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Lamb leads Mercer's new sport into new league
Bobby Lamb keeps the same display case on his new desk at Mercer University. Inside are intimate reminders and inanimate recruiters — the 10 Southern Conference championship rings Lamb earned through his 29-year tenure as a player and coach at Furman University.
“I’m very proud of those. I’ve still got them, and we still show them off,” said Lamb, who was hired as Mercer’s head coach in January of 2011.
“The players of today, they’ve got to know where you’ve been, what you’ve done,” Lamb said. “We show the rings to recruits, and they’re still a good selling point for us.”
The value of those rings increased last week when Lamb returned to the Southern Conference.
On Thursday, Mercer, East Tennessee State and Virginia Military Institute joined the SoCon.
Mercer will compete in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League this fall and will play a full SoCon schedule in 2014.
“It puts us in a different tax bracket,” Lamb said. “We know the task at hand. We know how tough the league still is.
“Now that we’re in the Southern Conference, certainly it makes the rings even a better selling point. Eventually, that will be our goal, to win a Southern Conference championship and compete for the national championship, like it was always our goal at Furman.”
Lamb won three SoCon titles as a quarterback at Furman and six as an assistant coach. He was the Paladins’ head coach during their last SoCon title run in 2004.
He officially resigned during the final week of the 2010 season, disappointed that he could not add to his ring collection.
Still, Furman holds the SoCon record with 12 league championships. Now, ironically, part of Lamb’s job is ensuring that Furman’s title count remains at 12.
“We wish him luck against everybody but Furman,” teased Furman athletic director Gary Clark. “It’s always great to be involved with Coach Lamb. He’s an outstanding guy, a great Furman guy. Having him back as part of it will be fun.”
While preparing Mercer for its first football season since 1941, Lamb has not had much time to plan his return to Paladin Stadium.
“It’ll be different, being on the other sideline,” he said. “You’ve got to go wherever you’ve got to go to compete. But we’ve got enough challenges to worry about right now, so I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, to be honest.”
In 2002, Lamb took over an established power at Furman. At Mercer, he is attempting to construct one.
“When I got here two years ago, we had nothing,” he said. “We had no dressing room, no weight room. We’ve built it all.”
Lamb said with the enthusiasm swelling around the new program and its new conference, Mercer will keep building.
“We sold 4,000 season tickets, and to put that in perspective, the most I ever sold at Furman was 1,100,” Lamb said. “The interest we generated was so great that we went ahead and set up for a second level on [the stadium]. What we’ve got down here is pretty special.”
With Appalachian and Georgia Southern leaving the SoCon, Lamb and Wofford’s Mike Ayers will be the only head coaches in the league with a conference title. Since 1997, Furman, Wofford, Georgia Southern and Appalachian are the only teams who have won the SoCon.
Lamb’s quest is to lead Mercer into that elite group, even at the expense of alma mater.
Written by Mandrallius Robinson, Greenvilleonline