Fulmer to help lead new ETSU football program
[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ast Tennessee State formally announced the return of its football program on Tuesday, and the school has tabbed former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer to lead the process.
Fulmer was targeted to be the Bucs’ head coach, but declined. Instead, he will serve as special assistant to the athletic director for football.
“When you have a chance to use the knowledge and skill of a Hall of Fame coach who has won a national championship and is revered as one of the truly great coaches in college football, you have to jump on that opportunity,” interim athletics director Richard Sander said. “Phil Fulmer will make a huge contribution to the success of ETSU football.”
The Bucs, who will play in the FCS, are set to begin play in the 2015 season.
The school discontinued football following the 2003 season due to budget cuts and revenue shortfalls. Work to reinstate the program began more than a year ago.
This past January, the ETSU Student Government Association voted to recommend a $125 student fee increase that will be used to fund the program. Last week, the final step in the process occurred when the Tennessee Board of Regents voted to approve the fee, which is expected to generate approximately $2.5 million.
An effort was made to reinstate football in 2006-07, but students voted down a proposed $200 student fee increase.
In the past, East Tennessee State has been member of both the OVC and the SoCon, and has been in discussion with both leagues about the possibility about a return.
“We’ve talked to both of them,” Sander told the Johnson City Press two weeks ago. “They both feel ETSU would be a good member. But one thing people need to understand is conference commissioners can be very supportive of you, but they’re not dictators. The members have to kind of move things forward. As anything, trying to get 10 or 12 people or universities to come together and agree on anything is sometimes difficult.
“The good thing is the job ETSU has done over the years in building facilities and investing in programs, with a dynamic young president who is certainly moving the university forward. Those are all positives.”
When ETSU dropped football, it was forced out of the SoCon and joined the Atlantic Sun.
Last week, Southern Conference powers Georgia Southern and Appalachian State announced that they were leaving the conference to move to the FBS and would be joining the Sun Belt.