On Oct. 22, former Georgia Southern head football coach Tyson Summers was relieved of his duties and a national search for a new coach began.
As it turned out, the national search didn't even have to leave campus to find the new top Eagle.
On Monday, Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Tom Kleinlein announced that Chad Lunsford, who has been serving as interim coach since Summers' firing, will have the interim tag lifted and will become the Eagles' tenth permanent head coach of the program's modern era.
"I appreciate the hard work done by our search committee," Kleinlein said. "We went to a lot of places and looked at a lot of names. We talked to P5 coordinators and sitting head coaches. And then we measured (Lunsford) up against those guys. Make no mistake. This job was not given. It was earned."
"I want to thank God for this opportunity and for this platform," Lunsford said. "I also want to thank my wife, Tippy, and my kids. They've been through it with me in my coaching career. I want to thank TK, the president, the committee and everyone who was part of this process. Together, we're going to bring back Georgia Southern football the way we want to see it."
Lunsford took over a team that stumbled to a 0-6 record over the first half of the season. The Eagles are 2-3 under Lunsford, but the last two weeks have seen a 52-0 blowout of South Alabama and a 34-24 road win against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Following Saturday's win in Lafayette, video clips from inside the Eagles' locker room were released and players could be heard chanting "We want Luns!"
Now they've got him.
"This is a group of guys who have fought through a very tough year," Lunsford said. "It's always been ‘No quit. All fight.' They work hard every day. They come into every game expecting to win and it's starting to show."
At the press conference that introduced Lunsford as interim head coach and discussed the coaching search, Kleinlein mentioned that time was a factor. For the first time this season, the NCAA has instituted an early signing period for football. In past seasons, high school seniors could not officially commit to a school until the first Wednesday in February. Seniors wanting to make a commitment this season can do so Dec. 20-22.
Kleinlein initially said that the ideal situation would be to announce a new head coach immediately following the conclusion of the regular season. With Lunsford's initial success and with the support of the players, Kleinlein was able to beat his stated goal by a few days.
Just as big as the decision to name a new head coach were the numbers involved in Lunsford's new contract. Per Kleinlein's comments following the press conference, Lunsford has signed a four-year deal worth $650,000 per season. That is a base figure and could increase if certain incentives are met.
Lunsford has been in Statesboro since the 2013 season when he took a spot on former head coach Jeff Monken's staff. Lunsford stayed with the Eagles when Monken left for Army and remained on staff once again - and served as director of recruiting - when former coach Willie Fritz left for Tulane. Under Summers, Lunsford coached H-backs, tight ends and slot receivers. He also held the role of special teams coordinator and was promoted to assistant head coach ahead of the 2017 season.
This is Lunsford's second tour of duty in Statesboro as he also served as a slotbacks coach from 2003-2005 under former Eagle head coach Mike Sewak. Lunsford left when Sewak was fired and briefly left the college ranks when he spent a year as a special education teacher at Griffin High School while coaching linebackers for the school's football team. He coached linebackers for two more seasons at Georgia Military College and spent four years in an administrative role at Auburn University before making his return to Statesboro and the Eagles.
As for this season, there's still one more game to play.
The Eagles travel to Conway, S.C., on Saturday to take on Coastal Carolina. A bowl game and a winning season are goals that will remain unchecked on the Eagles' list, but there is plenty of excitement now that the last game of 2017 will be the first of a new era.
"We're ready to go to work," Lunsford said. "We're going to roll up our sleeves. Blue collar, all the way."
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