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Georgia Southern fires Head Coach Chad Lunsford

FILE - Georgia Southern Head Coach Chad Lunsford speaks to the media on Sept. 13, 2021 before...
FILE - Georgia Southern Head Coach Chad Lunsford speaks to the media on Sept. 13, 2021 before the Eagles' game at #20 Arkansas.
Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 5:24 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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STATESBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - After a 1 and 3 start in 2021 in what would have been his fourth full season as the Georgia Southern Head Football Coach, Chad Lunsford has been fired.

“After a thorough review and evaluation of our football program, I have made a decision that a change in leadership is in the best interest of our team and University,” said Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Jared Benko said in a statement. “I want to thank Coach Lunsford for his hard work and the impact he has had on the student-athletes within our program. I wish Chad and his family success in the future.”

On Saturday night, the Eagles fell at home to Louisiana 28 to 20 to open Sun Belt Conference play, marking three straight losses for the team. Southern trailed by just one point at the half, but his team has been outscored 82 to 17 this season in the second half. Their lone win came in the season opener against Gardner-Webb.

Lunsford called the loss heartbreaking.

“Our guys understand the expectations at Georgia Southern. They understand that losing is really not an option here, especially at home,” said Lunsford. “But my second thought to that is when I go in there and I talk to those guys, and they’ve emptied the tank all week long to get ready to play that game and give themselves a chance to win, but then don’t, I think you’ve got to be smart with them.”

The release from Georgia Southern doesn’t indicate if Lunsford was fired “for cause” or “without cause.” “For cause” would mean he broke a rule listed in the contract. If he was fired “without cause,” it would leave the university and the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation on the hook for his buyout.

In May of 2020, Lunsford signed a one-year extension, extending his contract through December 2024.

Lunsford’s base salary is $680,000. His contract with Georgia Southern states that if he is terminated without cause, the university will continue to pay his annual base salary, prorated by the months remaining for the remainder of the term of the agreement.

Not counting his remaining salary for this year, that would be $2.4 million.

In Lunsford’s contract agreement with the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation, it says that if the Head Coach is terminated by the school without cause during year two, which is this year, the Foundation will pay the coach $800,000 total in equal payments over 12 months.

Lunsford took over as interim coach for the last six games of the 2017 season. He has a 28-21 overall record in Statesboro, 17-14 in conference play.

The Eagles have played in three straight bowl games under Lunsford, winning two of them, including the New Orleans Bowl last season.

Some former and current players have shared their thoughts on social media, mostly supportive messages.

Cornerbacks Coach Kevin Whitley has been tapped as Interim Head Coach for the rest of the 2021 season. Whitley has no head coaching experience, but he has spent three years as Cornerback Coach under Lunsford. Prior to that, he was the Head Coach at Stockbridge High School near Atlanta, where he had a successful run, going 99-28 with five region titles over 10 years. Whitley played at Georgia Southern from 1988-1991 as a four-year starter, helping lead the Eagles to two national championships.

Georgia Southern plans to launch a national search for the Eagles’ next head coach.

“The athletics department will not make any comments on the search for the next head coach until the process is complete,” the department said in a statement.

Both Benko and Whitley are scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday.

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