The college football world has its eyes on South Carolina with the national championship won by Clemson. Yet even as the Tigers’ paw flag flew atop the Statehouse on Tuesday, there was other big football news in the state.
South Carolina State University Athletic Director Stacy Danley and head coach Buddy Pough made the announcement that Pough would be returning for an 18th season at the helm of the program.
While not a surprise, the announcement a year ago this time could not have been predicted. After the Bulldogs’ worst season in 16 years under Pough, the coach stated that 2018 would be his last at the university. But things changed – for the better.
A young group of players had a surprisingly good season in 2018, finishing 5-6 after a 0-4 start, with a 4-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record.
With as many as 15 freshmen or redshirt freshmen playing considerable roles for the Bulldogs throughout the season, Pough admitted in the postseason that he got more excited about continuing to coach the more he saw the young talent develop and players mesh as a team.
In late November, Pough went public with a stated desire to continue coaching the Bulldogs. Danley said at the time that he and Pough were evaluating the program and that an announcement would be forthcoming.
On Tuesday, the athletic director was as optimistic as Pough about the future.
"When I looked at the program, where we are today, and considered our current reality and what the head football coach at South Carolina State is required to do, there was no question to me that Coach Pough is the man for the job," Danley said.
Adding that he has more faith in Pough as the head coach than at any time during the athletic director’s tenture at S.C. State, Danley said, “Football is the cornerstone of our department because it is the biggest revenue generator. We expect to go to Atlanta and be there for the Celebration Bowl, we expect to win. But we understand that it takes the resources to win. So we want to give Coach Pough and his staff and his players the best chance to win. I'm proud of Coach Pough, his staff and his players for how they finished this past season. There was some adversity, so much so that, at times, I thought it was going to blow up. But it was his experience and expertise that not only did he handle it like a champion, but he used it to turn the team around and finish the season in an impressive way. I believe they gave us some much-needed momentum. I believe we are poised and prepared to build on that momentum."
That is exactly what Bulldog fans – and Orangeburg -- want to hear. And Buddy Pough at the helm is a major plus for the program and the community.
From a purely football standpoint, consider these facts:
• It took a full 16 seasons for every MEAC team to get at least one win against Pough's teams.
• Out of the 16 MEAC titles in program history, Pough has been a part of 14 as a Bulldog player, assistant coach or head coach.
• Pough is four wins away from passing his former coach, Willie Jeffries, as the all-time winningest coach in program history.
• Pough's teams have posted a 125-71 overall record at S.C. State, including a 97-35 record in MEAC play, where his teams have won two outright MEAC titles (2008 and 2009) and four shared MEAC titles (2004, 2010, 2013 and 2014).
Next on the agenda is a contract for Pough, who says he would like to coach for several more years. On Tuesday, Danley said it is yet to be determined whether Pough will receive another one-year pact or be signed on for multiple years. The latter, as we see it, would be better for a program relying on the youth it has on the present team and the players being recruited.
Pough has done a top-notch job of keeping the football program afloat during difficult fiscal times at the university. He is due an opportunity to complete the rebuilding process at S.C. State in the coming years. He is a respected coach with a proven track record and a solid recruiter. He is a winner.
Plus he is a great ambassador for the university and an integral player in the Orangeburg community.