BY TATE RUSSELL
SUN SPORTS WRITER
JOHNSON CITY - East Tennessee State University took a step toward reviving its football program Friday as president Dr. Brian Noland announced the hiring of Carl Torbush as head coach.
"The opportunity and privilege that has been bestowed on me will not be take for granted," Torbush said. "There are a lot of positive things getting ready to happen here and I'm excited."
With the former North Carolina and Louisiana Tech head coach at the helm, the Buccaneers can begin assembling a team that will see its first action in the 2015 season. ETSU will begin Southern Conference play the following year, and by that time Torbush hopes to have put together a squad that can immediately compete for championships.
One of the next major hurdles for the university will be building a stadium. The expected budget will be in the neighborhood of $20 million, according to Noland.
With ETSU alum Ron Ramsey as the Lieutenant Governor and Chairman of the State Building Commission, that project hopes to be full steam ahead.
Ramsey was in attendance at Friday's press conference.
"One of the next steps will be to make sure we have a stadium," he noted. "The stadium will have to go through the state building commission to be funded, and I happen to know the chairman of the state building commission very well. His name is Ron Ramsey.
"I don't want to put any pressure on myself but I will make sure that gets going as soon as we have plans."
The reviving of the football program, which was disbanded in 2003 after more than 80 seasons of competition, is something the administration thinks will help the school in terms of notoriety and enrollment.
It is also as a way to tie the university closer with the local community.
"A lot of people have asked me, 'Why football, why football at this time, at this point in the history of the university?'," Nolan said. "Football is part of a broader strategy to bring tradition, pageantry and engagement with our students and community as a whole. Football brings a connection with individuals that we simply can't put a price tag on.
"Football in some respects will be the fabric that weaves us together as a community as a whole. I'm excited about the future. I'm excited about the enrollment growth that will occur at our institution."
ETSU director of athletics Richard Sander highlighted the difficult road Torbush will have to traverse as the school moves toward putting a squad on the field.
He emphasized that the Bucs' job is no ordinary coaching position. Torbush is coming into a school with no footballs, no helmets, no field, no stadium and no players.
But Torbush, an Austin-East High School alum and a 1974 graduate of Carson-Newman College, is excited to be at ETSU and rebuild the program from the ground up.
In their search for a coach, Sanders and former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer - who has been assisting ETSU throughout the process - knew they had to find someone who was more than a coach to succeed in this unique situation.
They were looking for someone who could excite the community and who understood what it would take to start from scratch.
Sanders and Fulmer feel that Torbush, with almost 40 years of coaching experience, has the right makeup to lead ETSU through this uncharted course. They also believe his roots in the area will be an asset in growing the program into one of championship caliber.
"Right now its a lot of fun and game but we have a lot of work to do get to get this program where it needs to be, so that when we get into the SoCon in our fourth year we'll be ready to compete for a conference championship," Torbush said. "That is my goal as the head football coach."
Torbush plans to assemble a staff in the coming weeks and once he has three or four assistant coaches on hand, they will begin to hit the recruiting trail hard. The first practices will take place in the fall of 2014 and the first games will be the following year.
"One great thing about not playing football for the next two years is that we have the opportunity to slowly go about it, because it couldn't be done right any other way. We have a great opportunity to do great things but there is also a lot that has to be done."