Sometimes having a little spare time can lead to big ideas.
Just ask Paul Barkley (’90) the founder of the Web site gsufans.com. The site provides the latest information and coverage of Georgia Southern sports – whether it is football, basketball or baseball – and encourages interaction among fans. “I like to view it as a virtual watercooler,” said Barkley, “where people can say pretty much whatever they want. Lots of emotions come out on the Web site.”
The idea started in 1997, while Barkley was pulling double duty as a stay-at-home dad and working a midnight shift at a Macon, Ga., hospital. “I had a lot of idle time at home with a newborn, and this was the advent of the Internet. I met some Georgia Southern fans online through different Web sites and realized there was very little information about our sports programs out there,” he said. Barkley soon teamed up with his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brother Lance Smith to launch the site that year. Smith’s involvement also brought an added benefit to gsufans.com: his brother.
“At the time, Lance’s younger brother Giff (a former first team Associate Press All-American at Southern) was on the coaching staff with Paul Johnson, and we felt that the Web site could provide some additional insight into the program,” said Barkley, the operations manager of the laboratory at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.
From August to December, Barkley spends countless evening hours and entire weekends of his spare time providing coverage of football games and taking photos from the sidelines to post to gsufans.com. What started with 10 or 11 fans interacting on a daily basis has now grown to 1,000, and a staff of five volunteers works on the site. “Over the years, we’ve had more than a million posts from fans,” he said.
Barkley’s tireless dedication to gsufans.com and Georgia Southern is for one simple reason: supporting athletics. “We’re not trying to be a newsmaker, but a portal to the news and a resource. I want our forum to develop a sense of community that emphasizes the positive aspects and successes of Georgia Southern’s programs.”