It took a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory on a rainy day in October 2019 for South Carolina State head football coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough to eclipse his coach and mentor's all-time record for wins with the Bulldogs program.
A 24-10 win against visiting Morgan State on Willie E. Jeffries Field in Orangeburg on Oct. 19 moved Pough past Jeffries with 129 wins as head coach.
During his two tenures leading the Bulldogs (1973-1978, 1989-2001), Jeffries compiled a 128-77-4 record at S.C. State, which included six MEAC titles and six postseason appearances.
Jeffries has been in Orangeburg supporting Pough and the Bulldogs since going into retirement in the summer of 2001.
"I've been enjoying this ride and all the recognition that Buddy has gotten, and you know it's great for our university," Jeffries said. "You know, they broke Babe Ruth's record, and I think I broke Bill Davis' record or Oree Banks' record for the most wins here. But I'm so happy for Buddy.
"He is a great person. It has meant a lot to me because he is one our players, he is a South Carolina State Bulldog. It tells you what an outstanding coach he is, and he does so much for this athletic department and this community of Orangeburg. Without him, I know that it would be hard for us to put a football team out on display."
Pough grew up in nearby Great Branch, the son of S.C. State graduates (his mother, Marjorie, earned a master's degree at S.C. State), and first attended Bulldog games with his father, Oliver, when he was 8 years old. Pough graduated in the final class at Orangeburg High School, after which he played for two seasons as a Bulldog under Banks, before Jeffries took the helm of the program.
"I knew that he was a special person," Jeffries said. "Buddy doesn't disappoint.
"Some people you say were born on third base but still haven't scored a run. Buddy is just the opposite. He started in the dugout, coming up to bat. And he has made it around first, second, third and home. As you heard today, our athletics director, Mr. Danley, knew that Buddy was the right guy to keep this program going, to help with fundraising, and get us to the field ready to play."
Pough currently carries a 130-73 overall record in his 18th season leading the S.C. State program. His teams have picked up where Jeffries' left off, winning two outright MEAC titles (2008 and 2009) and four shared MEAC titles (2004, 2010, 2013 and 2014), while also making four trips to the NCAA FCS playoffs (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013).
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"To put things into perspective, I'm older now than coach was when he retired," Pough said of Jeffries just minutes after leaving the field with the record in hand. "This record means that I've coached a long time, I've had a lot of fun and I've made a lot of friends.
"There's been a lot of good times around here and in my life in general. My dad used to say 'all you want is a ball, boy.' We lived on a farm and had cows and pigs and all kinds of stuff to do. I didn't want to do any of that. I wanted to find a ball to play. I've had a chance to do that for my entire life. Who could have a better situation than what I've had?"
And the situation has been better for his 17-plus years leading his alma mater having had Jeffries around as a mentor, sounding board and friend.
"My friendship with him has been as close as anybody; I talk with him more than anybody about everything, and his has been my father figure, my mentor and my friend for all these years," Pough said. "To get that ball from him (in the postgame ceremony) was really gratifying. But, at the same time, I might have more wins than him, but I ain't him.
"He is still 100 times better. I'm his driver, but he is my brain. He tells me everybody's name in any room. That's the kind of relationship we have. I've appreciated him and it's been a lot of fun having him in my life. I don't know that I could have a better friend. And I've worked for so many people who I've generally gotten along with really well. The university's board of trustees, administration, presidents and ADs are people I have been appreciative of, because they have looked after me and gave me this opportunity. I enjoy getting out, when I can, and supporting our other sports here on campus. That has helped make me the guy I am now. We always believe we've got a shot to win, and we'll continue to work toward that."
Although Pough has coached many players having gone on to play in the National Football League (including seven on NFL rosters this season), there are many more who have come from challenging circumstances to grow as young men under the guidance of Pough and his coaches through the years.
Current senior defensive tackle Tyrell Goodwin, who leads the team with five quarterback sacks, is among those who has matured while being coached by Pough.
"It means a lot to us to have helped coach get the record; we are happy we could do that for him," said Goodwin, an A.C. Flora product from Columbia who had three sacks in the record-setting win against Morgan State. "You can see it on his face. If he is happy, we are happy.
"The man deserved this record. He works hard and he does a lot for us and this program. I came from the gutter, from the projects, so this means a lot to be able to show all the kids you can get out and do something with yourself."
Goodwin has his sights set on an NFL career. But with his physical education degree in hand, he plans to one day be a coach. His experiences playing for Pough and his staff will help shape the coach he becomes.
"It's amazing, it's an honor actually; everybody doesn't get to be a part of this kind of a program," Goodwin said. "I'm glad that I came. I've learned so much from coach Pough and from being a part of this team."
Jeffries is glad that his record was broken by a fellow S.C. State graduate, and especially one of his former players.
"I'm so happy it's Buddy," Jeffries said. "Buddy and I have lunch together each week, and he is well-deserving of this because he has done a tremendous job.
"I'm just happy that we didn't get someone from another university to coach here. Buddy is a 1975 graduate of South Carolina State and, even though I hate to tell it, I'm a 1960 graduate. So we're keeping it in the family. At 82 years of age to be able to see one of your players, just like your own child, perform this well, I'm enjoying this. Thank you, Buddy, for this ride. And I think I'm riding on credit, which makes it more enjoyable."