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My Take: Is FBS the right place for GSU?

Sometimes, I just don't get it.

I've read it in other publications, I've overheard it out in public and I've even had conversations about it with people who I tend to deem reasonable.

I won’t bore you with particulars, but the basic gist is that Georgia Southern is small-time, Statesboro is a small town and the cost of moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision does not justify the benefit. The best, in fact, that the Eagles could hope for upon arrival to the promised land, is a bid to a low-level bowl game that nobody cares about, as a result of a conference championship game that nobody watched.

Ever since GSU’s regular season came to an end in a blowout loss at Georgia, it has become a pretty popular theme among the anti-FBS crowd.

To me, it's a funny thing.

It’s not that I have a problem with the opinion that GSU belongs in the Football Championship Subdivision. I don’t. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, and when you ask the question, "Should GSU move up?" there is no right or wrong answer. There are pros and cons.

To paraphrase some of the conversations I’ve had, overheard, or been told about:

"Well, that proves it. The Eagles have no business on the same field as UGA. They have no business moving up."

"I like winning. We’re going to get killed if we move up."

"We can’t even beat The Citadel. Let’s figure out how to beat Appalachian State before we worry about moving up."

"We can’t afford it."

"I like competing for national championships."

And my personal favorite, a sentiment I've even seen in print, "Oh, great, we get to move up so we can play (insert Sun Belt team here) on a Tuesday night."

In all of those cases, the argument gets further and further from, "What’s best for GSU?"

And it gets closer and closer to, "What’s best for me?"

What, exactly, is wrong with playing, say, Arkansas State on a Tuesday night on ESPN?

It’s available to just about every television in the country, it’s the only football game on TV that night and it exposes GSU to the types of people who may actually not notice when the Eagles are playing an un-televised game against Howard while Texas A&M is beating No. 1 Alabama. And a TV game, even one on Tuesday night, offers more exposure than last season's SoCon GPTV deal or this season's nothing deal.

An ESPN game, any day of the week, is a good thing for GSU, if you agree with the university's president, Brooks Keel, that regional and national relevance is not a bad thing.

But, it’s a bad thing for people who work on Tuesdays and can’t make it to the game.

And what about the cost? Keel said it would take a minimum yearly budget increase of $4.4 million to operate in an FBS conference.

Where’s it going to come from?

Well, for starters, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents already passed a student vote to raise fees by $75 per semester to help fund the move if it ever happens.

In fact, that should be the end of the argument. The students spoke. They want it. But when has that ever mattered?

There will also be more income from more road games against BCS competition, bowl tie-ins, NCAA tournament appearances by conference members (oh yeah, football's not the only NCAA offering) and increased attendance and interest — that final claim backed up only by every other FCS program that has ever made the FBS move.

But, more income will also likely come from higher ticket prices and parking permits, and I suspect that is the real heart of the issue for many.

As for the argument that winning is good and losing is bad, I have only two things to say.

First, for those who point to the UGA loss as a reason the Eagles would be doomed to FBS irrelevancy, tell that to Georgia Tech, Auburn and Vanderbilt, who all lost to UGA by more points than the Eagles this year, even with more comparable budgets and the same amount of scholarships.

I guess those three should drop down to the FCS.

Secondly, as for the Eagles, they'd have a much better shot at a national title in Division II, so what's with all this moving up talk? Why not move down? Then the championships will roll in, and the Eagles can laugh at the Clemsons, Nebraskas and Oklahomas of the world who have no shot at a BCS national title this year, either.

By that logic, however, it's UGA that should be dropping down a division, not Georgia Tech and Auburn, because Tech and Auburn actually have students who were alive the last time they won national titles.

Somehow, though, all of the national-titleless programs in the FBS still manage to draw fans, even though they don't get to beat their chests about being national champions.

And for all of the "Well, we can't even beat (insert SoCon team), so we can't move up," comments — you're right. National championship contenders like Alabama and Georgia would never, ever, in a million years, lose to a team ranked lower than them. Right? Oh, wait.

So, here's what I have to say to the anti-FBS folks.

Enjoy the fact that the Eagles have a chance at an incredible seventh national title this season, even if most of the country isn't going to watch it.

If GSU doesn't win the title, please don't demand a ticket refund because the season, in hindsight, didn't matter to you.

And if and when GSU moves up to the FBS, even if you aren't happy about it, try at least to be happy for GSU, an institution with the hair-brained idea of trying to maximize its potential.

For the record, I hope they don't move up. I like short road trips for work, low traffic on game day and covering an FCS program with open and easy media access to players, coaches and administrators.

But unfortunately, it's not about me, either.


Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.