Over the past two football seasons, I have been devastated. As a True Blue Eagle, of course, but also as someone who believes in others. I watched our team go from a record of 9-4, including a GoDaddy Bowl win, in 2015 to a 5-7 in 2016, and now, I sit in dismay at the 0-6 record that is all over social media - I can't seem to get away from it.
What in the world happened?
If you ask just about anyone, they'll tell you. Tyson Summers, he got the job as head coach of the Georgia Southern Eagles in 2015. That's when our program slowly began to sink into this, well, disaster that it is now. As you can imagine, the Georgia Southern community, students, and alumni have all been outraged - calling for Summers to be fired, all season. (I'm not gonna lie, I said it too. Repeatedly, actually.) On Sunday, October 22, Georgia Southern finally answered these pleas - and Tyson Summers was relieved of his head coach position.
There's one thing, though, that has stood out to me from day one.
Why was he hired in the first place?
Before being hired as head coach for the Eagles, Summers was Colorado State's 2015 Defensive Coordinator. From 2012-2015, he was UFC's Linebackers & Defensive Coordinator. Before that, he was at UAB, where he went from Linebackers from 2007-2010 to Safeties/Co-Special Teams Coordinator in 2011. He had no experience as a head coach, and that brings some concern as that wasn't the case for Willie Fritz, the Eagles' coach preceding Summers.
When Fritz was hired on as head coach, he had been the head coach at Blinn College from 1993-1996, Central Missouri from 1997-2009, AND Sam Houston State from 2010-2013 before coaching the Eagles from 2014-2015.
Why would the University drop their standards, and why did Fritz leave?
Two words. Tom Kleinlein, Georgia Southern's athletic director. In a recording leaked in September of 2017, Fritz explains to the team his leaving - and the reason behind it. Job security. In it, he says
“I’m 55 going on 56. When I took this job, I took a big chance. I got a contract that didn’t have much job security. They told me if I proved myself, they would give me job security. Well, that wasn’t the case. I got a one-year deal, and I had to win seven games each year, and I would be reviewed. I thought the last couple of years, I felt like I deserved more than that. This stage in my career, this stage in my life, job security is really, really important to me."
It's said, in Savannah Now's article, that Fritz was offered a four year contract, after doing nothing but building the program up - and a $700,000 salary which was a $200,000 raise from his former salary of $500,000. With this contract Kleinlein promised Fitz an extension of one year on the four year contract, for every season that he won 7 games or more.
Fritz walked away, accepting a job at Tulane University, where he is being paid the way a winning coach should be at $1.2 Million a year. Kleinlein hired Summers, at $500,000 a year - but with a four year contract instead of Fritz's one year starting contract.
So, was it really Tyson Summers who did this to Georgia Southern's football program?
No. Summers was hired to do a job that he wasn't able to do, with no head coaching experience. Tom Kleinlein knew that, and hired him anyway. Tom Kleinlein didn't want to offer Fritz a salary that he was worth, so instead Georgia Southern's football team lost a great head coach who was bringing home wins - and we got a coach who still has a lot to learn.
So, Tyson, as you leave us - I say this:
From what I have heard of you, you're a great guy. You love your family, you love the Lord, you love all of your players, you love football, and you love Georgia Southern. You've excelled in every part of your job as a head coach, besides the part on the field, and fans don't see that.
I'm sorry, for all of the #FireTysonSummers hashtags all over social media (my own posts as well) because the more I've thought about it - I've realized that the blame isn't to be placed on you.
This isn't your fault, though you have made some mistakes because you weren't ready for this. You accepted a job that you were offered at the Greatest University in America, and I don't know anyone who would turn that down. You've got a lot to learn, though, to keep up in the FBS. I know you don't need me to tell you that, and I know you're kicking yourself more than anyone else is.
Good luck, Summers. I pray that the Lord leads you to a program where you will learn and flourish. I wish you the best. Hopefully, you won't be the only one leaving Georgia Southern's athletic program this year - because Tom Kleinlein is the one who's really responsible for this.
Why aren't we screaming #FireTomKleinlein?
It's time to start.