East Tennessee State is turning to a decorated defensive coach with ties to the area to lead its fledgling football program.
Carl Torbush will be introduced Friday as the Bucs’ new coach, ending a more than two-month search. ETSU officials have not confirmed his hiring, but have scheduled a 5 o’clock press conference at the Millennium Center.
Torbush, 61, is a former head coach at North Carolina and has compiled a well-traveled resume as a defensive specialist since graduating from Carson-Newman College in 1974. He most recently coached linebackers at Liberty last year.
Torbush guided the Tar Heels to a 17-18 record in three seasons as head coach, after being promoted from defensive coordinator when Mack Brown left for Texas in 1997. He won a couple of bowl games, but was ultimately fired after a 6-5 season in 2000.
He previously worked as head coach at Louisiana Tech for one season, going 3-8 in 1987.
Torbush has battled prostate cancer, and cited the disease as the reason for stepping down as defensive coordinator at Kansas in 2011. He returned to coaching at Liberty last season, however, before reportedly deciding to retire again in February.
Other stops in his career include Baylor, Southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas A&M, Carson-Newman and Mississippi State.
The naming of Torbush at ETSU comes as the university prepares to play football for the first time since dropping the program a decade ago.
President Brian Noland announced on April 2 that he was moving ahead with plans to field a team in 2015, and hired former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer to help with the process.
Fulmer and ETSU athletic director Richard Sander collaborated on the coaching search, initially narrowing the field of candidates to nine for interviews and then to four earlier this month. A handful of former ETSU players and coaches were once in the mix, but Torbush has emerged as the choice.
A native of East Spencer, N.C., he grew up in Knoxville and developed into quite an athlete at Austin-East High School. He decided to pass up several Division I offers as a linebacker to walk on at Tennessee, but he soon transferred to Carson-Newman, where he became an NAIA All-American in football and baseball.
He was good enough in baseball, in fact, to sign with the Kansas City Royals in 1975. That lasted just one season, and he began his football coaching career as an assistant at Baylor.
Torbush has long been regarded as a keen defensive mind, having coordinated some of the best defenses in the nation. He was national defensive coordinator of the year at North Carolina in 1996, and SEC assistant coach of the year at Alabama in 2002.