Tom Kleinlein shocked the world, or at least Eagle Nation, Saturday night when he announced Tyson Summers would return as head coach of the Georgia Southern Eagles in spite of a 5-7 record.
The team had lost seven of eight before miraculously beating Troy in the season’s final game and the discontent within the fan base was bubbling over by the stroke of December.
If you follow the program at all you know there were rampant rumors of Summers’ demise. I heard from maybe six different people on Saturday that a firing was imminent, and even began to believe them in spite of the nearly impossible logistics surrounding such a move.
So, lesson learned there.
Personally, I’m more or less indifferent to the move. Summers had a $1.2 million buyout, which is a colossal number for Georgia Southern equivalent to 2.5 times his annual salary. A lesser concern is establishing a stigma within the coaching community about the program if you give a coach the ax so quickly.
And with the win Saturday the team’s total victories stand at five. That’s certainly a big, unacceptable drop from last year’s nine, but it’s nothing so drastic as to warrant a firing in year one.
My prediction all along has been that Summers stays on and that the two offensive coordinators are replaced, probably by someone with some option background. So far so good! Although a string of ugly off-the-field incidents with assistant coaches is another matter that has developed in recent days, and an issue which needs to be addressed sooner than later.
The win over Troy was encouraging in that it was so obvious how much talent remains on this team and how close it is to putting together a great season. That’s a double-edged sword because the win also begs the question: Where was this team and this play the rest of the year?
Well, we will find out in fall 2017 because Summers is officially coming back. I hope very strongly that I'm right regarding potential staff moves and that option coaches come in to run the offense.
Doing nothing would come across as tone deaf given the Eagles’ poor showing in 2017. Summers was asked about potential staff changes during his postgame press conference after the Troy game and sidestepped the question.
Doing nothing would also mean bringing in another recruiting class geared for the run ‘n shoot/Hatch Attack/air raid or whatever you want to call the effort put forth this year. I don’t want to see that. I want to see the program continue with the offense that has brought it tremendous success and a national identity over the past three decades.
Oh yea, doing nothing would also fail to calm a riled up fan base that for the most part is far from pleased with the move.
Yep, it’s time for Twitter meltdowns.
@GSAthletics_FB We will lose to NEW HAMPSHIRE in 2017 with Summers and TK!!!!— GA SOUTHERN LIME (@limebalz1) December 4, 2016
@GSAthletics_FB GET THESE HIGHSCHOOL/D2 COACHES OFF OUR STAFF— TRUE BLUE DREW (@GSUNavyBlue) December 4, 2016
@GSAthletics_FB Amateur night continues for another year!— Chris Moore (@CMoore577) December 4, 2016
@GSAthletics yay! I'm excited for another year of below .500 football and no bowl! Can't wait!— Kirby Morris (@KirbyMorris) December 3, 2016
@GSAthletics can we at least fire the spread offense co offensive coordinators?— Scotti (@scottiD10) December 4, 2016
If the fans can’t fire the head coach, they definitely want to fire somebody.
@McMurphyESPN— Mattox Hatfield (@mattoxhatfield) December 3, 2016
BREAKING: If he doesn't make any changes in his incompetent staff, I will not be returning as a season ticket holder.
@HaistenWillis they should go regardless. The win was nice way to send off seniors though.— Jim McDonald (@iamtallrthanu) December 3, 2016
We also conducted our own highly scientific poll (in which you can still vote).
Your reaction to Tyson Summers coming back to Georgia Southern.— Haisten Willis (@HaistenWillis) December 3, 2016
And we have to acknowledge there was the stray supportive tweet.
In all seriousness keeping Summers is likely the smart move. I like it and I am looking forward to what is to come— JD (@Jd00047) December 4, 2016
It goes without saying I don’t have anything personal against the guy. I certainly hope he goes 12-0 next year and brings a great season to Statesboro. But when you stop winning games, you stir up Eagle Nation. And that is a scary sight.