The Bluenanza event that attracts East Tennessee State basketball fans for a preseason get-together each fall is moving outdoors.
Athletic director Richard Sander said Wednesday that a tentative date of Oct. 28 has been set for the “quad” area outside Brooks Gym. The setting is intended to provide more of a party atmosphere to showcase the men’s and women’s teams rather than the usual scrimmages and skills contests inside the Dome.
“We’re going to do some different things to create excitement about basketball,” said Sander. “We want to get our students and campus community more involved, and also get the external community to come on campus and enjoy this. We’re going to use some of the beautiful facilities we have here, the exterior of Brooks, to create a great setting for the fans.”
The Bucs, with six new players, will open the exhibition season on Oct. 29 against Milligan. The regular season begins Nov. 8 at Charlotte.
The Lady Bucs, meanwhile, will host Shepherd University for an exhibition on Nov. 2. The debut season for new coach Brittney Ezell begins Nov. 8 at Memphis.
The ETSU teams each have their own ticket packages this year instead of being combined. In recent years, a purchase of season tickets for the Bucs also enabled fans to attend the Lady Bucs games.
Sander said the change is mostly a product of Atlantic Sun Conference scheduling.
“In the past, the A-Sun played so many double-headers, so it made sense to do it,” he said. “They wanted to eliminate that and basically said at one point that they were not going to do any double-headers this season. We made our decision about tickets at that point.”
ETSU had about 2,000 season-ticket holders last year. Ticket manager Brandon Hudson said Wednesday that close to 500 have already been renewed for the upcoming season.
Basketball coach Murry Bartow may or may not have a full staff when the Bucs tip off their season.
One spot has been open since Thomas Johnson decided to take a job at Berry College, a Division III school in Georgia, in late August. He was the third of Bartow’s assistants to leave since last season.
Bob Bolen and Thomas Carr have since joined the staff, and Bartow is weighing whether to go out and hire another assistant this close to the start of the preseason.
“Obviously, the timing is not perfect,” he said Wednesday, “and we may fill it and we may not. Whenever anybody leaves, we have to view it as an opportunity. But if we do happen to wait, I’m confident in the ability of my current staff.”
Bartow said there’s no one particular area of the program that would suffer with just two assistants rather than three.
“It just puts a little more on Bob and Thomas in terms of their duties,” he said. “There are a lot of things that have to be done, so it’s a little more of a workload for everybody. I’m certainly leaning right now toward not doing anything in the short run.”
ETSU may have a decision on a site for a new football stadium by early October.
Sander said some potential locations have been ruled out while others are still under discussion. A final decision will come “hopefully within the next couple or three weeks,” he said.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings with the architects, and they’re doing the stuff architects do,” said Sander. “One of the critical things has been the floodplains on campus, how to mitigate potential flooding. We’d hate to build a $25 million stadium and have it flooding all the time.”
Kerry Doane, the ETSU ace who was the pitcher of the year in the Atlantic Sun last season, has wrapped up his first summer of professional baseball.
The right-hander from Pompano Beach, Fla., made just nine appearances, all in relief, for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the Class A New York-Penn League. He battled through a back injury to post a 1-0 record, with a 4.15 ERA. Doane struck out 19 and walked two in 17 1/3 innings.
“I had a back strain that kept me out for four weeks,” he said Wednesday, “but I got past it and pitched pretty well the last three or four weeks. It was a pretty good summer.”
He was even part of a no-hitter on Sept. 1 that involved three pitchers, closing the deal with one inning of work in the Scrappers’ 6-0 win over Batavia.
Doane transitioned from shortstop to starting pitcher as a senior for the Bucs, and he responded with a huge season. He went 13-2 with a 2.14 ERA to lead ETSU to its first NCAA regional appearance in 32 years.
The Cleveland Indians took him in the 24th round of the amateur draft in June.
Doane isn’t sure where he’ll be playing next summer, or whether the Indians want to develop him as a starting pitcher or reliever. He’ll go to Arizona for spring training in March, then perhaps be assigned to Lake County (Ohio), the organization’s low-A affiliate in the Midwest League.
“It’s hard to say what’s ahead,” he said. “It all depends on what they want and need at the time. Whatever happens, the minor leagues are always a grind, with so many games in a short season. But if you love the game, it becomes fun. I can’t really complain; how many people get paid to play a game?”
There will be at least a couple of new women’s sports added at ETSU as football comes on line in 2015. What those sports will be remains to be seen.
Sander said discussions between now and the first of the year may dictate what direction the athletic department goes.
“We’re going to task a faculty advisory committee to take a look at it, how these different sports would impact the community and create criteria that makes sense for us,” he said. “We’ll have a couple of new women’s sports, if not three, and will probably know which ones by the first of the year. We’ll seriously recruit coaches and start thinking about building programs.”