Fans of East Tennessee State's resurrected FCS football program had dreamed of former Tennessee coach and national championship winner Phillip Fulmer moving from his advisory position at ETSU to the head coaching role.
That won't happen, but it turns out the Bucs' hire is a name familiar to college football fans all the same. ETSU announced Friday that former North Carolina head coach Carl Torbush will be the team's coach. Torbush, 61, has also been the head coach at Louisiana Tech and defensive coordinator at Alabama, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and other FBS schools.
He spent the 2012 season coaching linebackers at Liberty University under former Kansas coach Turner Gill.
"The rebirth, the new era is here," Torbush said Friday at an introductory news conference, per the Associated Press. "It's time to start."
The East Tennessee program was shuttered in 2003 over rising costs, then resurrected by the administration this year after student voting approved a $125 per-semester fee to help pay for the team. The Bucs will retake the field as part of the Southern Conference in 2015.
After assisting the school with the coaching search, Fulmer was on hand and said the ETSU administration had vetted candidates thoroughly, looking not just for a coach who would do the necessary groundwork but would make it pay off on the field.
"Why do it if we're not going to win?" Fulmer said, according to the AP.
Torbush has close ties to the area, having been born in East Spencer, N.C., and attending high school in Knoxville, Tenn.
Neither those ties nor his wealth of experience will make Torbush's job easy. With the Bucs out of the sport for a decade, the rebuilding job will literally be from the ground up. (The school still has yet to approve a final stadium plan.) But his background means he'll have as strong a shot at succeeding as anyone, and his hire represents ETSU's biggest decision yet on the road to their 2015 return.