Just two days after East Tennessee State lost to 27-3 to North Dakota State and was eliminated from the FCS playoffs, Buccaneers head coach Randy Sanders has announced that he will retire.
Sanders, 56, led ETSU to a share of the SoCon title in 2018 and won it outright this past season. The Bucs have qualified for the postseason twice under Sanders and earned their first ever seed this year. ETSU advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to an incredible comeback win over Kennesaw State in the second round. That was the program's first postseason win since 1996.
The Buccaneers also notably bested Vanderbilt in their season opener this year, their second ever win over a P5 opponent, and strung together a 11-2 record, the winningest season in program history. Sanders' only head coaching position has been with the Bucs despite also serving as an assistant with Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida State.
ETSU resurrected its football program back in 2015 after not fielding a team from 2003 to 2014. Sanders was tasked to replace Carl Torbush following the 2017 campaign and went 26-17 in his tenure with the Buccaneers including a 1-2 record in the playoffs.
“I want to thank Dr. Brian Noland and Scott Carter for giving me the opportunity to lead the ETSU football program,” Sanders said in a press conference on Monday. “This wasn’t an easy decision. I have been fortunate to coach football for over 30 years, and I’ve really enjoyed my time at ETSU, but I am ready for the next chapter."
ETSU athletic director Scott Carter acknowledged the success under Sanders saying, “The championship culture and expectation of excellence he established for our football program was remarkable. Thank you for your friendship and tireless commitment to being our head football coach. You will forever be remembered as one of the all-time great ETSU Buccaneers who has taught us all to call our own play… I love you Coach, thank you!”
Sanders kept his plans of retirement close to the vest although it was apparent he had made this decision in advance. “It was very surreal walking off the field knowing that was the last time I was ever going to walk off the field after a game,” he said of ETSU’s playoff loss on Saturday.
“I’m truly at peace and I’m truly comfortable with what’s going on,” he said. “I have worked to live; I haven’t lived to work. I have loved my work. I loved coaching. There’s a lot of life out there outside of football and I’m looking forward to some of it.”