ETSU Head Coach Carl Torbush. (Photo by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
As East Tennessee State University announced 47 committed members of its rebooted football team, university President Brian Noland said the field where they will play is still on track to be completed by fall 2016.
Funding for the sports facility was not included in the budget proposed Monday by Gov. Bill Haslam during his State of the State Address, but Noland said college representatives were working locally on those aspects which they could control.
“We’re going about our due diligence here to do our part regarding institutional avenues and private fundraising,” he said. “As other opportunities present themselves, we’ll make the best of them as they emerge.”
ETSU is already collecting on an established student athletics fee, which is expected to generate $7.5 million to help pay for part of the design and construction work.
The remaining $10.5 million will be made up of private contributions and state funds, some of which Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, an ETSU alumni, has vowed to secure.
“There’s no better supporter of ETSU than Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey,” Noland said. “If anyone can make something happen, it’s him, and we’ll wait to see what happens as the legislative session proceeds.”
Choosing the on-campus site for the new stadium is taking longer than expected because of floodwater mitigation concerns, Noland said, although the field is narrowed to two potential locations.
As engineers test the geological makeup of the sites and perform hydrology studies, Noland said preliminary drawings are being made for both, so that regardless of which is chosen, the school can move forward as soon as it’s finalized.
Likewise, the official fundraising drive has not yet been announced, but boosters are “quietly going about the process of building support” to ensure donors are lined up.
The team is expected to play a demonstrative series of games against junior varsity teams in the 2014-15 academic year before the official kickoff of the Bucs’ first game in September 2015.
Noland said university athletic officials and Johnson City leaders have reached a verbal agreement to play those seasons mainly at Science Hill High School’s Kermit Tipton Stadium, although no written contract has been signed.
“Everyone has agreed to that in principal, although it has not been submitted to the City Commission, the school board or our board for approvals,” he said. “The main thing to look at, though, it that we’ve passed the most significant point, which is everyone agrees this is in the best interest of the community. There’s no need to look at it any other way than as shared resources.”