Georgia Southern officials are hoping to return home with more than a victory after Friday's football game at North Dakota State. They want to win over a North Dakota high school senior.
The Statesboro, Georgia, college has an enrollment of more than 20,000 students. In the course of crunching numbers from the fall semester, school officials discovered they had students from 90 countries and 49 states.
"We were missing one state: North Dakota. Zero. Goose egg," said Casey Jones, a Georgia Southern alumnus who recently took a job in the school's marketing and communications department.
So in addition to sending 60 football players and a handful of coaches to Fargo, the school is arming its radio crew with brochures extolling the virtues of the 106-year-old university.
"I told them to pass them out liberally," said Christian Flathman, the school's vice president for marketing and communications. "Not so much to steal from our colleagues at North Dakota State, but to definitely promote in Fargo."
The school is reveling in the climate comparisons. A news release points out the "sun, sand and surf" that's a short drive away - hey, just 85 miles to Hilton Head Island, S.C.! - and Flathman notes that students "are walking around on campus right now in shorts and flip flops as they are taking their final exams."
The high temperature in Statesboro on Tuesday was 68 degrees.
Fargo? It was 11.
"The only snow that we've had this year was a snow machine we had here for a lighting ceremony, kind of like Rockefeller Center, and the fake snow that is currently falling on our university home page," Flathman said.
Added Jones: "People go into freak-out mode around here when you just mention it's going to be below freezing."
Setting aside the weather, both men noted that Georgia Southern has 120 degree programs ranging from business and engineering to liberal arts and health care. It has been named one of the top 10 most popular colleges by U.S. News & World Report for two straight years. Flathman called Statesboro - population about 29,000 - a town of main streets, shops and courthouse squares, and notable alumni include country music star Luke Bryan and current NFL kicker Rob Bironas.
One alumnus, Jim Deal, is a professor and head of the human development and family science department at NDSU. Deal grew up in Statesboro and he said Georgia Southern is a beautiful campus and an outstanding academic school.
Still, Deal has a different take on that weather issue.
"I prefer Fargo winters to Statesboro summers," said Deal, who has been at NDSU for 20 years. "I like the cold weather better and I don't like the heat and humidity and I sure don't like the gnats in the summer."
As for the team he's rooting for, Deal said he gets some grief from friends and family back home but he is going "with the school that signs the paychecks." He's predicting a 21-10 Bison win in the semifinal game of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Georgia Southern currently has six alumni living in North Dakota and five more in South Dakota.
"This is just something we're having a little fun with," Jones said. "Just about every campus is global. You have someone from everywhere. We just don't have that one person from North Dakota."
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