Georgia Southern graduates and fans from around Glynn County gathered at Gnat’s Landing on Thursday to mingle and show support for the university’s athletics program at the Eagle’s Coaches Caravan.
Head football coach Chad Lunsford and men’s basketball coach Mark Byington were among the members of the Georgia Southern athletics department in attendance to help energize an alumni base up to 15,000 strong in the Golden Isles.
“It’s a great area for Georgia Southern fans, for us to be able to come to them,” Byington said. “What I like about the situation is, it’s not a stressful environment. We can interact with our fans, our supporters, our donors at a different type of environment.”
Guests at the event got the chance to speak with some of the Georgia Southern coaches and athletic director Tom Kleinlein while munching on food and sipping drinks provided by Gnat’s Landing.
It was exactly the type of homey environment that Georgia Southern looks to promote.
“One of things about Georgia Southern, it has to be assessable, it has to be a family atmosphere,” Byington said. “We come out here and we’re just able to talk to people about games, memories, and experiences. It’s good to hear about their past experiences, what they liked this year.”
Later in the evening, Kleinlein and the coaches took turns standing in front of the room and speaking about their respective programs before fielding questions from the audience.
During Byington’s speech, he mentioned how an anonymous donation to the athletic department has allowed for renovations to Hanner Fieldhouse this summer and encouraged more alumni to follow suit.
Byington also referenced the Academic Progress Rate released by the NCAA on Wednesday, in which the men’s basketball team was one of the seven of Georgia Southern’s 17 sports to finish with a perfect score of 1,000 for the 2017-18 academic year.
When Kleinlein took the microphone, he talked about how he’s spent the last three days in St. Simons and Sea Island meeting with fellow athletic directors, as well as representatives from Adidas in regards to increasing the amount of Georgia Southern merchandise in stores.
In speaking about the athletic department’s finances, Kleinlein touched on how an eight-second clip on ESPN’s Top 10 was worth around $90,000 in media value to the university’s brand, and the Georgia Southern football team’s appearance in the Camilla Bowl this past season was valued at $4 million in advertising.
Kleinlein also stressed the importance in filling out the venues for various sporting events and the impact showcasing the university can have on the respective programs’ ability to recruit.
Lunsford recounted the Eagles’ football season that saw the team make the biggest turnaround in Division I as it improved from 2-10 to 10-3 in his full season as the head coach, including the dramatic bowl victory.
But ultimately, the Coaches Caravan was just a night for members of the athletic department to get out and enjoy an evening with the people that support them throughout the year.
“Obviously we’ve got our fan base in Statesboro, but we’ve got so many alumni around the state, so it’s always good to get out and meet and talk,” Lunsford said. “We’re all just regular people. Just to get around people, and just kind of hangout with them, get to to know them, and try to draw them in even closer.
“Just let them know they have ownership in this.”