South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough announced his plans for retirement at the end of the season on Thursday. The news reverberated around HBCU football as Pough is respected across the spectrum of college athletics. Several notable coaches, administrators and friends reacted to his announcement:
Kendrick Lewis, SC State Asst AD for Media Relations
When I first heard the news, I’m gonna tell you something man. I was kind of heartbroken. You can’t replace a guy like him from what he’s been to our program, our school, our community. He’s a living legend. He’s a man of integrity. He’s a father figure, he’s a friend, he’s an ambassador. I mean, you can go on and on about what he is and I’m gonna tell you something, it’s a sad day in Orangeburg. But, we understand though, he means the world to us. We have to embrace it. I always said don’t let his mean demeanor fool you. He’s a gentle giant and, and I’m just…I don’t know what to say. I was just in such a funk today after hearing the announcement.
I’ve known this guy since I’ve been here and we’ve won eight championships with him. So, it’s bitter for me. I know how to reach him, but it’s just, it’s just gonna be different though. It’s really going to be different. He absolutely does not want a farewell tour, he just wants to go out on his own terms and he did it.
Billy Joe, Black College Hall of Fame Coach (Central State/FAMU/Miles College)
Of course, that time comes around for all of us. Buddy is such a fine gentleman, and a great friend, and we had an outstanding relationship. It’s just too bad because football is going to miss him. He’s been there for a long time and succeeding. I didn’t think that he would be at South Carolina State longer than my friend Willie Jeffries, but he did it. My goodness. I’m glad that you are highlighting him because he has earned it. He’s from my state where I was born, South Carolina the Palmetto State. I was born in Aynor. It’s about 20 miles west of Myrtle Beach and if you count in the population the hogs and the dogs, maybe you’ll get a population of 500. We would always talk about South Carolina. We had a lot in common and we were great friends and we have an outstanding relationship.
I’ll tell you this, I started a program whereby the visiting coach would always receive a gift from the home coach and that gift had to be indigenous to the area. When they would come down to Tallahassee, I would give him some oranges and when we would go to South Carolina State, we would get some pecans. I started that, but this one year we flew up to South Carolina State to play Buddy, but he didn’t give us anything that was indigenous to the area. He said “I didn’t have enough time,” but he said, coach what I did was, I bought you some beer. I didn’t find that out until he had already given it to my assistant coaches to give it to me…it never made it to me. They drunk all the beer and we lost the game the next day. But yes, we had an outstanding relationship and I’ll give him a call that he’s gonna enjoy retirement so much. But, it’s a shock man.
Charlie Neal, Black College Football Hall of Fame Announcer (BET/ESPN/HBCU Go)
This is his swan song. He’s going to open up this Saturday. I just know he’s been a mainstay. First of all, he’s a dean of coaches in the HBCUs right now as far as football is concerned and longevity. He’s just been a fantastic person. I mean, to do what he’s done over the years and just at South Carolina State and I’m sure he’s had opportunities to move on and things like that. But, he decided to stay at his alma mater and he’s done a fantastic job. He’s had great teams. I thought he might have left after winning the Celebration Bowl two years ago. He still has a passion for it. I was kind of shocked. I expect somewhere along the line he’s been thinking about retiring. I saw him in Norfolk at the MEAC media day and he just seemed like he’s ready to go. He’s the “Same Old Buddy.” I just wish him all the best. I mean, he’s been a great friend. Not only to the game, but a great contributor to the game but a friend of mine too and a person that we could always talk to who always had time for the media. He was never one of these people who was standoffish or didn’t have time for you if you needed to talk to him or ask him anything. He was always, always available and that meant a lot, especially people in our business.
Joe Taylor, Black College Football Hall of Fame Coach (Howard/Virginia Union/Hampton/FAMU)
Well, first of all, you’re talking about a real competitor, whenever you played against one of Buddy Pough’s teams. The way he recruited and coached teams, you better be prepared because he was going to be fundamentally sound. But man was his team always physical, I mean always physical and he’s going to have some linebackers and defensive ends always. He must have been a defensive guy for the most part because, he was going to come after you with some real good linebackers and, and some defensive ends that were just about impossible to block. If you didn’t know where they were, they would just kill your offense.
When I was at Hampton we always played against each other. For whatever reason, we had the nerve to schedule him for homecoming one year. Dennis Thomas was our athletic director and he’s the one who did that. It didn’t end well. South Carolina State was not a team that you wanted to play on homecoming. But, I’m just so happy to see him go out on his own accord, not being forced out. He truly loves South Carolina State. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame before long and that’s a fact. He would develop players and always had people that went to the NFL. If you look up every year, he has somebody from SC State going to the pros and making it. Just an outstanding coach and probably good timing as well.
47 years is a long time, so now he can enjoy his family a little bit. I usually didn’t like to play him because somebody was going to get hurt. Even if you won the game, you know somebody would get hurt. Between us, whoever won our game normally won the MEAC conference title. Buddy is a great guy and you’ve never seen a better person. I know his players played hard for him because they respected him and they really had a lot of love for him.
Terry Sims, Former B-CU Head Coach/Alabama State Director of Football Operations
To start off, Coach has been a mentor to me since I got to Cookman. I got there in 2010, and have known him for a while, but after being in the conference with him and being around him at the conference meetings and things like that, the guy will always shoot you straight. He’ll always tell you the truth. He was always honest and has given me a lot of great advice throughout my career. He’s one of the guys that told me, he told all of us all the young coaches, he said, “Listen, you don’t have to be complicated to win football games.” I think with the direction football is going in, watching a guy like that continue to win and continue to be successful is great. He would never have an offense, defense or special teams coordinator that would implement a system that he didn’t understand. So it was always his way and he did it his way.
He will always be remembered as a class act. I don’t think you can ever have anybody say anything negative about Buddy. If you were sensitive you probably didn’t want to be around him because he was going to tell you the truth, and you have to be careful asking him questions because if you really didn’t want to know how he felt or you didn’t want to honest truth it was probably best you didn’t ask him. I’m happy for him and excited for him. Whatever the next chapter is, he’s had a great career. He’s been around and had opportunities to do a lot of other things but chose to stay in South Carolina State because it was home and a great program there and he left a lot of rich history behind.
Dr. Dennis Thomas -Former Hampton AD, Former MEAC Commissioner
I tell you, he has been a solid rock not only in HBCU football, but in football in general. He has been an excellent coach. He’s been an excellent father figure to a lot of young men too. We all know that at some point in time that time comes. I’m happy that I had an opportunity to work with him and to see what kind of, not only football coach, but what kind of man that he is. I was able to see him at this year’s MEAC Media Day and we’ve always had a good relationship. It goes without saying that this kind of leadership will be missed. I want to commend his wife as well. She’s been a guiding force behind the scenes and, from what I could tell, she’s always been very supportive during the good times and doing the down times.
Ed Hill, legendary former Howard University Sports Information Director
I remember when Buddy Pough first took over the job at South Carolina State and had been coaching for Coach Jeffries. Dr. Dennis Thomas had been there. He came in and he began to build that program in a short amount of time and the job he’s done is nothing short of miraculous. They’ve gone through the budgetary situations in terms of having the money and resources. He’s gone out and played some of those Power Five schools and generated money for SC State. But, more importantly. in addition to developing young men and what he does for them, he is a stand up guy, real class individual and Buddy Pough now in 2023 is the same as he was when I first met him. When I see him, he’s always got time to talk to people. He’s a very humble dude even though he has been successful. He’s had a great life and a great career and as for me, I wish him nothing but the best.
Last year they played up at Howard and I know that Ernest was doing the postgame show and he was kind of waiting for Ernest. So he sat down in the chair and we had a real heart-to-heart conversation and, Buddy, don’t pull no punches. He tells you what he’s thinking. You respect that and I have the greatest amount of respect for him and what he’s done in South Carolina State because I beg to say there are very few coaches during this time that could go in there with the resources or lack of resources and be able to continue to every year have them competitive, send people to the NFL and just be a person that you can always respect because you know what he’s doing.
Jay Walker – Former Howard Quarterback/ESPN Analyst
Start off locally with what he’s been to that university. I mean, know when South Carolina State was going through their tough times, they always had that football team that they could lean on and the joy that Buddy brought to them. Buddy the guy, you know, is one of the funniest guys you’ll ever be around as a coach. But don’t underestimate Buddy. I think people have learned when you think you can underestimate him, he will definitely be outworking you. I think about how he followed Willie Jeffries who was a legend in his own, right. Now those are big shoes to fill and not only did he fill those shoes, but he might have expanded the shoe size. Being a friend, it was one of the proudest moments ever I think was being able to partake in his signature win. Winning that Celebration Bowl in 2021 with everything stacked against him and to see Buddy and the Bulldogs pull out that South Carolina State style victory in dominating fashion to win was simply amazing. His national championship and I don’t want to call it his last national championship but, to win that national championship was special.