Georgia Southern ended its coaching search Monday and removed the interim tag on Elbert County’s Chad Lunsford, naming him the school’s permanent head football coach.
Lunsford played at Elbert County High School for coach T. McFerrin. During Lunsford’s high school career, Elbert County made four straight appearances in the state playoffs and posted a 20-3 record in his junior and senior years.
Lunsford graduated from Georgia College in May 2000 with a degree in biology and minor in mathematics and earned a master’s of sport science degree from the United States Sports Academy in 2002.
He and his wife, Tippy, have a son, Rhett, and two daughters, Sophie and Josie.
Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein announced the hiring of Lunsford 36 days after firing former head coach Tyson Summers just six games into the season. The Eagles started 0-6, and Summers was 5-13 in his tenure as head coach. Kleinlein named Lunsford the interim the same day and announced a thorough national search for a new coach, led by a Georgia Southern hiring committee and the hiring firm DHR International, would be conducted.
But by the end, Kleinlein said it was clear he didn’t need to look anywhere outside of Statesboro. Kleinlein and the hiring committee vetted Lunsford and three other finalists over the weekend, Kleinlein said.
Lunsford said he was informed of the decision just before a scheduled team meeting, and a press conference was scheduled immediately.
“It went down really fast, and the press conference was starting to happen when we started to meet,” he said. “I never expected it. I thought going into the season we were going to have a great season. It didn’t happen, and when all this went down, it was definitely a shock to me.”
Kleinlein actually made it sound like Lunsford was a top candidate from the beginning and that other candidates would be measured against his performance as the interim.
Kleinlein said he noticed an immediate turnaround under Lunsford, even when the Eagles lost their first three games after firing Summers. Lunsford now has a 2-3 record and will see his first game as the official head coach Saturday against Coastal Carolina.
Kleinlein met with reporters after the press conference and said Lunsford signed a four-year contract with an annual base salary of $650,000. Summers’ contract was for four years and had a base salary of $300,000, plus another $200,000 for his participation in a weekly radio show.