Randy Sanders was named ETSU football head coach on Dec. 17, 2017, becoming the 18th head coach in program history.
Following the 2021 spring season, Sanders is now 15-15 at the helm of the Bucs following a shortened 4-2 season featuring a young ETSU squad. The Bucs competed in just six games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, narrowly missing the FCS playoffs as ETSU was the first team out of the seedings. The Blue & Gold earned a critical win over then-ranked No. 10 VMI, defeating the Keydets by the final score of 24-20 in Lexington, Va. Coach Sanders helped guide his squad to earning 22 postseason SoCon accolades, including the Defensive Player of the Year in Jared Folks and the Jacobs Blocking Award winner in Tre’mond Shorts.
The spring 2021 season came off the heels of the 2019 campaign in which ETSU finished 3-9 on the year. The Bucs picked up a marquee win over Austin Peay (20-14), defeating a team that would go on to make a deep run in the FCS playoffs. Coach Sanders coached 12 All-SoCon honorees in his second season with the program. Despite the record, the Bucs posted the 10th-best offense in a single season in program history (4,030), while also averaging the sixth most yards per play (5.43).
In his first season with the Blue & Gold, Sanders guided the Bucs to a share of the 2018 Southern Conference Championship in just his first season at the helm of the program. Under the direction of Sanders, the Bucs finished 8-4 in 2018, earning the program’s second-ever trip to the FCS playoffs. The eight wins were the most by a first-year head coach in Buccaneer history and the third-most in a single season in school history. Coach Sanders was labeled the SoCon Coach of the Year and was named a finalist for the STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award, while also coaching 13 players to All-SoCon teams and 19 All-American accolades in 2018.
Prior to his arrival in Johnson City, Sanders enjoyed one of the most successful five-year stretches in Florida State history. From 2013-17, Florida State totaled 53 wins, two ACC titles, won the 2013 National Championship and he coached a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. In his first year at Florida State, Sanders led Jameis Winston to become the youngest players to win a Heisman Trophy in 2013, the same season he also led the Seminoles to a 14-0 record and a national championship. In 2013, Florida State set the national record for points in a season with 723, led the nation with a passing efficiency mark of 174.69, and set both school and ACC marks with 7,267 yards of total offense, 51.6 points per game, 94 touchdowns, and 7.67 yards per play. Winston set the national record for touchdown passes by a freshman with 40, had seven 300-yard games and 11 consecutive games scoring 40-plus points.
After the 2014 season, where Florida State started the year 13-0 and earned a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff, Winston became the first Seminole player to be taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Despite losing nearly all of their offensive production to the NFL draft in 2015, Sanders’ offense remained atop the ACC in offense the next year as Dalvin Cook set school records in rushing (1,691) and all-purpose yards (1,935) on his way to earning All-American honors. In 2017, Cook was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.
Sanders coached in the SEC prior to his stint in the ACC as he served as the Quarterbacks Coach at Kentucky before taking over as offensive coordinator from 2009-12. In Lexington, Sanders developed Andre’ Woodson into one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Woodson led the SEC in passing yards, total offense and touchdown passes, including a SEC record 40 in 2007. Woodson went on to be drafted by the New York Giants. During Sanders’ tenure, Kentucky won three straight bowl games for the first time in school history.
Sanders, who played collegiately at Tennessee from 1984-88, began his coaching career at Tennessee in 1989, and during the 17 years at his alma mater, the Vols compiled a record of 162-46-2 (.776). Over his run in Knoxville, Tennessee won four SEC championships and six Eastern Division crowns in addition to its national title. The Vols played in bowl games his first 16 seasons, including four Citrus Bowls, three Fiesta Bowls, three Cotton Bowls, two Peach Bowls, and one each in the Sugar, Orange, Hall of Fame and Gator bowls.
Sanders started his coaching career as the Vols’ quarterbacks coach in 1989 and 1990 under head coach Johnny Majors. The Morristown, Tenn. native became a full-time assistant coach in 1991, where he worked with the wide receivers, while Phillip Fulmer named Sanders the recruiting coordinator and running backs coach in 1993. Sanders remained in that role until 1998 when he took over as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Sanders, a Morristown, Tenn. was the offensive coordinator when Tennessee won the 1998 BCS National Title. Sanders played a part in either coaching or recruiting a pair of No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft – Peyton Manning (1998) and Jameis Winston (2015). In his 29 years of coaching, Sanders has coached in 26 bowl games and his teams hold a combined record of 258-105-2.
Sanders and his wife, Cathy, have two daughters, Kelly and Kari.
What others are saying about Coach Randy Sanders…
Phillip Fulmer – Tennessee Athletic Director and College Hall of Fame head coach
Randy Sanders is as good a coach as I worked with during my 40 years of coaching. He is smart, tough, a great game planner, and at his best calling plays on game day. Randy is excellent at identifying and recruiting talent. He and Cathy are wonderful people and the people of East Tennessee will enjoy having them back home.
Peyton Manning – Former Tennessee Quarterback and Future NFL Hall of Famer
Coach Sanders was a strong early influence on me as a prospect and as a player in my years at Tennessee. With his football knowledge and abilities as a recruiter and leader, ETSU has a bright future both on and off the field.
Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback
Coach Sanders work ethic, humility and preparation was a huge part to my success as a player. He never got too high or too low. His ability to stay calm and confident helped me tremendously at the quarterback position, but it also helped me grow as a young man. I’m am so thankful that I had a coach that was able to lead and coach me into a player that understood I must take advantage of every opportunity.
Mike Smith – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator and former ETSU player
Randy Sanders is a highly respected coach and an outstanding fit for ETSU. I look forward to supporting him and celebrating championship-level success in the future. Go Bucs!
David Cutcliffe – Duke football head coach
Randy Sanders had great football knowledge as a player, but more importantly he was a great leader and teammate. He was a great football coach from his first day on the job at Tennessee! He’s an outstanding man, friend, and person. Randy is one of the most respected teachers of quarterbacks in our game. He’s the perfect fit at ETSU. I’m excited for Randy, Cathy, and his family!