Opinion: Justified hostility

Tyson Summers is now 5-9 at the helm for Georgia Southern after being hired to a program that appeared to be on the upswing.

Thomas Jilk

It seems the question facing the Georgia Southern fan base has shifted from ‘Will Tyson Summers be fired?’ to ‘When will Tyson Summers be fired?’

That is up to athletic director Tom Kleinlein, who famously saved Summers’ job after last season’s 5-7 disappointment. He also may, according to lawsuits uncovered originally by USA Today, have conspired to fire the co-offensive coordinators – David Dean and Rance Gillespie – in an allegedly unethical and potentially illegal way. That, though, is a whole other story to follow in the coming months.

So what would it take to fire Summers right now, you ask?

According to Summers’ contract, being fired in his second year would require a $900,000 buyout from the university, “paid in 36 equal monthly installments immediately following the date of termination.”

With the scheme laid out in Dean and Gillespie’s lawsuits in mind, it seems Kleinlein may even be frugal enough to wait another season and save $300,000 on Summers’ buyout, taking the losses on the field that come along with that. As each year of Summers’ four-year deal goes by, his buyout lessens by $300,000. That’s more than a year’s salary for both the athletic director and the head coach.

In 2016, public records show Summers earned over $210,000 dollars (base salary), or about $20,000 less than his boss, Kleinlein, who earned more than $230,000. Kleinlein’s new four-year contract extends through 2021 and gives him a base salary of $265,000 annually.

The reason to discuss these salaries is their accountability to the student body and the fans. If – and right now, this is a big if – the lawsuits that Dean and Gillespie filed hold truth, then those allegations paint Kleinlein, Summers and others in a way that diminishes their apparent capacity to respect and be honest with some of their subordinates.

This is not to say that these men are bad people. In fact, Summers is generally matter-of-fact and very friendly with media, and Kleinlein is a compelling speaker and seemingly an authoritative leader.

However, on top of the pending lawsuits, the football team has not improved. In fact, with a recent loss against FCS New Hampshire, it looks as though the Eagles may have somehow regressed from the embarrassing 2016 season.

Is it worth our student fees to watch a football team lose to less-talented foes as we wait to find out if some potentially very serious allegations about the team’s coach and athletic director are true?

GS fans have a pervading and justified hostility now towards both Summers and Kleinlein. Twitter is the best evidence of this.

The GS football program is the darling of the university. It led to the enrollment explosion that came with Erk Russell. It produced legends like Adrian Peterson, Tracy Ham, Jayson Foster and Jerick McKinnon.

It is the pride of Eagle Nation. There is an underlying tradition of success that no two seasons and no head coach or athletic director can bury.

It is the job of the head football coach to maximize the talents of his roster. The GS roster is far from devoid of talent. The defense showed promising signs against Auburn, and the offense has proven performers, albeit led by an inexperienced quarterback.

So why aren’t those proven performers performing?

The problems here start at the top, and they trickle down quickly as they come into view on Saturdays.