Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein addresses the audience during the Georgia Southern Coaches Caravan at Carey Hilliard's on Abercorn Street on May 12, 2017. (Savannah Morning News file photo)
STATESBORO — Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein answered the question that couldn’t be ignored on Monday through a video segment produced by the GS athletic department.
Kleinlein addressed the state of the football program, which has started 0-3 under second-year head coach Tyson Summers and plays its conference opener Wednesday against Arkanasas State at Paulson Stadium.
The Eagles are enduring hard times having finished 2016, Summers’ first year, 5-7. So far, the Eagles have scored just 36 points through three games and are ranked 128th out of 130 FBS teams in offensive yards per game at 257. Defensively, they’re ranked 119th in average points allowed per game (38.3), and 97th in yards per game (425).
“Right now, our football program is challenged, we’re struggling a little bit on the field, but I think there’s a lot of good things going on in our program, a lot of good things going on behind the scenes,” Kleinlein said. “Our kids are competing, our kids are desiring to win, our coaching staff is working really hard.
“I think one of the things people forget sometimes is this is a process. We’re moving our program to FBS football, and in the first two years we were highly successful, and I think that might’ve disillusioned some people into how hard this really is. You look at other programs that have made the jump that we have, and you look at the success that they had, they’ve all gone through periods where things have been challenging, and right now we’re going through that period. I’m very confident that our football coaches and our staff and our players are doing the things that we need to do to be successful, and we’ll get this thing turned around in the long run.”
Georgia Southern went 18-7 in its first two seasons as a member of the FBS and Sun Belt Conference, winning a conference championship in 2014 and a bowl game in 2015 under former head coach Willie Fritz, who left for Tulane late in the 2015 season.
The Eagles’ biggest rival, Appalachian State, went 7-5 its first season in the FBS, losing to FCS Liberty, but the Mountaineers went 11-2 in 2015 and 10-3 last season, sharing the conference title with Arkansas State. They’re also 2-0 in bowl appearances.