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The Statesboro Blues

By Southern Pigskin Staff
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It was a bittersweet ending to the 2014 season for the Georgia Southern Eagles. While a Sun Belt title was certainly cause for celebration, the Eagles' lack of postseason inclusion is still rubbing fans the wrong way.

The final decision has been made against Georgia Southern in its attempt to take its new FBS-level talents to a bowl game this season. After finishing the year with a 9-3 record and an unexpected 8-0 finish in the Sun Belt, GSU will have to await bowl eligibility until next season.

With the differing opinions presented on this issue, the fact of the matter is that Georgia Southern qualifies as a “changeover” team by the NCAA's standards. Per the Statesboro Herald, Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Tom Kleinlein said, “Even though Georgia Southern may not be considered a ‘deserving team’ by the committee’s definition, what this team accomplished is nothing short of extraordinary, and we felt our efforts warranted a chance to continue to play.”

The season-ending decision by the NCAA warranted differing opinions amongst fans, but the decision will stand, as Georgia Southern resisted filing another waiver due to the unlikelihood of change. Some believe that a first-year Sun Belt Conference title was proof enough that GSU was bowl-ready, but others felt that the rules should not be bent on behalf of a team like Georgia Southern.

“The FCS Members insisted upon [the NCAA rule] because they didn’t want people moving from the FCS to FBS too easily, so they felt like this year of transition helped them keep their members in FCS. We can debate whether it does or not. Then the FBS membership kind of said, ‘OK, sure we understand that, we’ll go along with that but our reason for going along is because [players] can transfer from FBS to FCS and become eligible immediately.' They said, ‘We don’t want a bunch of people to transfer in May from all of our programs and in September we see them again playing for bowl spots,” said Wright Waters, Executive Director of the Football Bowl Association, per USA Today.

But, with Sun Belt teams like Arkansas State, Louisiana, and South Alabama all making bowl game appearances, the question still remains as to why GSU is not making a pre-Christmas bowl game? After all, the Eagles are one of three teams to finish undefeated in conference play, and the other two are playoff bound. Georgia Southern’s claim was that it was not just another team arguing for eligibility; it was a championship team looking for a fair appeal.

“If we were just a bowl eligible team, I get that argument. But we’re conference champions, and that is what puts us ahead of everybody else. I didn’t make the argument to the NCAA when we won six games, I didn’t make it when we won seven or eight. I waited until we got at least a share of the conference title before I submitted my deal,” said Kleinlein, per Sports Illustrated.

With this bittersweet season coming to an end for Georgia Southern, one thing that the Eagles can take away with them is the Sun Belt title and an undefeated conference season. The Eagles made a loud statement in the year of 2014, and if things continue on this path to success, we will see them as bowl contenders in the future of the FBS.

Courtesy of Southern Pigskin writer Kenzie Stanford.