Georgia Southern is a university rich in history. Since its humble beginnings as First District A&M School in 1906, the school has established a wide range of traditions that serve to distinguish it from its peers and deepen the bond with its own students as each year passes. The Eagle Nation is built on these bonds, soaring on the cheers of students, alumni and loyal fans who shout “Georgia…” and know with confidence the answer they’ll receive.
Some universities have “squares,” but Georgia Southern University has Sweetheart Circle. Sweetheart Circle derives its name from what students used to call the “Sweetheart Campus.” The rolling lawn of picturesque live oaks and pecan trees has played host to many important events in the University’s history, including countless marriage proposals and wedding ceremonies – a tradition that continues today. It is said that if you walk around the circle three times with your sweetheart, you are sure to be married.
There is possibly no more visible figure than Georgia Southern’s official Eagle mascot, GUS. Best known for his sideline antics at sporting events, the loveable, furry mascot makes special appearances throughout the year. GUS has visited the Georgia Capitol, posing with business and political leaders, and other dignitaries, as an ambassador for the University. Gus has even been an ESPN “favorite mascot” nominee.
In what has become one of the most popular traditions at Georgia Southern University, “Freedom,” a male American Bald Eagle, takes flight before each home football game. Launching from high above the field, Freedom lands at midfield to the roar of thousands of Eagle students and fans. In recent years, his dramatic presence concludes the University’s Spring commencement ceremony.
Weeks of Welcome
Weeks of Welcome provides a week-long series of activities at the beginning of the school year, designed to welcome both new and current students back to campus. The University community joins the president, and other campus administrators, in a variety of events, including outdoor movie nights, concerts and performances, and various skill contests.
When cool autumn breezes give way to heated Eagle spirit, it can only mean one thing: Homecoming. This week-long observance plays host to thousands of Georgia Southern alumni, current students and community members. The celebration includes a variety of special events, reunions, social gatherings and even a parade. The week culminates in the Eagles Homecoming game at Paulson Stadium and the announcement of the Homecoming King and Queen.
Georgia Southern alumni and fans all know this famous Eagle “shout out.” Georgia Southern spirit is alive and well as fans and alumni make sure everyone knows who we are. Whether you run into a fellow alum in the airport, see a classmate at a restaurant in Atlanta or are cheering on your Eagles at a sporting event, the chant “Georgia …” — “Southern…” are the only two words you need to know.
Each summer, the University president and first lady host watermelon cuttings on the Pedestrium, near the banks of the campus lakes. The tradition began in 1948 when late President Zach Henderson wanted to provide a cool treat to the students, faculty and staff who were still on campus during the hot summer months. Today, more than 200 watermelons, put on ice a week in advance, are used for each cutting.
Holiday Lighting of Sweetheart Circle
The center of campus for more than 100 years, Sweetheart Circle is the perfect backdrop for holiday lights, evergreen wreaths and red bows. The buildings, trees and lampposts on the Circle are draped in lights and decorated with holiday ornaments. Each year, students and locals alike gather for traditional holiday treats and seasonal music. This winter wonderland extends from the Marvin Pittman Administration Building to the GSU-shaped boxwood plants dressed in sparkling white holiday lights at the campus entrance.
Beautiful Eagle Creek
When Georgia Southern resurrected the football program in 1981, traditions and spirit needed resurrection as well. So legendary Head Football Coach Erk Russell created his own. But inspiration came to him in the most unusual of places. Inspired by the gnat-infested drainage ditch that cut across the field between the team’s locker room and practice fields, Russell convinced his players that its stagnant water was actually “Beautiful Eagle Creek,” a source of “magical” waters.
One More Time
After the Eagles won their second straight national championship in 1986, legendary coach Erk Russell said, “Hey ladies, hey fellas, hey gentlemen, one more time for the greatest team in America.” The phrase stuck, and Russell, one of the best motivators at any level of college football, began to use it to “light a fire” in players, whenever a game was on the line.
Georgia Southern’s athletics teams have adopted several names throughout history, but claimed “Eagles” by a campus vote in 1959. Having one American Bald Eagle on campus is impressive, but having multiple eagles is a true triumph. The eagles – Freedom and Glory – live in the campus-based Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q Ball, Jr. Raptor Center, which has a wetlands area, an old-growth forest and a mountain display.
As Georgia Southern University’s marching band, Southern Pride is two hundred members strong and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2007. Southern Pride performs at all home football games, select “on the road” athletic events, parades, and as an exhibition band at marching contests throughout the state and region. The band combines the highest quality music and execution, while providing entertainment and sparking enthusiast Georgia Southern fans.
Whose House? Our House!
“Whose House? Our House!” There may be imitators, but there’s nothing like the original. One of the classic chants in all of college sports had its start in Statesboro. During home football games, at the “prettiest little stadium in America,” as well as on the hardwood of Hanner Fieldhouse, the defining cheer, led by the student section, reminds opponents of Eagle home dominance.
Are you True Blue? If you are a die-hard enthusiastic or life-long supporter of Georgia Southern University, then you are definitely True Blue! No other phrase illustrates our pride in Georgia Southern than this one. Show your true spirit by taking a True Blue sign with you on trips, snap a photo and submit it at GeorgiaSouthern.edu/trueblue.
Day One started in 2011 as a way to welcome students and generate excitement for the upcoming year. The celebration features guests from campus administration and organizations, including the University president and head football coach. The event also stars the Southern Pride Marching Band, Georgia Southern Cheerleaders, GUS, and Freedom, the University’s bald eagle mascot, who makes a special flight into the stadium during each home football game.
Honoring A Legacy
As a demonstration of intensity, legendary football Coach Erk Russell would head butt his players, bare head to helmet, often drawing blood in the exchange. When the Eagle Players Association and community leaders commissioned, and dedicated, a bronze bust of Russell near the players entrance to the field in 2007, a new tradition was born. Today, as Eagles take the field, each player head butts the bust to honor Russell’s legacy.
Yellow School Buses
When the football program was resurrected in 1981, the team needed a way to travel to practices and games. Operating on a shoestring budget didn’t allow for transportation back then, let alone any luxurious travel. The Bulloch County Board of Education stepped in with a deal the University couldn’t refuse: Georgia Southern would only pay one dollar each for two yellow school buses. The football team still uses the buses to this day.
The “Alma Mater”
On September 4, 2010, Head Football Coach Jeff Monken started a new tradition of having the entire football team gather at the student section after each game to sing the “Alma Mater.”
From humble farm beginnings
Sprung up from the sandy earth
Among the tow’ring pine trees
Stands a treasure of great worth.
Her price cannot be measured
In silver or in gold
But in the love and loyalty
That many hearts enfold.
Georgia Southern University.
On Eagles’ wings you soar.
We pledge to you our loyalty
And love for ever more.
Through triumphs and through trials
Our Alma Mater’s stood
As solid as the oak tree
For justice and for good.
As through these gates we travel
And though our ways must part,
Our Georgia Southern mem’ries
We’ll keep within our hearts.
Lyrics by Caryl Cain Brown, music by David Matthew
Wave the blue, wave the white
Hold the banner high
The Eagles are on the wing.
Sound a cry to the sky,
As we look for glory.
Victory now we sing.
Hail the blue, hail the white
Hail the team that’s soaring
Upward to bring us fame;
Georgia Southern Eagles
Fight on to victory and
Win this game!
Blue and white-fight, fight!
Blue and white-fight, fight!
Fight, fight, fight!