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My Take: The biggest win in GSU history

Beating Florida puts the program on national stage

My Take: The biggest win in GSU history

My Take: The biggest win in GSU history

Georgia Southern players celebrate on...

Georgia Southern’s 26-20 win over the Florida Gators at the Swamp on Saturday was the biggest win in program history. Not the football program’s history — the history of the whole athletics department.

There, I said it.

First, a few disclaimers and a little housekeeping:

➤ Are the 2013 Florida Gators the best team Georgia Southern ever beat? No. But Florida is the best program Georgia Southern ever beat. It’s not even close.

➤ Is it more impressive than App State’s win over Michigan, North Dakota State’s over Kansas State or James Madison’s over Virginia Tech? Probably not, but it is more important to GSU’s program than those other wins for those other programs … more later.

➤ Is it more important than any of Georgia Southern’s six Division I-AA/FCS national titles? To GSU fans, the teams that won those championships and the momentum of the program over the last 30 years, no. But to Georgia Southern University as a whole? Oh, my goodness, yes.

Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel likes to make the argument that athletics is the front porch of the university, and guess what? Georgia Southern’s front porch made the national media stage because the Eagles won in the Swamp.

When GSU scores flashed across the ticker on television during the past 30 years, the average college football fan didn’t notice. Now, because of the win over Florida, the average fan — the one who has no idea Georgia Southern has won six national championships — knows something about Georgia Southern. The average fan now associates Georgia Southern with a win over the Gators — the three-time national FBS champion, Tim Tebow, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer Gators. When GSU scores show up on the ticker, or highlights come on the screen, there will be more familiarity than ever before.

Georgia Southern was in every newspaper, on every highlights show and on every sports talk show and television show in the nation after the win, and that equals exposure that winning an FCS title can’t remotely compete with. It doesn’t matter if the primary topic was Florida or if their coach will keep his job. The more people that know about Georgia Southern, the more people will apply to Georgia Southern, and the more selective Georgia Southern can be when admitting students.

Do you know how many high school students who have never heard of Georgia Southern apply to go to school there? Zero. Now, a whole lot more have heard of Georgia Southern.

And how about the impact on the recruiting trail?

When a GSU coach used to visit a prospect, he’d have to explain to many of the athletes what GSU is all about, why it’s worth becoming an Eagle, and how much winning is ingrained in the program.

Now, before a coach even walks through the door into a recruit’s house, many kids will know — that’s the team that beat Florida of the mighty SEC in the Swamp.

It’s also the kind of win that can be the gift that keeps on giving, as far as the general public’s perception goes.

Let’s say for example — and this is in no way a prediction — that GSU opens the 2014 season with a win on the road at N.C. State. Had the Eagles lost to Florida, that N.C. State score wouldn’t have registered with anyone. Now, if that happens, people will think, “That’s the team that beat Florida last year. Maybe they’re the real deal.”

Beating Florida saved an otherwise disappointing season. It let the seniors go out with a historic win they’ll never forget. It gave Eagle Nation a reason to be excited for next season’s move to the FBS. It put GSU on the national college football map unlike anything previously.

All those national championships were incredible achievements for the teams of 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1999 and 2000.

No FCS team can match the six flags flying over Paulson Stadium. Not even close.

But Georgia Southern’s win over Florida did more for the program moving forward than all six national titles combined.

Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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