Reflecting on 2016 Football Season: In Defense of Tyson Summers

Photo by Mick Miller

Thomas Jilk

No Where To Go But Up

Take a deep breath, Eagle Nation. There will be a next season.

In an FBS football landscape that – let’s not forget – we’ve only just entered, unrealistic coaching expectations are contagious and have spread like the plague.

Oregon’s Mark Helfrich was fired after a disappointing season, albeit two years removed from a national championship appearance. LSU’s Les Miles was fired midway through this season after never earning less than eight wins in a season over 11 years coaching the Tigers – including a national title in 2007. Georgia Southern has managed to avoid this contagion of knee-jerk firings. It has given its young head coach another chance. 

A record of 5-7 falls short of Georgia Southern football’s expectations, and that’s not up for debate. However, the impatience and dismay shown in the student body and the overall fan base during and following this season should certainly be tempered.

A forum on 247sports.com was already speculating Summers’ replacement before the season-ending win against Troy. Twitter was teeming with anger and cries for Tyson Summers to be terminated.

A Game of Inches

Summers was a first-time head coach. At 36 years old, he made a life-changing decision to sign a four-year deal and move his family to come to Statesboro to represent the Eagles as head coach. He deserves for the fans to take a closer retrospective look at his undoubtedly disappointing debut season.

Looking back, the relentless schedule was riddled with close calls. Anyone who watched the nationally televised Arkansas State nightmare-ending knows that it could’ve gone either way.

Georgia Southern also suffered close defeats to Power-5 conference foes Georgia Tech and Ole Miss in valiant efforts. The Western Michigan Broncos beat the Eagles in September on their way to becoming the only team in the FBS to finish the regular season undefeated other than Alabama.

The only truly embarrassing loss for Southern was the 34-10 blowout at the hands of rival Appalachian State, the eventual Sun Belt Conference co-champions. The three other conference losses suffered by GS this season were by a combined total of only 14 points. This is no excuse for losing, but the Eagles could just as easily have finished 8-4.

Patience Is A Virtue

Today’s pinnacle of college coaching, Alabama’s Nick Saban, finished 7-6 in his first year in Tuscaloosa. His continuous success since then has caused an overreaction across college football. Colleges and universities around the country have upheld a Saban-like standard for head coaches, when the reality remains that there simply aren’t enough wins to go around to live up to this expectation. When fans and donors at schools like LSU and Oregon screamed ‘You’re fired!’, those cries were echoed up through their administrations.

Georgia Southern’s retention of Summers must be accompanied by the full support of the student body. Team wins will not follow a university that is not united behind its leaders.

Inhale and exhale. Like it or not, the Summers era has only just begun.