Georgia Southern football fans are used to winning. Even head coach Chad Lunsford is used to winning.
Lunsford took over the program before the 2018 season, and every season since, the Eagles have finished with a winning record and ended the season playing in a bowl game.
Although the early part of the 2021 schedule has featured road games at Florida Atlantic and No. 20 Arkansas, a 1-2 start was not what Lunsford and fans were hoping for to start this season. As the Eagles prepare to open Sun Belt Conference play on Saturday against Louisiana — a team Georgia Southern hasn’t beaten since 2017 — Lunsford pointed to his faith when asked about the fans’ displeasure toward his team’s start to the season.
“I’m a man of faith,” Lunsford told reporters on Monday. “I feel that my steps are ordered. I feel that God has a plan for me. God has a plan for my family. So why worry about things that you don’t control? I control how we practice. I control the different things we do at practice. We control the depth chart. We control who plays. I have to focus on the things I do have control over.”
Don’t get him wrong, though. Lunsford said the fans have every right to be frustrated. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If the product on the field is not to the liking of our fanbase, they have every right to get upset about it,” Lunsford said. “We’re a form of entertainment. We’re a production, and that’s my job. It’s our job to go out there and perform for our fanbase. For them to get upset, thank you. Because if you’re part of a group that doesn’t care, that doesn’t want you to be great, that doesn’t want you to win championships, I don’t want to be there.”
Georgia Southern moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference in 2014 and immediately ran the table with an 8-0 record in conference play to capture the conference championship. Lunsford took over as interim coach midway through a 2017 season in which the Eagles finished 2-10, but it’s been back to winning since the interim tag was removed.
The team’s 10-3 finish in 2018 marked the biggest turnaround in the FBS.
Under Lunsford, the Eagles are 2-1 in bowl games, winning the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in 2018 and the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in 2021. The rest of their schedule this year is against conference opponents except for a Nov. 20 game against Brigham Young.
It’s a long season, and Lunsford said he still believes in his team’s ability to respond.
“I’m going to do the best I can do,” he said. “I’m going to believe in my guys. I’m going to believe in my coaches. We’re going to go to work, and we’re going to work every day. We’re going to do the best we can do, and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. That’s how I look at it.”
Whether it’s two wins or 10, though, Lunsford — who frequently shares Bible verses on his Twitter account — said that doesn’t change who he is or what he stands for. He appeared on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019, where he shared his testimony and how his relationship with God has grown deeper. Part of that has been living out his faith in his actions and understanding that his identity isn’t wrapped up in football.
— Coach Chad Lunsford (@chadlunsford) September 20, 2021
He harkened back to that this week.
“I’m not defined by football,” he said. “I love football. I love to win. I love to compete. I don’t want to lose. I probably hate losing more than I love winning. But it’s not going to define my life. If people don’t like that, it is what it is, man. I’ve got one person to please, and that’s God, my Savior, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
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