In the midst of its last season as an FCS member, Georgia Southern is preparing for its move to the FBS's Sun Belt Conference for 2014. On Wednesday, athletics director Tom Kleinlein traveled from the school's Statesboro home to Augusta to spread the FBS gospel to a group of Eagles supporters.
The school hopes the jump in competition will lead to added exposure for the entire university, more educational opportunities through the mandatory increase in scholarships, and more money. Much, much more money.
“Why do you make the move? You make the move because, when we went to Georgia last year and played as an FCS school, we got paid $300,000,” Kleinlein said. “Buffalo got paid $900,000 as an FBS school. There is a value to an FBS moniker that goes in front of your name.”
Georgia Southern will earn $500,000 for its November 23 trip to Florida, and in 2014 will make $1.9 million for three games against Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Navy. That means the Eagles will make nearly $200,000 extra per game for playing in stadiums significantly smaller than Florida's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
A bowl game, a Tuesday night game on ESPN2, and access to a deeper pool of recruits are great incentives to move from FCS to FBS, but none of those things are certainties. But when you can charge what is essentially a six-figure licensing fee for changing the moniker in front of your name by one letter, that's a prospect any athletics director or school president can quantify. As Kleinlein explained though, "Our goal and mission of what we do in the athletics department is to grow our university...Our job is to get people interested in Georgia Southern University through the games we play and competitions we have and stories we tell. Now, we're able to do that on a stage we've never been able to before."