South Carolina State head football coach Buddy Pough announced Thursday he will be retiring at the end of the 2023 football season.

After letting his players know after practice Thursday morning, Pough made a public announcement at the conclusion of this week’s Orangeburg Touchdown Club meeting.

South Carolina State University head football coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough is carried from the sidelines by members of his team after the Bulldo…

“This morning, at the end of our practice, I informed our team that at the end of the season that coach Buddy Pough is retiring,” Pough told the club. “I want you all to know that it’s been a wonderful career. My wife, Jo, and I have had some good times in this game.”

Pough was given a standing ovation from those in attendance.

“My wife and I have been contemplating this for the better part of the summer,” Pough said. “We just felt like we wanted to do something else before I passed away. I’m 70, and (I’ve been coaching) 47 years; most people at this point decide to take a little break.”

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According to a release from SC State, Pough said he wanted to let his team know before the season got underway.

“No one is running me off,” Pough told his team. “It’s my decision. When you’ve done something for 47 years, it’s a bit tough to give it up, but it’s time. I will be all right, I’ve had a great ride here at SC State and will continue to care about each one of you the rest of my days. Now, let’s go out and have a good season.”

Pough said he wanted to make the announcement prior to the season beginning. The Bulldogs open the 2023 season Saturday in Atlanta against Jackson State University in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge.

SC State head football coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough speaks Thursday at the Touchdown Down, announcing that he will be retiring at the end of the…

“(The team) was in a little bit of shock,” Pough said. “I don’t even know if they thought I was thinking about this decision. We’re all trying to figure it out right now, and it will take us a day to get through it, but the kids are resilient. They’ll be fine. The key is, they get the opportunity to play (Saturday) and time heals all wounds.”

SC State Athletics Director Keshia Campbell said Pough had been sharing his plan and wanted to try to find the best time to make the announcement.

“I think it’s good to get ahead of it and give the team a chance to rally around him,” Campbell said after the TD Club meeting. “Also, we want him to be celebrated. I know he doesn’t want it but we want to celebrate his accomplishments throughout the season. It’s a great honor to have worked with him in several capacities.”

The countdown begins on finding a replacement for Pough next season. Campbell doesn’t seem to be in a rush to start the search.

“The process will be gradual,” Campbell said. “It starts with goodness of fit and finding someone who is genuinely concerned about our student-athletes. We want someone that can build character and also be a good steward of finances. We look forward to having some conversations and developing a team to help assist with the process in a fair and concise manner.”

Pough was named head coach of SC State in the spring of 2002. During his 21 seasons, he has compiled a 146-88 record (110-42 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) while being named MEAC Coach of Year three times, National Coach of the Year twice and winning two HBCU titles.

He has won eight MEAC championships and led the Bulldogs to the FCS playoffs four times. His 2021 team captured a Celebration Bowl championship and an HBCU National Championship.

“I don’t know if I can be successful at retirement,” Pough said. “I’ve been working for so long, I don’t know how not to work. I don’t know what I’ll do when I have no place to go, but I’m at the point now where I’d like to see if can (do it).”

Earlier story via SC State

The 2023 football season will be the final one for South Carolina State head football coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough.

Pough, who is starting his 22nd season as Bulldog head coach, informed the team of his plan following Thursday morning’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s season opener against Jackson State in Atlanta.

“I wanted to let you all know before the season got underway,” an emotional Pough told the Bulldogs. “No one is running me off. It’s my decision. When you have done something for 47 years, it’s a bit tough to give it up but it’s time. I will be all right.

“I’ve had a great ride here at S.C. State and I will continue to care about each one of you the rest of my days. Now, let’s go out and have a good season,” Pough said.

Reacting to Pough’s announcement, S.C. State Acting Athletics Director Keshia Campbell said hearing the news was a bittersweet moment for her.

“We all know that tenures have to end at some point, but I’m a bit saddened by Coach Pough’s decision,” Campbell said. “Coach Pough has brought much success to the Bulldog football program and has played a major role in enhancing the S.C. State brand.

“We wish him much success in his final season and know that he will continue to be a loyal son to the university,” she said.

Head coach since 2002, Pough has amassed a 146–87 overall record and a 112–42 conference record. That makes him the winningest head coach in S.C. State football history.

“Coach Buddy Pough is more than just a legend on our campus and the world of college sports,” S.C. State President Alexander Conyers said. “He is a living example to our students of what it means to be a loyal alumnus.

“For more than two decades, Coach Pough has instilled what we like to call ‘Bulldog Tenacity’ into his players and staff members, building their character for success on the field, in the classroom and in life,” Conyers said. “Coach Pough filled monster-size shoes when he took over as head coach, and his successor will have to do the same.”

Conyers was referring to the fact that Pough inherited the job from legendary head coach Willie Jeffries, now head coach emeritus. Jeffries enjoyed an enviable career for the Bulldogs during a 19-year career that spanned two tenures.

With Jeffries by his side, Pough also announced his decision Thursday at the Orangeburg Touchdown Club’s meeting at the Orangeburg County Library & Conference Center.

Conyers encouraged all Bulldogs fans to come out to support Pough in his final season and rally the team to victories. To start the season, the Bulldogs will clash with Jackson State in the Cricket MEAC-SWAC Challenge in Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, Aug. 26. The game will air on ABC at 7:30 p.m.

Pough is a Bulldog through and through. As an S.C. State student, he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s, as well as All-MEAC honors as an offensive lineman.

Pough ranks among the top coaches in the 53-year history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, as well as in the HBCU family:

  • His record includes 15 winning campaigns, three MEAC Coach of the Year honors, two National Coach of the Year awards, and two national HBCU titles.
  • His teams have also captured three MEAC titles (2008, 2009 & 2021) outright, shared five others (2004, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2019), and made four trips to the prestigious FCS playoffs (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013).
  • His 2021 MEAC Championship team went on to defeat Jackson State and Coach Deion “Prime” Sanders 31-10 in the Celebration Bowl, earning his team the Historical Black Colleges and Universities Championship, the second of his college coaching career.
  • His 2009 team, which finished 10-3 overall and 8-0 in the MEAC, was also named National Black Champion by the Sheridan Broadcasting Network, the 100 Percent Wrong Club of Atlanta, the Washington (DC) Pigskin Club and the Box-to-Row /BASN. In addition, the Bulldogs finished number seven in all three major FCS polls – The Sports Network, the FCS Coaches Poll and Any Given Saturday.
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  • Pough has coached several players who have gone on to play in the National Football League, including two who are currently among the highest-paid at their position – LB Shaquille Darius Leonard (Indianapolis Colts) and NT Javon Hargrave (San Francisco 49ers).
  • Prior to taking the reins at South Carolina State in 2002, Pough spent five seasons as an assistant at the University of South Carolina, the last three as a running backs coach under Lou Holtz. During his stint at USC, he helped build the Gamecocks into one of the top offensive teams in the Southeastern Conference. USC made back-to-back appearances in the Outback Bowl in 2000 and 2001.
  • Before going to USC, Pough was one of the top high school coaches in the Palmetto State, leading Fairfield-Central to a perfect 15-0 record in 1996 and claiming the Class AAA state title. He earned South Carolina High School League Coach-of-the-Year honors for his efforts, the first of such three honors. Pough also had coaching stints at Keenan High in Columbia, where he built the Raiders into one of the top-Class AAA teams in the state.
  • Pough and his wife, Josie are the parents of two sons – Oliver “Bud” IV and Lee Judson and a daughter-in-law, Dr. Natalie Odom Pough. He also has two granddaughters, Taylor Michelle and Olivia Grace.

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