A different interpretation of NCAA rules by the Georgia Southern athletic department cost the Eagles a chance at a home game Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Georgia Southern did not submit a bid to play host to the game by the required deadline, according to J.D. Hamilton, assistant director of statistics for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, so the Eagles will head to Spartanburg, S.C., to face the Wofford Terriers.
The deadline to submit bids for the right to play host in each round of the playoffs was Nov. 12. Georgia Southern submitted its initial bid by the deadline. Georgia Southern officials, however, did not submit a bid for a quarterfinal or later game until after defeating South Carolina State in the first round Nov. 27.
"... [T]he committee looks at all parts of the bid, including stadium facilities, travel, etc," Hamilton stated in an email. "Georgia Southern was not chosen because they did not bid. GSU was not considered for a quarterfinal host site because Wofford did place a bid by the Nov. 12 deadline."
The Georgia Southern request made after the first-round game to play host to potential later games was denied.
"We feel like the NCAA possibly has left money on the table," Georgia Southern director of athletics Sam Baker said. "We know we would have had a tremendous crowd for this game. We are disappointed for our fans that we're not hosting."
Baker said Monday GSU was under the impression that it took all the necessary steps to secure consideration for a home game throughout the semifinals of the playoffs.
"We felt like we had done everything correctly, and we were stunned to find out that we hadn't," Baker said. "The NCAA has their interpretation, we have our interpretation, and we felt like we had done the correct things to be bidding for the future games."
A primary criteria for playing host to a playoff game, as stated in the NCAA bylaws, is: "Prospective host institutions must submit the following minimum financial guarantees [$30,000 for first- and second-round games, $40,000 for quarterfinal games and $50,000 for semifinal games] which shall be 75 percent of the estimated net receipts as submitted on the proposed budget."
Other factors are considered in determining a host site, but the highest financial proposal almost always wins the bid. In prior instances, a higher bid was overruled "because the committee looks for what is best for the student-athlete's welfare, including facilities," as stated by Hamilton.
"We are disappointed for our fans that we won't have a home game Saturday," said Dr. Brooks Keel, president of Georgia Southern. "I'm also appreciative of the local merchants who are losing potential economic impact from a home game. It's a mistake that happened, but let's not lose sight of the fact that our football team is in the quarterfinals. What an amazing accomplishment by our coaches and players.
"I know thousands of Eagle fans will be at Wofford Saturday cheering our team on."
When Baker was asked about the economic impact on Statesboro's merchants from losing a potential home playoff game, GSU assistant athletic director for media relations Rose Carter, who was present for the interview, interjected.
"I don't think that's his place, that he has to apologize for that," Carter said. "I'm sorry, I don't."
Baker added, "My answer is we all wish we had the game here. The important thing is our team is in the playoffs. Our team is in the quarterfinals and has a chance to move on. We're just glad to be in the playoffs and have an opportunity to compete for another national championship after being out of the playoffs for a period of time. It's nice to be back in. Everybody's excited."
Wofford assistant AD for media relations Brent Williamson confirmed that Wofford put in bids to be the host for all playoff games through the semifinals by the Nov. 12 deadline. Williamson did not report the amount of Wofford's actual bid, citing the institution's private-school status, but according to the NCAA's Hamilton, Wofford's bid was higher than the $40,000 minimum.
Though the field for the 2010 FCS championship tournament consists of 20 teams, 30 institutions placed bids to play host to a first-round game. According to Hamilton, of those 30, 23 put in bids to be hosts through a possible semifinal game.
Of the 20 institutions selected for the playoffs, also according to Hamilton, 18 submitted bids to play host throughout the semifinal round. Only Georgia Southern and one other playoff participant did not bid for a home semifinal game on time. Hamilton said the other institution, which he did not name, withheld its bid due to a conflict on campus during the weekend of the semifinals.
"In my mind, if you're saying 18 of them [put in a bid]," Baker said about the other institutions submitting semifinal bids on time, "in my mind the NCAA had 19. In my mind, the way I interpreted it, the way the athletic department here interpreted it, we had 19. With the history of Georgia Southern in the tournament, it looks like somebody with the NCAA might have picked up the phone and asked the question. Now, that might not be their job, but when you're a membership organization, I would think that part of the job is service, and that you might have picked the phone up and called and said, ‘How are you all interpreting this?'
"We interpreted it one way, they interpreted it another, so in their mind, our bid didn't suffice. We went into this thing, we did bid, we felt like we did everything in an appropriate manner and we learned last Monday - not through the NCAA, but through a member of the committee - that we have a situation. That's when I called the NCAA and had a lengthy discussion with them and explained everything from where we were at. They did not see it our way. They called back and said, ‘No, we can't do that.'"
Baker said that the miscommunication occurred because, in the athletic department's understanding, the bids for early games would carry over throughout the playoffs.
"We received information from the NCAA and we worked in a very expedient manner to turn in the information that they requested for our bids," Baker said. "We determined that the bids would carry over. We had to hustle to get it all in, and we did. The NCAA, in their analysis, felt that we did not turn in the bid. It did not carry over the way we interpreted it."
"I don't think we fell short," Baker added. "I think we interpreted what we thought was correct and we turned in our bids - good bids - so we felt like we had done all of the right things. ... I think we felt like we did everything appropriate, but there wasn't any chance to reconcile what we interpreted."
Georgia Southern's matchup at Wofford will take place Saturday at 2 p.m. at Gibbs Stadium. The Terriers (10-2) defeated Georgia Southern (9-4) 33-31 on Saturday, Oct. 9 at Paulson Stadium.
"We're glad to be in the playoffs. We're happy to be a part of it," said first-year GSU coach Jeff Monken. "Wherever they tell us to play, we're going to make the most of it."
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.
Executive editor James Healy contributed to this report.