This is going to be the year of change at Georgia Southern.
The transition will begin with the last year of membership for the Eagles in the Southern Conference, and it will end with the program becoming a full-fledged (minus bowl-game access) member of the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference when next summer rolls around.
We all know about many of the changes. There will be more scholarships for GSU, better opponents and longer road trips, just to name a few. Paulson Stadium will be bigger. ESPN might even realize that the team from Statesboro isn’t called the “Georgia State Eagles,” the “Georgia Southern Golden Eagles,” or the “South Georgia Polytechnic Institute of Agricultural and Mechanical Engineering Screaming Bald Eagles.”
OK, so I made up the last one, but the first two are frequent mistakes of regional and national broadcasters, whose heads would likely have exploded if Georgia State and Georgia Southern played a game against each other last season.
Yes, it’s easy to see a lot of changes that are about to happen.
But one question — perhaps the most important to fans of the Eagles — is, “What will the football program actually look like?”
Here, we’ll need some imagination, some educated guesses and even some predictions.
What will the uniforms look like?
Now that GSU is joining the “big time,” will the jerseys become multi-colored abominations the likes of Oregon or Maryland?
The Sun Belt will have its rules for logo placement, and fortunately for the Eagles, the SBC logos have team-specific colors mixed in, so that won’t be too bad.
Other than that, I’d expect the Eagles to continue wearing their plain blue jerseys, plain white pants and plain blue helmets with numbers on the side.
In the past, a few tweaks have come and gone — nameless jerseys, a small GSU logo on the front — but nobody really noticed those too much. Well, except for the facemasks. Let’s stay away from the blue facemasks.
What will Paulson Stadium look like?
We all know there’ll be a huge building where the old scoreboard used to be, and by the time the 2014 season rolls around, there’ll be an upper deck on the student side?
But what about the Division I-AA national championship banners, the SoCon title flags and the retired jerseys and Erk Russell tribute on the press box?
We’ve addressed the former. They’ll be in the stadium somewhere, along with the recognition for all those conference championships.
As for AP’s No. 3 and Tracy Ham’s No. 8, along with “Coach Erk Russell” and his 1985, 1986 and 1989 national titles – those better not go anywhere.
Those are three men set the bar very, very high on the field and on the sideline at Georgia Southern.
Everyone who visits Paulson ought to know it.
And it better take something pretty darn spectacular (Heisman Trophy?) before another name or number is added.
What will the busses look like?
Georgia Southern rides two yellow school busses to Paulson Stadium on gameday. We all remember the PR disaster that ensued when Brian VanGorder swapped out those busses for newer models.
The problem is that the team will dress in the new Football Operations Building when construction has finished.
This little logistical issue hasn’t been addressed publically yet, but the solution would seem simple enough — don’t change anything about the yellow busses.
The team can still park at Hanner Fieldhouse. Instead of dressing in their uniforms at the current locker rooms, they can board the yellow busses in their street clothes (or warm-ups or sweats or a suit and tie), ride to the stadium a little earlier, head into Paulson, across the field and into the new locker rooms to dress for the game.
No harm, no foul, right? Right.
At this point, it’s clear GSU is going through a lot of changes, some of which haven’t even been thought of yet.
Some things, though, are better left unchanged.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.