Are you ready for FBS, Eagle Nation?

Cheney is a super senior journalism major from Augusta. He is the current sports editor.

William Cheney

Remember in the fall of 2012 when the student body voted “yes to FBS?” There was no question the Eagle Nation was ready to move Georgia Southern to the highest level of competition. The only question at the time was how long it would take the football team to adjust to life as an FBS program. Now that we’re here and the football team hasn’t skipped a beat in the transition, my question is this:

Is the Eagle Nation ready for the FBS?

It may seem like a ludicrous question to ask. Hell, if anyone would’ve asked me that a year ago I would’ve called them insane. The Eagle Nation voted for the move, so obviously it is… right? Maybe not.

What caused me to ask myself this question were the two Thursday night games which were nationally televised on ESPNU. These games were opportunities for Statesboro to be put on the big stage and show to the nation that this is a town worthy of ESPN’s presence. They were opportunities to show the nation that Athens isn’t the only major college football town outside of Atlanta in Georgia . All it showed me is that the Eagle Nation has a lot to learn about itself.

Let’s look at the debacle known as the App State game. Yes, I called it a debacle even though we thrashed the Mountaineers in our first-ever meeting as FBS programs. It was a debacle because the Eagle Nation took its opportunity in the national spotlight not to cheer on the Eagles – but to give the viewers and attendees a reason to never attend our home games. Throwing those discs, which were meant to be held as a sign of unification, on the field to the point that they garnered a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was nothing short of a child pitching a fit. I wish it ended there.

After the game, Donald Heath of Savannah Morning News wrote a column about the experience. His column included an App State fan’s account of the obscenities she and her daughter endured from Georgia Southern fans. Her daughter was “left frightened” and “they’ll never be back.” Is that really the kind of message we want to send to first-time attendees to “The Prettiest Little Stadium in America?”

Or we could just tell the nation that we don’t care about our games altogether. The attendance for the game against Troy was 18,321 (on a week that Tom Kleinlein pleaded to the Eagle Nation to attempt to set a new attendance record for Paulson Stadium). This was the lowest attendance at a home game all season. There were enough empty seats in Paulson to fill J.I. Clements twice over, and that’s not counting the droves of fans that began filing out after the first quarter. The worst thing we can do is not show up for games. We’re basically telling ESPN not to come back to Statesboro by doing so.

Willie Fritz’s team is two fumbles away from being 9-0. The 2014 Eagles lead the nation in rushing and are undefeated in Sun Belt play. We’ve had two nationally televised home games. What I’m saying, Eagle Nation, is don’t take this for granted. You’re witnessing history. Go to the games, and while you’re there, be mindful that you’re representing Georgia Southern and Statesboro.