallas Cowboys
Jayson Foster 2007 Walter Payton Award Winner
Darius Eubanks NFL Linebacker for the Cleveland Browns

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Delma Eugene Presley, The Southern Century. Statesboro: Georgia Southern University, 2006. 47.
  2. ^ Delma Eugene Presley, The Southern Century. Statesboro: Georgia Southern University, 2006. 227
  3. ^ "Georgia Southern football returns to No. 1". The Sports Network. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "Saturday's Football Roundup: November 12, 2011". SoCon Sports. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Johnston, Andy. "Georgia Southern’s Monken heading to Army". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Jeff Monken Named Army Football Coach". Army Black Knights. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Georgia Southern announces steps for FBS move". Fox News. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Gorla, Lauren. "GSU students vote in favor of proposed student fees". George-Anne. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  9. ^ "Tom Kleinlein Georgia Southern's New Athletic Director". Savannah Morning News. 12 November 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  10. ^ Heath, Donald. "Eagles to make Sun Belt home". Savannah Morning News. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Georgia Southern Introduces Willie Fritz as New Football Coach". Georgia Southern Athletics. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Delma Eugene Presley, The Southern Century. Statesboro: Georgia Southern University, 2006. 40.
  13. ^ Georgia Southern Football Media Guide, 2004. 188
  14. ^ Delma Eugene Presley, The Southern Century. Statesboro: Georgia Southern University, 2006. 230.
  15. ^ "Georgia Southern Eagles Football Schedules and Future Schedules". fbschedules.com. Retrieved 2014-04-28. 

External links[edit]