Opinion: Summers time and the living isn’t so easy

McClain Baxley

Coach Tyson Summers, hailing from little old Tifton, Ga, has now become a national name, and not for the reasons he’d probably like.

Before signing on as head coach of the Georgia Southern Eagles in Jan. 2016, he served as defensive coordinator at Colorado State and UCF as well as different position coaches at Presbyterian, UGA, Troy and UAB. After Willie Fritz’ controversial departure, Eagles fans were excited to see what the southern football coach could do, especially after coming off of two of the best seasons in GS history.

Summers’ tenure began with an impressive 3-0 start, including two Sun Belt wins. Statesboro was thriving. People were leaving football games early because the team was confidently winning. And Tyson Summers was “The Man.”

The next week the Eagles traveled to Western Michigan to lose to the Broncos who would eventually go 13-1 losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. This loss was totally forgivable as it was against a good team, and the Eagles were still undefeated in conference play.

This respect for the 2016 GS football team and Coach Summers would be dwindled the following Wednesday night in Jonesboro, Arkansas. After holding a lead for three quarters, the Red Wolves of Arkansas State came back and won 27-26, despite the 5 turnovers.

The season went on and Summers’ inaugural head coaching season concluded with a 5-7 record. Eagle nation was annoyed, but athletic director Tom Kleinlein affirmed that Summers would stay head coach.

In the offseason, Tyson Summers made it a mission to recruit a strong freshman class and make up for last year’s woeful season with exciting new talent. GS finished with the fifth best recruiting class in the Sun Belt, 105th nationally. Not the greatest class, but still a class with some strong defensive players to fill in spots that Ironhead Gallon and Ukeme Eligwe left.

Losing both senior starting quarterbacks to graduation, fans knew that the team was going to be relying on a new quarterback. With several options, Summers went with redshirt freshman Shai Werts.

Throughout the offseason and preseason, Werts seemed like the right quarterback and it was hard to be too critical of him after the Auburn game. Each week since, the 20-year-old has seemed more confident and dynamic. But even as the team as a whole gets stronger, the Eagles are 0-5 and underdogs Saturday at 0-6 UMASS.

Tensions have been high all season, but no emotions have been expressed as strongly until Monday when a small group of students gathered in Sweetheart Circle to protest Summers.

This was the most embarrassing piece of Georgia Southern I had ever witnessed in my two years of going here. This was worse than being 0-5, having several coaching scandals, and seeing the majority of Paulson empty on national television after people left the stadium early in distaste. The students are planning to “protest” every Monday until GS wins a game. I don’t think there are many Eagle fans voting for Summers to stay, but it’s foolish to protest and tweet and chant for his firing.

Each year the buyout decreases by $300,000, however his buyout after just two seasons is $900,000. And when asked about the firing of Summers and Kleinlein, President Hebert wouldn’t discuss “personnel matters.” So until students or boosters come up with nearly $1 million, Summers is the head football coach at least through the end of this season and probably for the 2018 season as well.

If we look back on Summers’ 4-year contract, it is quite comical. His base salary is for $300,000 with tons of incentives that he has failed to reach including $6,000 for winning seven games, $10,000 for winning a Sun Belt championship or co-championship, and $150,000 for winning a national championship. It is a stretch to see this Georgia Southern team win seven games, a Sun Belt championship, or a national championship.

It might still be too early though to be SO critical of Summers. It is only his second year of being in charge of the whole program and even some of the best coaches in history had shaky starts. Nick Saban went 7-6 in his first season with the Crimson Tide, the great Bear Bryant started 5-4-1 in his first at Alabama and Woody Hayes went 4-3-2 before leading the Buckeyes to 5 national championships.

So we as a devout fanbase should sit back and mentally prepare for the 1 or 2 win season we are having. It isn’t OKAY but it is what is transpiring. This is one of the youngest teams nationally and it has shown. If Georgia Southern loses to Presbyterian at home for the season opener next year, then a protest of Summers might be more warranted.