Thursday, April 24, 2014

What About ETSU?

This article is part of a series spotlighting the new SoCon members entering in 2014.

It's been a while, ETSU.  A while since the Bucs disbanded their football team after the 2003 season.  It's been an even longer stretch since Mike Ayers launched his head coaching career at ETSU in 1985, a post he held for the next two seasons, interrupted by the dawning of his Wofford career.  Now, the Buccaneers are bringing football back for the 2015 season, a year later than the other "new guys" in the SoCon, VMI and Mercer.

Let's take a closer look at this former (and now future) SoCon school.

Now boasting over 15,500 students, this Johnson City, Tennessee, university was founded in 1911 as a teachers' college.  The Buccaneers football program, established in 1920, was discontinued in 2003, after a 5-7 season under coach Paul Hamilton.  The aforementioned link to Wofford's Mike Ayers is quite interesting.  Ayers coached at ETSU from 1985-1987, and during that span, his Bucs actually defeated the Terriers in 1986(52-3) and in 1987(10-6).  Ayers' second-ever game with Wofford was also against the Bucs, and while ETSU won, Ayers was now on the losing end, 21-7.  

The hiatus of the football program is finally coming to a close, not this year, but next.  A tuition increase to help cover the cost of the reinstatement was passed in 2013.  The Bucs will be led by Carl Torbush, who has served on the coaching staffs of various schools, including Louisiana Tech(HC) , North Carolina(HC), Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Kansas.

While the football team enters play next season, the basketball Bucs are hitting the court this year. ETSU, like Mercer, is departing from the Atlantic Sun Conference. They are headed by 11-year head coach Murry Bartow.  For a historical note, the Bucs reached the Sweet Sixteen in 1968, one of their nine NCAA Tournament appearances.

An interestingly new yet familiar face, the ETSU Buccaneers will be an exciting new fixture in this changing SoCon world.

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