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Fans' enthusiasm adds fuel to fire for ETSU's coaches

April 29th, 2014 12:45 am by George Thwaites

Fans' enthusiasm adds fuel to fire for ETSU's coaches

Clockwise from top left, ETSU football coach Carl Torbush, women's basketball coach Brittney Ezell, men's basketball coach Murrry Bartow and AD Dr. Richard Sander speak Monday during the Game Time Tour stop in Kingsport. (Ned Jilton II photos)

Game Time Tour photo gallery

KINGSPORT — East Tennessee State alumni and fans are excited about football's impending return as well as the school's imminent return to the Southern Conference.

ETSU's coaches and athletic administrators are simply excited to encounter all the excitement.

"This is the fun part ... connecting with the fans. Connecting with all the people who love our university," said women's basketball coach Brittney Ezell, who joined men's basketball coach Murry Bartow and football coach Carl Torbush for Monday's ETSU Game Time Tour event at the Kingsport Farmers Market.

The Model City was the fifth stop of the ETSU athletic department's 10-stop promotional tour, which had previously barnstormed Chattanooga, Sevierville, Greeneville and Morristown.

The ETSU Game Time Tour will appear next at Calhouns on the River in Knoxville on May 6. Other stops include the Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon (May 12), Johnson City Country Club (May 15), Atlanta (May 20, site TBA) and Bristol Motor Speedway (May 22).

ETSU will not play its first football game until facing Kennesaw State on Sept. 15, 2015. Torbush expects to have a staff of seven full-time coaches by next fall. Currently, Teddy Gaines and Billy Taylor are the program's only two full-time assistant coaches.

With the euphoria of opening kickoff so far down the road, Game Time Tour events are providing welcome positive feedback for the hard-working ETSU gridiron coach.

"For me, personally, the biggest thing is seeing how excited people are that football is coming back," Torbush said. "That makes me feel very, very proud."

Ezell also is proud of Torbush, who was an esteemed colleague long before she came to Johnson City.

"Coach Torbush and I actually worked together when I was at Alabama. So I'm just thrilled to have him here starting football," said Ezell, who'll have seven new players on next year's roster, including Science Hill phenom Tianna Tarter.

"Carl is probably one of our biggest supporters. He comes to games. He comes to practices. He's great with our kids. So anything football does here only benefits us," said Ezell, who'll add North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Indiana to her list of non-conference opponents next season.

Bartow, whose team just wrapped up a 19-16 finish, including a run to the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament semifinals, anticipates a symbiotic relationship with the resurrected football program. He is very high on the move to the Southern Conference.

"I like the Atlantic Sun ... I think it has a lot of good basketball teams. But I think the Southern Conference just makes logical sense when you look at our alums, travel, our community and traditional rivals," Bartow said. "It makes total sense. I think it was a very smart move."

With the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center facing roof repairs, another smart move for Buccaneers basketball may be in the works. Freedom Hall Civic Center — the site of ETSU home games with Samford, Steven F. Austin and Marshall last season — could see a lot more Bucs basketball in the near future.

"Our players really liked playing in that building," said ETSU athletic director Dr. Richard Sander.

"The bones are great. Certainly there need to be some enhancements and modernization of that facility. But when people get in there and get into it, it's a real basketball facility," he said.

"I think it could be good for us and good for the community." 

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