Georgia Southern Extra: Remembering the huge impact of Hall of Famer 'Doc' Spurgeon

·7 min read

We open the weekly newsletter in a somber tone to honor the memory of Patrick "Doc" Spurgeon, who died on June 23 at age 92.

One of the legendary figures in Georgia Southern history, Spurgeon was there at the start of the modern era, a right-hand man to head coach Erk Russell.

Spurgeon was famous for his advance scouting reports on opponents in a time before the internet. They not only were insightful and full of information, they were well-written by the full-time English literature professor.

The assistant coach (1982-90) also had a knack with special teams, producing All-America punters and kickers in Statesboro.

He was a winner, as part of four of Georgia Southern's six NCAA I-AA national championship team, four more as an assistant to head coach Jim Tressel with Youngstown State and one in FBS as a volunteer coach when Tressel brought him over to Ohio State.

Spurgeon also impacted programs on the high school level. He moved back to the  Statesboro area, where he volunteered to help kickers and punters under then-Eagles head coach Chad Lunsford.

A standout student-athlete, coach, teacher and mentor, Spurgeon has been inducted into at least three halls of fame: the Elizabethton (Tennessee) High School Hall of Fame; Emory & Henry College Sports (2005) in Emory, Virginia; and Georgia Southern Athletics in 2014.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Eagles sign shooting guard Byrd

The women's basketball team has added incoming freshman Amoni Byrd, a 5-foot-9 shooting guard from Bayside, N.Y., to the Eagles' 2022-23 signing class.

Byrd was a three-time team MVP at Archbishop Malloy in Briarwood, N.Y., and averaged 18 points, eight assists, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals per game. She also earned CHSAA All-League honors and scored more than a 1,000 points in her high school career. Byrd played club for Castle Athletics and was also the top scorer on that team.

"Amoni is a great addition to our family," GS head coach Anita Howard said in a press release Wednesday. "She's a strong athletic guard who can rebound in traffic and push the ball coast to coast in transition ... and you know that's what we're all about.

"As a true freshman, she has a high IQ and knows the game. She can score on all three levels and has an innate ability to distribute the ball and get her teammates involved. We're super excited to watch Amoni learn from our returners and develop in our system. As a tough-nosed competitor with explosive athletic moves she will be a freshman to watch in the Sun Belt."

BASEBALL

Welcome back, Cody

Georgia Southern has brought back Cody Wofford, a volunteer assistant coach in 2019 and 2020, to serve as the new hitting coach.

Wofford fills the vacancy left when associate head coach and hitting coach Alan Beck on June 10 became head coach at his alma mater Western Carolina, where he was a star player and later an assistant coach.

Cody Wofford is the new hitting coach at Georgia Southern.
Cody Wofford is the new hitting coach at Georgia Southern.

Head coach Rodney Hennon said he was excited to have Wofford return to Statesboro.

"Cody is a talented, versatile young coach whose positive energy is infectious and he will once again make an impact on our program," Hennon said in a press release. "Cody's hard work during his previous stint as our volunteer coach was instrumental in the development of many of our players that are still present in our program.

"His efforts as a coach and recruiter have helped in the resurgence of the Eastern Kentucky program these past two years. Along with coaching the hitters, Cody will work alongside coach (A.J.) Battisto in our recruiting efforts and also coordinate our infield defense. Coach Wofford is a natural fit with the program and he will work tirelessly as we constantly seek to improve and reach the ultimate goal of Omaha."

In 2019, Wofford helped the Eagles post a 35-24 record as the team claimed its first Sun Belt East Division title. In 2020, the Eagles posted an 11-5 record, including finishing a sweep over No. 3 UGA before the season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

During his time at Eastern Kentucky, Wofford was responsible for coaching the infielders, team defense, and hitting. Wofford saw the Colonels post back-to-back program-highs in fielding percentage, posting a .972 fielding percentage in 2021 and a .975 in 2022. EKU was 38-20 in 2022, which was the most wins the program has earned since 1990.

In the 2022 season, EKU finished in the top five in most offensive categories in the Atlantic-Sun Conference, including runs (fourth, 376), hits (fourth, 535), doubles (fifth, 103), home runs (fourth, 69), RBI (fourth, 346), walks (first, 294), team batting average (fifth, .270), on-base percentage (fourth, .376) and slugging percentage (fifth, .434).

Prior to his first stint at Georgia Southern, Wofford was a student assistant at South Alabama, where he helped with the infielders, hitting, and coached first base. South Alabama posted two top-25 fielding percentage seasons under Wofford's guidance. The Jaguars won the Sun Belt Tournament Championship in 2017.

Wofford played at Darton College from 2011-13 before transferring to Western Kentucky prior to the 2014 season and finishing his playing career there in 2015. Wofford was the starting shortstop both seasons he was with the Hilltoppers, posting 14 home runs in his two seasons.

FOOTBALL

Georgia Southern offensive lineman Brian Miller (No. 56), a Memorial Day School graduate, shown in action against South Carolina State at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.
Georgia Southern offensive lineman Brian Miller (No. 56), a Memorial Day School graduate, shown in action against South Carolina State at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.

Eagles add non-conference games

Georgia Southern on Tuesday announced the additions of home football games against South Carolina State on Sept. 14, 2024, and North Alabama on Sept. 5, 2026, to the Eagles' non-conference slate.

The Eagles football team is 8-0 all-time against SCSU — the most recent in 2018 (37-6 at Paulson). GS and UNA will be meeting for the first time in football.

Non-conference slates: 

2024

Aug. 31 — Boise State (at Paulson Stadium)

Sept. 7 — at Nevada (Reno)

Sept. 14 — South Carolina State (Paulson)

Sept. 21 — at Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss.)

2026

Sept. 5 — North Alabama (Paulson)

Sept. 12 — at Clemson (Clemson, S.C.)

Sept. 19 — at Jacksonville (Alabama) State

Sept. 26 — Houston (Paulson)

Familiar foe coming to Statesboro

Last week, GS announced a non-conference home game against Chattanooga on Aug. 31, 2030 at Paulson Stadium.

GS and UTC have met 27 times in football, the last 21 as members of the Southern Conference. The Eagles lead the series 23-4, having won five of the past six meetings.

The series started in 1984 and the two teams played every year from 1993 to 2013 when the Eagles moved to FBS. The last meeting was in 2013, a dramatic 23-21 win for the No. 15 Eagles at home as Younghoe Koo (currently with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons) kicked two fourth-quarter field goals to complete the comeback.

The game is the third announced non-conference match-up for 2030, which also features GS at Ole Miss in Oxford on Sept. 7; and Army West Point coming to Paulson on Oct. 5.

SWIMMING AND DIVING

Academic honor for Eagles program

The Collegiate Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America has announced that the Georgia Southern swimming and diving program has earned Scholar All-America honors for efforts in the classroom last semester. The team earned the honor posting a GPA of 3.75. That number is tied for the fifth-highest team GPA in Division I by a female squad.

"Coach (Amanda) Caldwell is one of the up-and-comers in our sport and this is just another example," CSCAA Executive Director Greg Earhart said in a press release.

The CSCAA selected 731 teams from 441 institutions to the Scholar All-America Team for the spring 2022 semester. Teams were selected on the basis of their spring 2022 grade-point averages and represent 17,845 student-athletes.

For more coverage of Georgia Southern athletics, go to https://www.savannahnow.com/sports/college/georgia-southern/

Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at ndominitz@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @NathanDominitz

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia Southern athletics former football coach Doc Spurgeon dies