Decision time: ETSU in process of hiring new football coach

Joe Avento • Updated Dec 13, 2017 at 4:12 PM

Scott Carter has been on the job as East Tennessee State’s athletic director for just a couple of months, and he’s already facing a major decision — the kind that can define a career.

The university is in the process of replacing Carl Torbush as football coach, and Carter, a former fullback at ETSU, wants to make sure he gets the right man for the job. With that in mind, no timetable has been set.

“It takes as long as it takes because it’s a big deal,” Carter said. “It’s a huge leadership position in our university and a very important shaper of young people. The connectivity that a football coach has with the student-athletes, faculty and staff and alumni — there’s so many people that person connects with. We have to make sure it’s the right person.”

“They were just talking about their interest in our program and this opportunity.”

When asked if there would be a search committee, Carter said he and ETSU President Brian Noland have a plan in place.

“Dr. Noland and I have talked about this,” he said. “We processed Carl’s decision to retire. We’re working together. We both want to look for a person of integrity and principled values.”

Plenty of interest

By the time Carter got back to his office after Torbush’s retirement was announced at a news conference on Friday, the inquiries had begun in earnest.

“I had a great deal of voice mails, emails and all kinds of correspondence,” Carter said.

Several people with ties to the Bucs have shown interest in the job as have plenty with no connections with ETSU. Carter said every legitimate candidate would be considered.

Torbush, who helped get the program restarted and went 11-22 in three seasons, had no direct ties to the university when he was hired.

“I think we owe it to our program to look for and listen to all kinds of great candidates,” Carter said. “We have some great ETSU people and outstanding coaches and others that are outside the area. I think we owe it to our program to be very diligent and research great talent, near and far.”

Early signing period

With the NCAA’s new early signing period beginning Dec. 20, which coincides with the traditional junior-college signing date, getting the new coaching staff in place soon would seem to be important. Carter said he is aware of that date and the recruiting repercussions if a new coach is not in place by then, but he says it won’t rush him in the hiring process.

“The best fit for football coach is the top priority and it has to be, it should be,” he said “Everything else falls in line after that. We’re not going to let any outside factors rush it to some kind of judgment. We’ve not set a shot clock.”

‘Not about me’

This will be Carter’s first big, public decision since he took over as athletic director from Richard Sander.

“It is a big deal, but I don’t want this to be about me,” he said. “It has nothing to do with my legacy. It has to do with the Bucs, our program and what is best for our players and how they can win championships here and make great memories.”

Carter has repeatedly said he wants the 18th coach in ETSU football history to have similar values to the 17th.

“I really want people to know how thankful we are to have had Carl Torbush as our head football coach,” Carter said. “And this is 100 percent true — I’m looking for that kind of person, with integrity. That’s critically important for what we’ve grown here and what we want to do in the future.”

Carter wouldn’t comment on any of the early candidates, but several come to mind when trying to figure out who could do the job.

Here’s a list of potential candidates. Remember, it’s nothing official, just food for thought and a conversation starter.

Chris Beatty: Chris Beatty’s ascension on the coaching ladder has been steady. The former record-setting ETSU wide receiver is serving as associate head coach at Maryland, where he also coaches the wide receivers.

Beatty has gained a reputation as a top-notch recruiter at Maryland. He has also been an assistant at Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois, Vanderbilt and Northern Illinois.

In addition, he was a high school head coach at three schools in Virginia, putting together a 78-18 record and winning a state championship in 2004 with Landstown High School in Virginia Beach.

Beatty was an All-Southern Conference selection as a senior. He had 125 receptions in his college career and finished ETSU’s all-time leader with 1,813 receiving yards. He still ranks in the top four in ETSU’s receiving records.

George Quarles: Quarles is a legendary figure in East Tennessee after leading Maryville High School to 11 state championships. He resisted calls from colleges until last year when he took the job as Furman’s associate head coach.

Furman was a natural move for Quarles, who was a receiver on the Paladins’ 1988 national championship team quarterbacked by Greeneville’s Frankie DeBusk.

In Quarles’ first season at Furman, the Paladins went 8-5 and made the playoffs. They beat Elon in the first round before losing to Southern Conference champion Wofford to end their season.

Quarles’ record at Maryville was 250-16. Along the way, his teams had winning streaks of 74 and 44 games.

Billy Taylor: Taylor has a long history with ETSU as a player and a coach. He’s been the Bucs’ defensive coordinator for the past three seasons after previously serving in that same capacity before the school dropped the football program.

Taylor, a former linebacker at ETSU, spent five seasons at Tennessee Tech, where he was defensive coordinator and associate head coach. He was part of the Golden Eagles’ 2011 Ohio Valley Conference championship team, a unit that was led by a league-leading defense.

Taylor played for the Bucs from 1983-87 and was a captain on the team that beat North Carolina State for one of the program’s biggest wins ever.

He has also coached at Wofford, Chattanooga and Elon.

Jamey Chadwell: Chadwell, a former ETSU quarterback, served as interim head coach at Coastal Carolina this season while coach Joe Moglia was on a medical leave of absence.

The Chanticleers, making the move to the Football Bowl Subdivision Sun Belt Conference, went 3-9.

Chadwell, who originally went to Coastal Carolina as offensive coordinator, previously was head coach at Charleston Southern, where his teams qualified for the FCS playoffs twice. He also served as head coach at Delta State and North Greenville and has a record of 63-44 as a college head coach. He has been a finalist for the FCS national coach of the year award twice.

Moglia says he expects to return to his job. He is expected to make an announcement sometime after Christmas.

Chadwell played at ETSU from 1995-99 and served as an assistant on ETSU’s staff from 2000-03.

Mike Rader: Rader is a Johnson City native, a former ETSU starter and the school’s wide receivers coach for the past three years. He was also the head coach at Maryville College before coming back to ETSU.

At Maryville, Rader coached the school to its first-ever NCAA Division III playoff appearance after an 8-2 regular season in 2013. His three-year head coaching record is 21-10.

Rader was an all-state performer at Science Hill High School, where he played quarterback and wide receiver. He was a receiver at ETSU from 1998-2002 and served as ETSU’s recruiting coordinator under Torbush.

Mark Tucker: Tucker, another former ETSU player, took over as Charleston Southern’s head coach after Jamey Chadwell left for Coastal Carolina in January.

Charleston Southern went 6-5 in Tucker’s first season at the helm. He was quarterbacks coach under Chadwell.

The lure of potentially coaching his alma mater might be strong for Tucker, but keep in mind he is coaching in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.

Tucker was a quarterback at ETSU from 1982-86 and served as an assistant there for four seasons. He also was the offensive coordinator at The Citadel.

Donnie Abraham: Abraham, the safeties coach for Lovie Smith’s Illinois team, was one of ETSU’s most successful players in the NFL. He played nine seasons in the pros, including six with in Tampa Bay, where he led the league in interceptions in 1999 and made the Pro Bowl.

Most of his coaching experience has come on the high school level in Florida and he spent two years as a coach at the IMG Academy that has produced numerous major-college prospects.

Abraham also coached for two seasons in the Arena League.

After being a first-team All-Southern Conference selection in 1995, he was drafted in the third round by the Tamps Bay Buccaneers.

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