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Godfrey: ETSU Football Not Dead; It's Just Sleeping
JOHNSON CITY – Some people expected East Tennessee Football to be dead by now, but nearly five years after Jonathan Godfrey kicked the game-winning field goal with two seconds to play in what was the last Buc football game played to date, Godfrey said Friday night the sport is only sleeping.
“When something is dead, you don’t have hope for the future, but thanks to the efforts of people in this room it is alive and well. We still have hope it will come back.”
Godfrey, a Johnson City native who first walked on at Tennessee, then transferred to ETSU and nailed a 22-yard field goal in the final game of 2003 to lift the Bucs to a 13-10 victory over The Citadel, said that final team was always respectful though the players knew before the season the program was being disbanded.
“We only had half of our scholarships allowed and went into two-a-days that year with just 48 players,” said Godfrey. “But we became a band of brothers.
“I remember we were invited to Coach (Paul) Hamilton’s church and I caught one of our players dozing off during the service. I didn’t think that was right. Then the next day, I go into the locker room and he’s sleeping on the floor.
“After one of the practices, Coach Hamilton reads off names of players being given scholarships and the guy who was sleeping was one of them. I wondered about that and once I got to talking with him, I realized he had taken a job at a manufacturing plant and was working the night shift during two-a-days. He did that to make money. He wasn’t on scholarship when he was doing that, but that’s how much he wanted to be on the team. I had a lot more respect for him when I learned that.
“We went to Eastern Michigan that year to open our season against a Division I school. We all expected to win the game and almost did. We lost, 21-14. Then we won our next two over Concord and UT-Martin. Here we were a team with only half of our scholarships and we were off to a 2-1 start.”
Losses followed to Elon and Western Carolina and, though the team won by a wide margin in a game at UT-Chattanooga, it was only 3-6 going into that final game, but it won one for the road against The Citadel.
“What’s sad is that when they disbanded football, the school was forced out of the Southern Conference and we missed being in it when it has had a really good run in recent years with Appalachian State winning back-to-back national titles in football and Davidson making the Elite 8 in basketball.
“The only sport that has gained by the move to the Atlantic Sun has been tennis, which now has the Mini-Dome to practice in year around. They have about the same athletic budget now as they had when they had football, so they haven’t gained anything (in the way of savings).”
The Bucs Friends of Football Foundation is counting the days until a new president takes office for the school next March and hopes then a move to restore the sport will take place.
The group started its annual reunion on Friday with a golf tournament at Crockett’s Ridge in Kingsport. The fund-raising event included 84 golfers with the team of Ed Gibbons, Dave Humphries, Roger Kennedy and Phil Street combining for a 17-under-par 55 to win.
The group will gather again Saturday morning from 10 a.m., to 12 noon at the Best Western Motel in Johnson City to discuss plans for moving forward in the coming months and helping influence selection of the next president in hopes to getting a new president who is friendly toward the return of football at the school. It is the only school of its size in the state not to have football.
Godfrey: Buc Football Not Dead; It’s Just Sleeping
By Ron Bliss, Tri Cities Sports
Photo Credit: Ron Bliss, Tri Cities Sports