Countdown to Kickoff: 1 Day
ETSU football returns to the gridiron Thursday night as the Buccaneers take on Kennesaw State at Kermit Tipton Stadium. Kick is set for 7:30 p.m.
Countdown to Kickoff: 1 Day
Wednesday, September 2, 2015

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 2, 2015) – With only one day remaining until ETSU returns to the gridiron, the ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is taking a look back at the top moments in Buccaneer football history. 

ETSU will hold a special “Countdown to Kickoff” segment on and Social Media by revealing its top moments in program history.

#1 – ETSU football returns to the gridiron Thursday night as the Buccaneers take on Kennesaw State at Kermit Tipton Stadium. Kick is set for 7:30 p.m.

#2 – Enjoying the program’s only undefeated season and winning the Ohio Valley Conference title, the Buccaneers completed a 10-0-1 season in 1969 with a dominating win over a Terry Bradshaw-led Louisiana Tech team in the Grantland Rice Bowl.

No. 3 – Led by head coach Mike Cavan, the Buccaneers produce a record of 10-3 in 1996, earning the program’s first trip to the Division I-AA playoffs, where the Bucs defeated Villanova in the first round. The Bucs only losses that season came to Division I-A opponent East Carolina, as well as Montana and Marshall – the two teams that played in the Division I-AA national championship game. Marshall, which edged out ETSU for the Southern Conference title that season, won the national title.

#4 – During the 1987 season, ETSU stepped up to the Division I-A ranks to defeat ACC opponent N.C. State 29-14 in one of the biggest upsets in Buccaneers history. Current ETSU defensive coordinator Billy Taylor played linebacker for the Bucs during that game.

#5 – Under the direction of head coach Paul Hamilton, the Bucs best No. 1-ranked Georgia Southern 19-16 inside the Memorial Center during the 2001 season. This marked the only time in school history the Bucs defeated a No. 1-ranked team.

#6 – During the 2012-13 school year, ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland announces that thanks to the university’s Student Government Association which voted to institute a new student fee for athletic funding, a new football program would return to the field in the fall of 2015.

#7 – ETSU football wins its first championship

In 1938, ETSU captured the Smoky Mountain Conference title. Head Coach Gene McMurray's squad won their final four games en route to finishing with an overall record of 6-2 that season. 

#8 – During the 1997 season, ETSU hands Appalachian State their worst home loss in school history

The Bucs defeated the No. 6-ranked Mountaineers 51-28. In that game, ETSU set the school record for yards per offensive play with an average of 9.8 yards per snap.

#9 – ETSU announces the hiring of Carl Torbush as a head coach

Head Coach Carl Torbush was hired in June 2013. Over the last two plus years, Torbush and his coaching staff have been busy preparing for the return of ETSU football on Sept. 3, 2015 against Kennesaw State.

#10 – The 2003 football season ends 

The 2003 football season ends with the Bucs winning a dramatic 16-13 game over The Citadel inside the Memorial Center. That victory capped – what was at the time – the final season of Buccaneer football, but served to inspire a generation of supporters to work tirelessly to bring the football program back.

#11 – ETSU athletics announces plans for a new, on-campus football stadium

In March of 2015, ETSU announced plans for a new, on-campus stadium which will be opened in the fall of 2017. Country music star Kenny Chesney and former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith – both ETSU alums – are announced as co-chairs of the fundraising committee. Plans and other information for the stadium are released on

#12 – Mike Cavan is hired as head coach in 1992

Mike Cavan is named the Buccaneers’ head coach prior to the 1992 season and proceeds with a rebuilding program that results in ETSU becoming a conference title contender by the 1996 season. That squad in 1996 made the Division I-AA playoffs and advanced to the quarterfinals following a win over Villanova.

#13 – Johnny Russaw breaks the color barrier for ETSU football

Johnny Russaw takes the field for the Bucs in 1964, breaking the color barrier by becoming the first African-American player in ETSU history.

#14 – In 2008, the Atlanta Falcons hire former ETSU linebacker Mike Smith as the franchise’s head coach

Mike Smith becomes the first former ETSU player to lead a NFL team. Smith goes on to be the most successful head coach in Falcons’ history and winning a NFL Coach of the Year honor.

#15 – Star Wood is named head coach in 1952

Star Wood wins 64 games, making him the program’s all-time winningest coach.

#16 – Coach John Robert Bell leads Bucs to best two-year span in school history

Under the direction of legendary head coach John Robert Bell, the Bucs combine for a record of 17-1-3 during the 1969 and 1970 seasons, the most successful two-year run in school history.

#17 – Memorial Center becomes the home of the Bucs in 1977

ETSU football opens the Memorial Center – or Mini-Dome – during the 1977 season. The Dome would be home to Buccaneer football for the next 27 seasons.

#18 – Bucs sign first recruiting class in 12 years

In February of 2014, ETSU announces its first recruiting class in front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Center in Johnson City. This is the first Signing Day event for ETSU football since the winter of 2003.

#19 – ETSU joins the Southern Conference in 1979

In 1979, ETSU football played its first season in the Southern Conference and remained in that league for 25 years. While the Bucs will play as an independent in 2015, the team returns to its Southern Conference roots for the 2016 season and beyond.

#20 – Game Time 101 event draws 3,000 fans to campus

On Sept. 27, 2014, over 3,000 fans arrive on campus to participate in the Game Time 101 tailgating event, which features the Bucs first ever Blue/Gold scrimmage game of the new football era.

#21 – 1920 marks the first year of ETSU football

Head coach W.R. Windles coaches that first team to a 3-2 record.

#22 – In 1932, Gene McMurray is hired as ETSU head coach 

From 1932 to 1941 and also in 1946, Dr. Gene McMurray led the Bucs as the head coach of the baseball, basketball, football and track teams. He led the Bucs to national prominence as head football coach, posting a 51-32-5 mark, the best winning percentage in school history. In 1936, he led his team to an unbeaten and unscored upon record in the first six games of the season. McMurray, although impressionable in his coaching, made a bigger impression on ETSU by being credited with naming the school’s athletic teams the Buccaneers. He was rewarded for his achievements in 1979, when he was inducted into the ETSU Hall of Fame.

#23 – In 1974, Alan Chadwick becomes the first ETSU player to be drafted into the NFL

Chadwick, who played quarterback at ETSU from 1972-73, was drafted in the eighth round (pick #186) by the Chicago Bears. Chadwick’s five touchdown passes against Chattanooga in 1962 are tied for the most by a Buccaneer quarterback, while he ranks fifth all-time in program history in completion percentage (53.7) and total offense averaged per game (173.1) and seventh in passing yards (3,349). The 1973 Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year also ranks in the top 10 in numerous single-season categories such as: passing attempts (320, 4th), most completions (185, 4th), most yards (2,173, 6th), and total offense (2,297, 6th).

#24 - Paul Hamilton is hired to replace Mike Cavan

Coach Hamilton leads the Bucs to four winning seasons over a five-year stretch, the first time that had happened in school history. Coach Hamilton also led the Bucs to a 19-16 win over No. 1-ranked Georgia Southern on Oct. 27, 2001, marking ETSU’s first ever win over a top-ranked team. 

#25 – In 1957, ETSU joins the Ohio Valley Conference

During its time in the OVC, ETSU won two conference titles (1962 and 1969), while defensive backs Ron Overbay (1968) and William Casey (1970) were named OVC First Team All-Americans. Overbay was named OVC Defensive Player of the Year in 1967 and 1968, while Jim Baker (1963), Larry Graham (1970) and Alan Chadwick (1973) received Offensive Player of the Year honors for the Buccaneers. To go with its five Player of the Year winners, ETSU also had 37 all-conference selections during its tenure in the conference. John Robert Bell was named OVC Coach of the Year after guiding the Blue and Gold to a record of 10-0-1 (6-0-1) and a win over Terry Bradshaw’s Louisiana Tech squad in the 1969 Grantland Rice Bowl. The 1969 team recorded an OVC record 34 interceptions, while Bill Casey’s 22 career interceptions from 1968-70 are tied for the most in league history. 

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