This week I am stepping out of the theater and into a football stadium. November 2003 was the last time East Tennessee State University played a football game on campus. I was there. Granted the Bucs won over The Citadel in the last seconds of the game, and despite of the joy of victory, reality set in as it was all over for ETSU football.
The end of the game was like a funeral. Flash forward to 2015 and like a phoenix rising form the ashes, ETSU football was back. With new coach Carl Torbush leading the way, the men in the blue and gold were making history with their first game back on the gridiron on September 3, 2015. I attended that game as well. After two years of playing at Science Hill High School (thanks!), the Bucs were yet again making history with their first game at the newly christened William B. Greene, Jr. campus stadium on September 2, 2017. Happily I was at the aforementioned game as well. It sure has been a long journey from 2003 to now.
The first game in the beautiful new stadium, was an evening game against Limestone College out of Gaffney, SC. Despite the rainy afternoon and evening, the Buccaneer Nation was out in full force, with many enjoying on campus tailgating and pregame fellowship. The first Buc Walk began at the Mini-Dome (the old home of ETSU football) and proceeded to the new shiny digs across campus. Even though the rain showers were persistent, fans filled the stadium and a crowd of just under 10,000 were greeted with commemorative gold t-shirts in each seat with the date of the game on the front. Just before the game began, the 215 member strong Marching Bucs hit the wet field by playing the ETSU fight song, the Tennessee Waltz, the Star-Spangled Banner and finally the new Buccaneer March. After a brief welcome to the new stadium, the Bucs hit the field ready to battle and defend their new home against the intruders.
During the first half, and continuing during the second half, each time the Bucs scored (31 points total), a few fireworks were shot in celebration making for some added excitement. By halftime the rain had taken a brief reprieve, and the Marching Bucs were again on the field. This years show features music from Carmen, “Cake by the Ocean”, a drum solo, “Thriller” and ends with “Rhapsody in Blue”. According to band director Dr. Joe Moore, all the aforementioned songs will eventually be part of the performance. The Marching Bucs were inspiring with their marvelous performance, and add yet another layer of excitement to ETSU football games. The second half was successful for the Bucs as quarterback Austin Herink (Jr. from Cleveland, TN) led his troops to a 31-10 victory over Limestone College and completed a successful opening of the new stadium. Many, including myself, have seen the football Bucs grow up before our eyes over the last several years. When you start a program from the ground up, there will be growing pains, and the Bucs have had their share. The Southern Conference, the home of the Bucs, is one of the toughest football conferences in the country in the FCS division, with many of the teams in the conference ranked in the top 25 of the FCS standings. I have confidence the new Bucs are up to the challenge against their rivals. Two of the highlights at the end of the first game for fans was when the Marching Bucs sang, yes sang, the ETSU Alma Mater to the football team. Their voices sounded beautiful, and this is a wonderful new tradition I hope will always be part of the ETSU game day experience.
The evenings festivities ended with a fireworks show that rivaled the one held each 4th of July at Freedom Hall. I am no sports writer, so I took the vantage point of the average fan, who not only attends a football game for the game itself, but for all the surrounding pageantry as well. The football Bucs have a great new home, which is designed to expand in the future, and I encourage you to attend a game this year. The remaining home games for 2017 are as follows: September 23rd against Mercer (3:30pm); October 7th against Robert Morris at 3:30pm (Homecoming); October 28th against Wofford (1pm); November 4th against VMI (3:30pm). I encourage you to see a game at the new ETSU football stadium and back the Bucs! For more information visit ETSUBUCS.COM and ETSU Bucs social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also call 423-439-3878 or 423-439-4828 for ticket information. Go BUCS!