A blue and gold opportunity

Johnson City Press • Updated Mar 11, 2020 at 1:35 PM

Johnson City may not be defined by the presence of East Tennessee State University in the way Athens, Georgia, is by UGA, or Clemson, South Carolina, is by — well — Clemson.

Nonetheless, this is a college town in many ways. ETSU is an integral part of our way of life, both as the main source for higher learning in the region and as an economic engine propelling such sectors as health care. The city’s growth has been tied in large part to the school’s successes for a century.

But for decades, it seemed as if ETSU’s emotional footprint was confined to the campus. Despite the number of graduates here, our own university seemed to live in a Big Orange shadow.

That’s rapidly changing, thanks in large part to the enthusiastic branding of current President Brian Noland and the town-and-gown emphasis of his immediate predecessor, Paul Stanton. We’ve seen more blue and gold in Johnson City — T-shirts, sportswear, car decals and storefronts — in recent years than at any point in memory. Local fan support for athletics teams is at an all-time high.

And now is the time for ETSU to take that momentum up a notch.

The university has fielded one of its best men’s basketball teams in history. It certainly rivals the glory days of four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 1989-92.

This year’s squad already can boast something none of those teams ever achieved — a 30-win season. The names Tray Boyd, Isaiah Tisdale and Patrick Good should be as familiar in Johnson City as Keith “Mister” Jennings, Greg Dennis and Calvin Talford. This season also marked the second time the team won both the conference championship and tournament in Steve Forbes’ five-year tenure as head coach.

Having defeated Wofford 72-58 in a defensive gem in the Southern Conference’s championship round Monday night, the Bucs will learn their opening round seed in the NCAA tournament on Sunday. We’d like nothing better than to see the team match and even surpass ETSU’s best results in the tournament — a Sweet 16 appearance in 1968.

Given the national spotlight, this is a golden opportunity for ETSU and Johnson City to advance this mutually beneficial relationship. Marketing moments like this don’t come often.

So Johnson City, let’s break out that blue and gold and lend these Bucs our support in a big way. Amid coronavirus fears, elections and stock market fluctuations, their successes make life just a little more fun. They could also cast positive light on this place we call home.

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