Over the last six weeks, we took a look at each Georgia Southern athletic program and what each has accomplished since becoming a member of the Southern Conference.
Based on the feedback I’ve gotten about the series, one thing is for sure — GSU has a lot of passionate folks following its programs.
It was interesting to hear from the Georgia Southern faithful, and even more interesting to learn how they view their Eagles. I do want to thank everyone who responded to the series, from the folks who more or less thought it was a fair evaluation to those who thought it missed its mark.
Not surprisingly, most of the feedback came from the football fans.
Feedback ranged from folks wondering how the program with the most SoCon titles and playoff appearances since 1993, and only two losing seasons in 18 years of SoCon play, not to mention two national titles, could get a grade as low as a B. Others, who were vocally hoping for an indictment of GSU director of athletics Sam Baker and his decision not to renew coach Mike Sewak’s contract in 2005 (despite the popularity of the move at the time — just sayin’), thought the program deserved no higher than an F.
All fair opinions and all reasonable points.
However, in the interest of fairness — a word that comes up a lot in this profession — I chose to evaluate Georgia Southern football as it stacks up with the rest of the SoCon’s member schools.
It would have been as unfair to judge GSU football only on the last four years (effectively throwing out the first 14 in the league) as it would have been to evaluate only what men’s basketball did in the TAAC, only what baseball did in the NAIA, or only what golf has accomplished over the last 10 years.
So, the evaluation ended up basing itself upon what GSU is today (a SoCon member) and its competition (the rest of the league). It’s the only frame of reference all of GSU’s programs (except swimming and diving, which competes in the CCSA) have in common.
Football wasn’t the only sport with a lot of feedback, either.
There was a GSU official who seemed to have a problem with the D+ I issued to a men’s basketball program that has a historically losing record, hasn’t ever been to a SoCon title game (which eight different programs have managed to win over the years), and has suffered the consequences of two separate NCAA investigations. With that said, the same official also seemed to have a problem with the B- issued to a GSU women’s program with two SoCon titles, two trips to the NCAA tournament, a historical .609 winning percentage in league games and only four losing seasons in a league dominated by just one other program.
Of course, there was also a caller to the Herald’s ‘Soundoff’ line who was angry that I would print “lies” about women’s basketball having won conference titles in 1993 and 1994.
Well, those titles definitely happened. I’m sorry if you disagree.
I had a lengthy discussion through e-mail with a fellow member of the media (one I happen to hold in high regard) who argued that GSU baseball’s grade of A- was too high because the team hasn’t had success as a SoCon program in the NCAA super regionals, and has fallen short given its resources and the level of talent in Georgia. Prior success in pre-SoCon years shows Georgia Southern as being capable of reaching Omaha, and it hasn’t happened in 20 years. That may be true, but I reasoned that nobody else in the league has had any success in the supers, either, and that it would be unfair to hold GSU to a higher standard than the other SoCon programs.
At the end of the day, to go along with those of you who were happy with the series, I managed to get negative feedback from the university, and equally negative feedback from the other end of the spectrum — those who don’t like the direction the athletic department has taken the last five or 10 years.
If I got the same reaction from both extremes of a very broad scope of viewpoints, I guess that puts me somewhere in the middle — right where a journalist ought to be.
There were those who agreed with my evaluation, those who didn’t, and those who just enjoyed a look back at the program.
The diversity of opinions all got put into perspective for me when, during the course of putting the series together, I was describing what I had been working on to a coach with whom I cross paths pretty frequently.
At the end of the conversation, he kind of chuckled and said, “You know, at the end of the day, we’re only as good as the last game we coached.”
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but after all the feedback from the series, I realized how right he really was. Looking at a group of football fans who think a bad four-year stretch is the only thing that matters in the grand scheme of things certainly illustrates the veracity of that statement.
I suppose it’s difficult sometimes to look at the big picture in what often amounts to the “What have you done for me lately?” culture in which we live.
But, isn’t that what being a fan is all about? To some, each win is a brilliant conquest toward greatness, and each loss is the beginning of the end for a once-proud team. It goes without saying that those who don’t live and die with their favorite program can hardly call themselves “fanatics.”
In any case, I enjoyed putting together these reports on the last 18 years of Georgia Southern athletics. I learned a lot, and I enjoyed sharing my opinions on what has happened. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.
I also enjoyed reading the vast array of opinions from the Eagle Nation. Diversity’s always a good thing, after all.
One thing we can all agree on — we’ve got GSU football and the other fall NCAA sports, prep football, softball and cross country and a heck of a lot of excitement around a brand new fall season right around the corner.
I think we can all get fired up about that.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.