Peach State Sports Blog

Surprise, NCAA blew it with Georgia Southern situation

There are two sides to the “Georgia Southern-should-go-to-a-bowl” debate that has been going on the past week or so.

The Georgia Southern side.

And the wrong side.

That was finalized Tuesday when the NCAA denied Georgia Southern’s last pitch to get to play in a bowl.

Yes, the Eagles, their leadership and fans knew going into this season that it was a transition year and that their team wasn’t eligible for a bowl game. Let’s just call that what it is: dumb.

So the team is eligible to be an FBS member, and it’s eligible to win the conference title, but it can’t go to a bowl game? Again, dumb. Georgia Southern did everything a team should have to do to earn a trip to a bowl game, and yet because of a technicality, it can’t go? Once again, dumb.

That’s why the NCAA should have changed course here. It’s not like we haven’t seen the NCAA be wishy-washy before and change its decisions in mid-stream -- many times on things much more important than this. So why punish Georgia Southern because of its status as a first-year FBS member? Just the opposite, the NCAA should be promoting this team and showcasing exactly what Georgia Southern accomplished this season. In short, it’s remarkable.

Most people -- coaches, fans, administrators and media, alike -- thought there would be some growing pains for this program in its first season in the Sun Belt Conference after the move up from FCS play. After all, the Eagles were playing with the deck stacked against them quite a bit: shorthanded on scholarships and facing established FBS programs in a pretty good, albeit under the radar, conference. Don’t forget, the Eagles had a first-year head coach in Willie Fritz.

And yet, they thrived this season.

Georgia Southern finished 9-3, including 8-0 in Sun Belt play to win the conference title. All three of the losses came on the road, and two of them were at ACC programs. The Eagles were a play here or there -- after having the lead late in both games -- from pulling out wins over N.C. State and Georgia Tech. The only bad loss was a blowout defeat at Navy.

Georgia Tech, by the way, is playing for the ACC title this week, and N.C. State is bowl eligible (as is Navy). But Georgia Southern isn’t? Again and again and again, that’s dumb.

Sending Georgia Southern to a bowl game would have been good for everyone involved. Really, does any bowl want a lower tier SEC or ACC program that just got by to get to bowl eligibility? Those teams don’t want to be there, and their fans don’t want to spend the money to travel to watch them.

There’s a good bet, however, that Georgia Southern and its fans would have wanted just that. This team and its fan base deserved that. They earned it.

The NCAA didn’t recognize it, and surprise, it was on the wrong side of yet another situation.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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