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Should Georgia Southern Play a Game in Atlanta Every Season?

Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just floatin' this out there.

Daniel Shirey

I know there are some in certain fanbases who may spin this in all sorts of ways, but it is not out of jealousy over facilities or location. I would not trade a small southern town (that's close enough to a pretty good city) for a big-city campus for anything. I live in Auburn, Alabama after all, a town very similar to Statesboro in some respects.

This is about fan and alumni engagement. It's about getting the brand out there.

I love Allen E. Paulson Stadium. It is a fantastic venue to watch football and the expansion has made it even more fun. However, it currently still seats just under 25,000 people. Georgia Southern is still a team in transition. Granted, it's a team making a name for itself in a big way, but it still needs more national exposure.

Georgia State and App State should be recurring teams for Georgia Southern to play every year. I would throw Troy in there as well as another traditional rival. This would ensure that at least every other season the Eagles are in Atlanta for a game that the Atlanta-based alumni (of which there are a ton) can easily make.

Georgia Southern is going to have some difficulty getting big names to come to Paulson Stadium for the next few years. The Out-of-Conference home games for the next seasons according to are Western Michigan and The Citadel in 2015, Jacksonville and Savannah State in 2016 (two FCS teams), and Kent State in 2019.

Next season is a wash at this point, and 2016 should involve the Eagles playing in Atlanta against Georgia State, again. 2017 is a different story, though. There is talk of trying to schedule Georgia Tech in Atlanta again that season. However, the only non-conference game currently announced is a road game at LSU.

If I were Georgia Southern AD Tom Kleinlein, I would be looking into the possibility of capitalizing on this schedule and keeping the two non-conference home games while trying to schedule another big-name team in Atlanta for the fourth non-conference game that season. If it's Tech, then that works well, too, but if not then maybe the Eagles can explore some other possibilities.

South Alabama got Mississippi State to come to Mobile this past season. Troy has gotten them to play at their place in recent years. What are the odds that Georgia Southern could get a team like, say, Purdue or one of the lower-tier ACC teams to play a game in Atlanta? It could be at the Dome or possibly even see if Georgia Tech would let us use Bobby Dodd (very unlikely, though).

Until Georgia Southern builds a bigger brand name on the national scale (which it is doing quick, fast, and in a hurry) AND makes a few more expansions and improvements to Paulson Stadium, they aren't going to get any bigger names to make the trip to Statesboro. Let's face it, it's rare for bigger name teams to agree to home-and-home games with smaller teams to begin with.

However, the opportunity is there for Georgia Southern to engage their Atlanta fan base and possibly sway one of those bigger names if we were to offer a game in Atlanta. Even if it's just a Friday night on the first week of college football before the larger Chick-fil-A kick-off game.

I realize this experiment was already tried once back in 1995 with rival Middle Tennessee State, but the difference between FCS and FBS football could definitely help get more folks involved. There's even more precedent going back to Erk's early days of building the team when the Eagles would play anywhere (before Paulson Stadium was complete, mind) in order to get people excited about Georgia Southern football.

In the end, I'm not necessarily advocating this so much as presenting it as a thought. I can see issues around it, such as it may then become the one game a season many casual Atlanta fans come to rather than making a trip to an actual home game. However, I do think with it you may sway some of those casual fans to make a few more trips to Statesboro. Once that happens, they're much more likely to become rabid fans.

This is just food for thought on a Tuesday afternoon. If something like this were implemented I would hope for it to be temporary. Because while playing a game in Atlanta against a big name team can be fun, in the end there's no place like home.