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Georgia Southern Ready to Move to FBS

By Russell V.
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Earlier this year, the Eagles followed suit of Appalachian State and announced their intentions to move to the FBS.

Eight Southern Conference titles. Six national championships. Two Walter Payton Award winners.

These are the highlights of Georgia Southern’s time in the Football Championship Subdivisions – one of the finest programs the FCS has ever seen. One would think that they have accomplished almost everything they could at this level.

Apparently, the school agrees and is ready for a new challenge.

Earlier this year, the Eagles followed suit of Appalachian State and announced their intentions to move to the FBS. A week ago, the school put a vote up to the students, asking if they would support an expansion to Paulson Stadium and an increase of fees in order to make the move. The stadium expansion was endorsed by 70.4% of the students, and the move to the FBS by 61.2%.

The only questions that remain are when they move, and where they end up.

“They have kept it pretty close to the chest as to who it might be. We know they have contacted the Sun Belt and know they did not get an invite in this last round – that went to Georgia State,” Statesboro Herald writer Matt Yogus told “The Afternoon Blitz” radio show in Georgia last week. “The Sun Belt is a possibility. Conference USA is another one who’ve shown in the past couple of years they’ll take FCS programs, especially powerful programs.

“(It is) not out of the realm of possibility for both (Georgia Southern and Appalachian State) to get the call (up to the FBS). … It’s all speculation at this point.”

Yogus added that they would make the move whenever they are ready and there is an opening at the next level.

It now seems like a matter of time. And it has been some time coming.

Former Walter Payton Award winner Jayson Foster said he has heard rumors of the move for a while now. Not surprisingly, he is also a big proponent of it.

“I definitely think it’s a good move,” he said. “I just want to be in a conference where you can get recognition and also be considered the best, and I think that moving up would help with the recruiting process. … This past season, there were teams that were able to move up and be competitive and still win games and compete for a championship. You don’t want to move up just to move up – I think we have a good chance to win games. That’s a key part of it.”

He is excited to see what the future has in store for Georgia Southern. He mentioned how a move to the Football Bowl Subdivision would help a variety of areas, from recruiting and fan interest, to the talent that the Eagles put on the field.

So where would the challenge come from?

“Competition-wise, you’re going to face tougher games week in and week out,” Foster said.” I think (our) skill players could do well because we have matched up well (in past games against FBS foes). Deciding which conference to go to would be the biggest challenge.”

It would be a sad day for both the Southern Conference and Georgia Southern should the Eagles move up. Both have had a great relationship with one another and have helped make each other better. There will be nothing to match the history and pride of the SoCon at the FBS level, which Foster also recognizes.

“I grew up watching the Southern Conference and I still watch it,” he said. “If it’s FCS football, I’ll give it a watch, the Southern Conference more so than the other conferences because I think the quality is better. It’ll be tough to say goodbye to the Southern Conference I grew up loving. App State, Furman rivalries – you can never replace that. It would be tough to say goodbye.

“I think (the move) should be done. And I don’t think we’ll necessarily struggle too much with the new teams if we do move up and I think we’ll still have a good chance to win games. … I think it’s a good challenge and very manageable.”

Russell V. - A recent graduate of Elon University, Varner is a Southern Conference enthusiast who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. His love for SoCon football can only be matched by his love for Carolina Panthers football. He has been published in multiple newspapers in North Carolina, has worked on television and radio and now covers SoCon football for Southern Pigskin.