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Football players get their own commencement
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   The three commencement ceremonies held Friday at Hanner Fieldhouse had 10 notable absences: graduating seniors on the Georgia Southern football team.
    Those Eagles flew to Fargo, N.D., on Thursday to play in Friday’s Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game against North Dakota State.
    But University President Brooks Keel was not going to let those football players go away empty-handed. Georgia Southern set up a remote feed between a conference room at a Fargo hotel and the president’s conference room in the Marvin Pittman Administration Building.
    The ceremony also was broadcast live on and will be available there for some time.
    Keel donned his full graduation regalia in Statesboro shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday, and his wife, university first lady Tammie Schalue, did the same in Fargo.
    The nine players and one manager gathered about 9:10 p.m. and stood in a line behind Schalue, also dressed in caps and gowns. The players are Blake DeBartola, Russell DeMasi, Markus Farmer, Brandon Lane, Zach Reckers, Brent Russell, John Stevenson, Tyler Sumner and Zach York. The manager is Nate Baker.
    Farmer’s grandfather, father, girlfriend and 2-week-old daughter were in the conference room to watch him graduate.
    Keel then conferred the degrees and read each graduate’s name. The other graduates and the rest of the football team gathered in the Fargo conference room applauded after Keel read each name and degree.
    They each turned their tassels from the right to the left, prompting another round of applause in Fargo, after Keel gave them permission to do so.
    Keel ended the ceremony by reading the alma mater, rather than singing it.

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