There's only 10 FBS conferences, and Georgia Southern is the champion of one of them. Only the Eagles, Florida State and Ohio State went through their conference schedules unbeaten, and that's saying something.
What it doesn't say, however, is that the Eagles (9-3, 8-0 Sun Belt) get to go to a bowl game.
Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein confirmed last week that a request for a waiver from the NCAA to grant GSU access to a bowl game was filed.
The request was denied, and was appealed.
Kleinlein said he was told a final ruling would come down by Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Kleinlein said the request wasn't filed after GSU's 69-31 win at Georgia State, which gave the Eagles their sixth win. The program waited until after UL Lafayette lost to Appalachian State, clinching at least a share of the Sun Belt title for the Eagles.
The Eagles earned the title outright with a 22-16 win over UL Monroe on Saturday.
"I didn't ask for the waiver when we became bowl eligible. I waited until after we became co-champions of the league. Now we're in sole possession of the championship," Kleinlein said. "What I'm saying is that our situation is unique. Does it warrant us having another conversation about whether these transition rules are punitive or not? That's what I'm asking."
So the argument isn't about semantics. It's about merit.
The Eagles won their league. While winning the Sun Belt doesn't warrant national championship talk like winning the SEC or ACC, it's easy to make the argument that the Eagles deserve their little slice of the FBS postseason.
The reason they don't have it is because of a rule that exempts programs in their second year of transition to the FBS — like the Eagles, Appalachian State and Old Dominion, which all won at least six games — from the postseason.
Rules exist to prevent transitioning FCS teams from gaining a competitive advantage at both levels during their two-year transition, and Kleinlein pointed out that while the spirit of those rules make sense, they're contradictory at times.
Like when a program actually becomes a member of the FBS.
"What they're saying is that in this case, that happens after you complete your transition. I'm OK with that," Kleinlein said. "But then why did (Georgia Southern quarterback) Favian Upshaw have to sit out a year when he transferred here from FIU? When he transferred here, he was told he was transferring into an FBS program. My point is, how can you say we're FBS in that situation, but two years later tell us we're still an FCS school?"
There are arguments to be made on both sides.
Kleinlein said that the decisions regarding Sun Belt bowl placement will be pushed back until after a final decision is made on Georgia Southern's status, presumably because the Eagles merit a bowl bid (at least on the field), and possibly because the College Football Playoff committee might even consider the Eagles, along with the likes of Boise State, Marshall and Colorado State, as the best team from the "Group of 5" conferences.
On the flip side is that rules are rules, and whether it's just or not, the Eagles, by rule, can't play in a bowl.
The waiver process exists for a reason and the NCAA has found reason to issue waivers in the past. It's up to the governing body to decide if the Eagles deserve one too.
Regardless of what the NCAA decides to do, nobody can take away the 2014 Sun Belt championship from the Eagles. And if the appeal is denied, even the NCAA can't keep GSU out of the postseason next year.
Only the Eagles and the 12 teams on the 2015 schedule can decide that.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-4908.