Before my first day of work as sports editor of the Statesboro Herald last week, I drove to an empty Paulson Stadium.
A gate was open, so I walked on the field. I was searching for good luck and knew exactly where to find it that morning.
I rubbed the bald head of the bronze bust that honors legendary Georgia Southern football coach Erk Russell. I didn’t know Russell, who died in 2006 at age 80, but I knew that GSU players have a tradition of touching or butting the forehead of his bronze bust located near the west end zone.
College athletics and writing are my passions, and I have a deep respect for tradition. Being a graduate of Florida State University, I love watching when an FSU student dressed as Chief Osceola rides Renegade and plants a burning spear at midfield before kickoff.
I felt the same way Saturday when I watched from my seat in the press box as Freedom, GSU’s American bald eagle mascot, soared from the top of the press box to the field before kickoff.
I’m thrilled to have the responsibility of covering athletics at GSU and throughout the area. Matt Yogus, who accepted a position at GSU, did a tremendous job as the Herald’s sports editor. I will do my best to pick up where he left off and provide our readers with quality sports coverage.
I’ve been working for this opportunity throughout my 20-year writing career, including the last seven years as the Savannah Morning News’ Savannah State University beat writer.
The first GSU football game that I covered was the Eagles’ 48-3 victory over SSU last season. But I’m not a stranger to GSU athletics. I was the Savannah Morning News’ GSU men’s and women’s basketball beat writer during the 2004-05 season.
I vividly remember covering the GSU men’s basketball team’s 107-84 victory over Chattanooga at Hanner Fieldhouse, as junior guard Elton Nesbitt scored 43 points, including 11 3-pointers.
And I’ll never forget covering GSU women’s basketball coach Rusty Cram’s team, which became the first No. 5 seed to advance to the Southern Conference Tournament championship game. GSU lost, 97-95, to No. 6 seed Western Carolina in double overtime in Chattanooga. It was the highest-scoring title game in SoCon history, and the first to go into overtime.
GSU kept winning that week, and I kept having to call down to the hotel’s front desk to extend my stay.
During my first week on the job, Yogus showed me the ropes. I saw Beautiful Eagle Creek for the first time during the football team’s practice. During GSU’s 48-14 victory over Presbyterian College, I met lots of new people and reconnected with some folks, like GSU athletics director Sam Baker, whom I have known for the past seven years.
Time certainly flies. As I watched GSU junior tight end Tyler Sumner play, it felt like just yesterday that I was covering his National Signing Day party at Savannah Christian in 2008.
Thank you for taking the time to read our newspaper. I will do my best to provide you with quality sports coverage. Please don’t hesitate to call or email me with questions, story ideas or simply to chat.
Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.