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Fans, alumni look forward to return of ETSU football
Thursday, April 24, 2014
As a student at East Tennessee State University, Mark Newland remembers waking up on Saturday mornings during the fall semester with only one thought.
“What letter will I paint on my chest today? That was really the first thing I would think about, and then it would be the anticipation of getting ready for the football game and heading to the Dome,” Newland said.
Having attended ETSU from 2001 to 2005 and graduating with a degree in broadcasting, Newland was fortunate enough to enjoy three years of ETSU football before the program was disbanded following the 2003 season. During those years, he was a member of a student spirit organization called the SCUBS (Bucs spelled backwards), a group known for their ardent support of the Bucs and their propensity to “paint up” before games.
As the Buccaneers prepare to reboot the program in the fall of 2015, Newland counts himself as one of those who will be emotionally moved on the day the Blue and Gold once again run onto the gridiron.
“I will probably lose it to be honest with you,” said Newland, who today is a disc jockey for WXBQ-FM, the area’s highest-rated radio station. “I’m sure it will be a sellout crowd and the atmosphere will be unbelievable.”
Newland is not alone in his excitement for the sport’s return. Football alumni Bill Linebarger graduated from ETSU in 1972, and he and his wife, Kathy, have been supporters of the Buccaneers ever since. Even after the program was disbanded in 2003, the Linebargers remained members of the Buccaneer Athletic Scholarship Association, supported the Bucs remaining athletic programs, and quietly anticipated football’s return.
“Whether playing or watching football, I’ve always felt that adrenaline rush right before kickoff,” said Bill, whose brother Doug also played at ETSU as part of the famous 1969 Grantland Rice Bowl team. “I’m looking forward to feeling that again at an ETSU game, and just hearing the band play our fight song. There was always something about the echo of the drums that I liked.”
As for Kathy, there is no doubt what she will be doing when the blue and gold take the field again.
“I plan to cry,” she said.
But the fun will not be limited to those that remember ETSU football’s past. There are also new fans that will be seeing the program for the first time.
Landon Owen and his wife Jennifer moved to Johnson City two years ago, and having lived in various college towns and even worked in college athletics, they noticed that something was missing on the ETSU campus.
“We chose Johnson City because – after having lived in a variety of college towns for our entire adult lives – it seemed familiar to us,” Landon said. “The biggest difference though between Johnson City and E TSU and those other communities was the noticeable absence of college football.”
However, when the decision to reinstitute the football program was made in early 2013, Landon and Jennifer were quickly on board, attending the press conference that announced Carl Torbush as the program’s new head coach, becoming Kickoff Fund members, and making a deposit toward season tickets in 2015.
For the Owens family, it’s about building community spirit and pride.
“A campus and a community just feel more vibrant, more alive when football is present,” Landon said. “When ETSU announced that the program was being revived, we both jumped on board immediately. Jennifer and I could not be more excited to be part of the program and look forward to spreading a new version of Buc Pride throughout town, the region and the country.”