The new football team at East Tennessee State has friends in high places, which can only help as things continue moving forward for the program.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is an ETSU graduate and has many ties to the university. Funding for a new stadium will have to go through the State Building Commission, of which Ramsey is the chairman.
“Not to put any pressure on myself, but I’m gonna make sure that happens,” Ramsey said Friday during the news conference announcing Carl Torbush as ETSU’s head coach. “I want this to be something special for ETSU. There’s a process they have to go through, but hopefully we can step this process up to make sure that we get this done in time for when we start playing football at ETSU.
“It doesn’t hurt the slightest bit that the Lieutenant Governor went to ETSU. Obviously, the Governor and I have a fantastic relationship, so that helps.”
As has been the case with everything ETSU President Brian Noland has done since he first stepped foot on campus, building a stadium will be done with eyes toward the future. The team will begin playing in 2015.
“We want to ensure we put the stadium in position that not only fits in the short term, but allows us the opportunity to grow as we expand,” he said.
Ramsey said the state is receiving “RFPs,” requests for proposals for the stadium’s design, and is looking at several architectural firms.
So now we know the who, what and when about ETSU football. Soon we will learn the where.
“We’re not in a position to say where the stadium is going to be,” Noland said. “That will go before the State Building Commission. Once we have architects in hand, those architects will help us with the site placement.
“All the places on campus that are easy to build are not the places you would want to put anything. We’re not going to put $20 million into a football stadium and put it in a flood plain, so we’re going to wait for the engineers to come in and provide us with the best options. We also want to give the coach an opportunity to provide his input.”
ETSU is being diligent in an effort to avoid some of the problems that have come up with its newest athletic facilities. The field at Summers-Taylor Stadium, the home of ETSU’s soccer teams, was left under water by heavy rains in January. In addition, construction of the baseball team’s new home, Thomas Stadium, was delayed after rock was discovered at the site.
“I have a thought, Dr. Noland has a thought ... everybody has a thought,” ETSU Athletic Director Richard Sander said. “But when the architect comes in and sees if everything fits, we’re gonna hopefully have a lot more insight.”
Noland admits having Ramsey on ETSU’s side could be, in football terms, the program’s first touchdown.
“Governor Ramsey is a wonderful person,” Noland said. “He loves this university. He loves this region. From the moment that he learned we were going to start a football team, he’s not only been one of the most excited people in East Tennessee, he’s been one of our biggest supporters.”
Ramsey sounded like the program’s biggest cheerleader on Friday.
“When I heard the news, I was extremely excited,” Ramsey said. “Practically my whole family graduated from ETSU. I love the blue and gold. I was here in the mid-’70s, when the MiniDome was first built.”
Ramsey graduated from ETSU in 1978. In addition, his wife, Cindy, three daughters, two sons-in-law, his mother and grandmother count themselves among ETSU’s alumni.
“My roots run blue and gold,” he says.
Joe Avento is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.