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Eagles soar into the unknown
GS Football
Georgia Southern head football coach Chad Lunsford surveys the action on the field as the team conducts its first fall practice of the 2020 season at Paulson Stadium on Friday, Aug. 7. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Many publications are reporting that commissioners of the Power 5 conferences have met and the concern among college athletic officials is that the upcoming football season will not be played because of the coronavirus pandemic. Speculation is the Big 10 has already voted to pull the plug and that the Pac-12 Conference will be the next to fall.

For Georgia Southern, the Sun Belt athletic directors are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, but at that point the Power 5 conferences may have already made a decision that could force their hand. 

So much is speculative, but Monday morning Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford and members of the Eagle football team responded to what is going on.

“Before our practice today we held a Zoom team meeting,” Lunsford said. “We felt it was necessary to address the rumors, and what people are talking about regarding the season. We have to make sure the health and safety is first and foremost, and if not playing football is the right thing to do then that’s what we have to do.”

“Everyone is going to get together and make an educated decision about this,” Lunsford said. “After that we have to fall in line with it. As long as I feel strongly that we are doing alright with our guys then I am comfortable about things.”

“At the end of the day we are willing to do whatever we can to stay on the field,” said offensive lineman Brian Miller. ”Without football I don’t know what I’d be doing. We want to play now, but if it turns out that we have to play in the spring then that’s what we have to go with.”

“This is what we do 24/7, so this is our happy place,” said sophomore punter Anthony Beck. “We want to play. Obviously there are a lot of things that need to go on for that to happen. At the end of the day we are willing to do whatever is asked of us to play.” 

Lunsford said they have let the players know if they feel uncomfortable at all about being there they should feel free to opt out. 

“I think it is really important that at some point there’s a definitive decision,” Lunsford said. “It’s just so hard to stay in that mindset of okay maybe it’s going to happen. Whether that is to back up the season, or doing it in the spring it will allow coaches, players and families to just have an answer.”

The Eagles' seniors are justifiably anxious about finding out whether or not they can play, for a variety of reasons. 

“No one wants to sit out this year, but especially us seniors,” said receiver Dexter Carter. “This is my senior season. I have been injured a lot, and I feel as good as I have ever felt, so it really means so much for me for us to be able to play this season.”

Some of college football’s biggest names attempted to get their feelings heard over the weekend. Sunday night Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was joined by dozens of other players asking for uniform health and safety protocols for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and laid out their intentions to form a college football players association for the future. 

“The NCAA doesn’t have a players union, so this shows that we are kind of united,” Miller said. “I’m behind them trying to get something together.”

“It’s really cool to see because we are seeing we do have a voice in what’s going on,” said Beck. “I feel like there is a lot of change that can happen, and that will happen moving forward. Even after all this Covid-19 stuff is overI feel there are more things that as student athletes we can come together and voice our opinion on.”

The economic impact Georgia Southern football has on the Bulloch County community is tough to measure, but needless to say a fall without football would hurt most businesses' bottom line.

“Economically if the season were to be cancelled I’d feel terrible for the businesses in Statesboro,” Lunsford said. “I’d feel terrible for our team, the University, and Eagle Nation. Everyone who contributes to our program is important to us. If football is cancelled we don’t want to lose that. We still want people to help this program grow, to help our athletic department grow and help our University grow. This is a tremendous place, and an epic story and I just want to see it continue to thrive.”