Peach State Sports Blog

Georgia Southern made the right move

Georgia Southern finished 5-7 in the first season with Tyson Summers, right, as its head coach.
Georgia Southern finished 5-7 in the first season with Tyson Summers, right, as its head coach. AP

Tyson Summers’ future as Georgia Southern’s head coach was a hot topic of discussion this season.

And that talk reached its peak in a bizarre scene Saturday night in Statesboro.

A head coach in his first season was in trouble of losing his job? Exactly how does that make sense?

But we all know college football doesn’t make a lot of sense at times. That said, Georgia Southern came to its senses Saturday by announcing Summers would stay on after the Eagles beat Troy to finish a 5-7 season.

You read that right. A school actually made an announcement that it wasn’t going to fire its head coach. It’s certainly an unusual move. But that’s how out of hand things got this season about Summers’ future.

Granted, 5-7 isn’t exactly what Georgia Southern fans are looking for out of their program, first-year head coach or not. They have reasons — six of them, in fact, in their six FCS championships — to expect more out of the Eagles. They love their program. They are passionate about their program. They want greatness from their program.

Those feelings are all wonderful, and Georgia Southern fans are some of the best around. But that doesn’t make firing a first-year head coach right. It’s actually wrong on several levels.

Summers took over a program already in transition as Willie Fritz left after only two years to jump at the Tulane job. So if Summers would have been let go, the program would have been on its third coach in three seasons, and that kind of instability isn’t the path to a successful program. Georgia Southern already has been down that path in the Mike Sewak-Brian VanGorder-Chris Hatcher years as Hatcher was the program’s third head coach in three years.

No coach should have to go through what Hatcher went through — getting fired after just three seasons after taking over a mess of a program, especially with the despicable way the Georgia Southern administration handled the move. Firing Summers after just one season would have been bad equally as bad.

A coach should get at least one full recruiting cycle (four years) to bring in his kind of players and build his kind of program. And a coach should have time to hire the kind of staff around him he would like.

When Georgia Southern University resurrected its football program in 1981, legendary head football coach Erk Russell inspired several traditions that continue to live on today.

With Summers staying, David Dean and Rance Gillespie were let go as co-offensive coordinators. Were they scapegoats for the team’s offensive problems? Probably. Were they odd fits from the start, known more for their passing histories while joining a program that built its success around the triple-option? Definitely.

Dean and Gillespie, the former Peach County head coach, are both really good coaches, but it’s no secret they weren’t Summers’ first choices for that job.

Georgia Southern needs to make sure it gives Summers the resources to get the right person this time because it could be a make a break kind of hire. A head coach is only as good as the staff around him, and those coaches have to be the right fit for the head coach and what he wants to get done.

If Georgia Southern doesn’t step up and make sure that kind of staff is in place, Summers won’t be around long, and the program will continue to search for the right leader.

And that will just lead to more talk about who that should be.

Daniel Shirley: 478-744-4227, @DM_Shirley