JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State has received its official welcome to rejoin the Southern Conference.
SoCon Commissioner John Iamarino was on hand Tuesday at the D.P. Culp Center to officially extend ETSU athletics an invitation, and ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland accepted. The SoCon voted May 30 to invite ETSU back into the conference, with the Buccaneers slated to begin play in their new/old league in the fall of 2014.
“We’re extremely happy to welcome East Tennessee State back to the Southern Conference,” Imarino said. “The strength of its athletic programs, the commitment to the academic well-being of its student-athletes and the ongoing addition of quality playing venues makes ETSU a great fit for the SoCon. We are looking forward to the Bucs joining us in 2014 and hope their loyal fan and alumni base is as well.”
ETSU was a member of the SoCon from 1978-2005 before leaving for the Atlantic Sun Conference after disbanding the football program. The Bucs sponsor 17 sports and will restart the football program, which was dropped in 2003, in time for the 2015 season.
Also on Tuesday, the school announced that interim athletic director Dr. Richard Sander had signed a one-year extension with the program.
Sander said he was pleased to be a part of setting a new vision for the Bucs.
“ETSU students, alumni and community supporters should be inspired by the leadership of Dr. Noland and the path that we have set for the athletic program here,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done, but our department is ready to take on the challenges and begin working to do our part for the university as a whole.”
Noland said Sander was the right man to lead the program through these changes.
“Dr. Sander is a highly respected individual in the world of intercollegiate athletics and he has provided brilliant leadership for the ETSU athletics program during the past five months,” Noland said. “During this brief time, he has worked tirelessly to assist the university in starting our football program and has also done a tremendous job in leading our other sports teams. He is an aggressive recruiter, an effective fundraiser, and a true advocate for our student athletes. I am delighted that he has agreed to remain with us for an extended period.”