Following a successful question and answer session via Facebook Live with Georgia Southern fans two weeks ago, new athletic director Jared Benko pounced pounced on a good idea and kept the train going Tuesday evening as he brought head football coach Chad Lunsford into his office for more of the same.
Since taking the top spot in the athletic department, Benko has repeatedly stated that all options - regarding responses to the ongoing suspension of team activities due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as general changes or innovation within the department - are on the table. One of those new ideas came on Tuesday as the conversation with Lunsford was labeled as a ‘Tuesday Talk’ that Benko promised will be a recurring event with new GS coaches featured each week.
Understandably, many of Tuesday’s questions had to do with the athletics shutdown and when a plan for the 2020 football season can be expected.
For Lunsford, the issue of when his team will play is less important than the two months before the initial kickoff date.
“We have to be very careful making sure guys are ready to compete,” Lunsford said. “First, we have to be ready to train. Then we have to be ready to practice. Then we have to be ready to play. We’ve heard a lot of possibilities, but I think eight weeks is a good number as far as preparing for the season. That gives us four weeks of strength and conditioning and four weeks on the field making sure we have our fundamentals and game plan.”
The football team is currently scattered around the country and attending online meetings. They’re also doing their best to keep up with their conditioning while waiting for the green light to return to campus.
On the administrative side, there are far more things to consider. One question Benko fielded asked what will be done for fans who have already made purchases and travel plans if the Sept. 1 opener at Boise State is canceled or postponed.
“It’s still tough to say,” Benko answered. “These next four to six weeks are very important for that first game. If we get to a point where return to play (at scheduled date) becomes problematic, we’ll have to look at it. Financial commitment and support doesn’t go unnoticed, but we’ll have to figure it out when we get there.”
Another fan question asked what Lunsford’s favorite memories are. For Lunsford — who was at Georgia Southern from 2003-06 before returning to Statesboro under former head coach Jeff Monken, there were plenty of candidates. He settled on two — guiding the 2017 Eagles to their first win of the season after being named interim head coach and the team’s Camelia Bowl victory to cap a 10-3 season one year later.
Lunsford answered another question asking how he balances home and work life. It’s no secret that many coaches devote a huge amount of their time to their teams, even in the offseason. And it’s not at all uncommon to hear of coaches sleeping in the office and rarely seeing home.
While Lunsford doesn’t slack on his coaching duties, he tries to keep everything in perspective.
“It means the world to me to be the best husband and father I can be,” Lunsford said. “Being a coach means investing in other people’s kids as well. I’m very strategic in making sure we spend time with our families as a staff and that we create a family atmosphere around the program.”
A final pressing question was directed at Benko, wondering what the school will do about seniors of spring sports who saw their 2020 seasons erased. The NCAA ruled earlier this month that they will have an additional year of eligibility, but left it up to individual schools to figure out what, if any financial considerations would be offered.
“We had 21 scholarship seniors in our spring sports,” Benko said. “Right now we have 14 planning on returning, with one or two others considering jobs. We’re honoring tuition costs for those athletes and we want to support all of them whether they come back or not.”