STATESBORO, Ga. — Georgia Southern University broke ground for a $10 million football operations center and the construction of an additional 6,200 seats in Allen E. Paulson Stadium on Wednesday.
The projects come as the Eagles move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2014 and begin playing in the Sun Belt Conference.
“If you look at the Sun Belt Conference and the teams we are going to play, we need a facility like this to be able to compete with them and in recruiting, retaining and developing the players that we need at Georgia Southern,” Eagles football coach Jeff Monken said. “This is going to put us ahead of a lot of those schools immediately.”
The 50,000-square-foot football operations center, which is privately funded, will have state-of-the-art features and facilities including offices for the football coaches, locker rooms, workout facilities, meeting space and a Hall of Fame exhibit to showcase the history of the Eagles and the team’s legendary players.
In 2014, Georgia Southern will join the Sun Belt but will not be eligible for a bowl game its first season.
• The Eagles also announced the hiring of a new receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
Chad Lunsford, who coached the slotbacks from 2003-06, is returning to the school. Lunsford spent the previous four years in an administrative position with the Auburn football program.
RUTGERS: Incoming athletic director Julie Hermann says the problems she encountered as a women’s volleyball coach at Tennessee are part of the reason she’s a good fit as a sports administrator.
Speaking to reporters during a campus visit Wednesday, Hermann said she learned from the experiences that have drawn criticism regarding the school’s decision to hire her.
Players from the 1996 Vols team have said they complained Hermann was verbally and emotionally abusive to them. They said in a letter at the time that she called them “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled.”
“That lesson of 17 years ago was honestly why I felt I was uniquely qualified, not only very qualified but uniquely qualified because I have been a student-athlete, been an assistant coach, been a head coach and now an administrator,” she said. “I have been in every spot that exists in an athletic department, and I understand the challenges.
“I have been successful with them and I had a failure with them.”
The allegations followed the uproar in which predecessor Tim Pernetti was forced to resign days after men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for physically and verbally abusing his players during his three-year tenure.
Rutgers is joining the Big Ten in 2014.
The press conference was called earlier in the day by school officials. According to an email, it was to last 15 minutes. It ran 13 minutes instead.
“I’ll see you all on June 17,” Hermann said in closing, referring to her official start date.
Moments after the conference ended, Rutgers president Robert Barchi issued a statement.
“I look forward to Julie joining the Rutgers team later this month,” he said. “Julie and I had a great discussion today about her priorities and plans to strengthen the student-athlete experience and support the excellent coaches and staff at Rutgers by making sure they have the resources to succeed.
“Our smooth integration into the Big Ten is a top priority for the university. I am confident that Julie and her team will set the stage for a great transition.
It was the first meeting with the media since an impromptu conference call Hermann held during Memorial Day Weekend with reporters.
“Rutgers is truly a special place uniquely positioned to do something great,” she said.
During her visit, Hermann also met with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, and the whole procession of events is another clear indication that Barchi is not backing down from Hermann’s appointment despite calls from state politicians, who are upset that she was not vetted properly.
The university’s board of governors has the right to replace Hermann, but the school would probably owe her $2.25 million based on her five-year, $450,000 contract.
Members of the selection committee that chose Hermann also are upset that they had little say in the process until informed of the final two choices, Hermann and Sean Frazier, the deputy athletic director at Wisconsin.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said last week that he won’t micromanage Rutgers, and Barchi added that he stands behind Hermann, who for the past 16 years had been the No. 2 sports administrator at Louisville.
Hermann was selected as Rutgers’ first female athletic director on May 15.
Rutgers’ problems started in December when Rice was suspended three games and fined $75,000 by the school after a video of his conduct at practices was given to Pernetti by Eric Murdock, a former assistant coach.
The video showed numerous clips of Rice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. It also showed him grabbing players by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice can be heard yelling obscenities and using anti-gay slurs.
The controversy went public in April when ESPN aired the videos and Barchi admitted he didn’t view them in the fall. Rice was fired and Pernetti, assistant coach Jimmy Martelli and interim senior vice president and university counsel John Wolf resigned.
Former Rutgers guard Eddie Jordan was hired to replace Rice in April but even that did not go as planned when Rutgers said he had his degree from the New Jersey school when he didn’t.
Earlier this week, Delaney said the recent string of problems at Rutgers would not prevent the university from joining the Big Ten in 2014.