It’s been a long time since the expectations were this high for the Georgia Southern Eagles.
Nobody puts out higher expectations than the Eagles themselves, and second-year head coach Jeff Monken isn’t just looking at the upcoming season – he’s looking into the future.
Monken expects construction on a 50,000-square-foot, $10 million football-operations facility to begin in October at Paulson Stadium.
Construction for the building, which is expected to be completed by the opening kickoff of the 2012 season, is a project being spearheaded by Monken and GSU’s second-year president.
“It’s led by Dr. Brooks Keel, our president, who by the way is the finest president at any college anywhere in America. I believe that,” Monken said. “We could not have found a better president for Georgia Southern at this time in our history.”
The facility, which will overlook the field at Paulson opposite the Bishop Field House, will be home to football offices, meeting rooms, a player’s lounge, a home locker room, a 12,000-square-foot weight room, a trainer’s room, an equipment room and a football Hall of Fame.
“It will be absolutely the best football facility at the [Football Championship Subdivision] level anywhere in the country,” said Monken. “There’s a lot of people who have built new football facilities in the last few years, and this one will be the best.
“Once, Georgia Southern was the envy of every I-AA team in the country, not only with the way we played, but with our facility, our stadium, our fans. I want to continue to be the envy of the nation and the top program – not only with the way we play – but with our facility and the things that we do with our players off the field.”
While the short-term benefits of the facility include help with recruiting, day-to-day operations and the overall gameday experience, the stadium upgrade could potentially have future implications, too.
“My hope is to be the best program at this level,” Monken said. “If there were ever the opportunity to go to the next level, I’d like to have us positioned so that we can do that, so that we can say, ‘Yep. We want to do it, and we can do it. We’ve got the football facility and we’ve got the stadium,’ which would be the next step – to increase the size of the stadium and give us more seats. We’d have the opportunity to join a league at the next level if the right opportunity presented itself. Again, that’s for Dr. Keel and our administration to decide. Whatever’s best for Georgia Southern University, I’m behind. Obviously, Dr. Keel feels like this is an important step. It’s certainly going to help our program, and I’m in support of that.”
The goal is to begin construction during the regular season, but that hasn’t stopped Monken from shooting high on the playing field in 2011, too. Though construction is expected to be underway, Monken won’t let it get in the way of potential home playoff games, should the Eagles match 2010's run to the semifinals.
“I hope [the semifinal round] will be the last game in Paulson Stadium this year,” said Monken. “But ultimately, with that said, we’ll be digging dirt and moving things around and laying foundations while we’re playing in October. … If we’re going to have it done by August [of 2012], we have to get to work on it.”
To Monken, the construction during the 2011 season will symbolize GSU’s plans for the future.
“What a statement that would make about the commitment we have to Georgia Southern football and the future of this program,” he said, “to position ourselves to do whatever it is we want to do.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.