Buddy Pough has announced his retirement after the 2023 football season. The announcement came just days before the opening game of the season. It concludes a record-breaking 22-year career at South Carolina State and 47 years as a football coach.
“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.
Those words by Pough symbolize that he was able to make his own decision. As a football coach, there are ups and downs. At South Carolina State, a school that has publicly had its share of struggles financially, Pough has somehow kept it together to win conference titles and national championships. The most recent was the shocking upset of undefeated Jackson State in the 2021 Cricket Celebration Bowl.
Picked by everyone as the underdog, the Bulldogs not only beat JSU, but dominated them. In a career full of shining moments, this stage was his biggest accomplishment. In true South Carolina State style, Pough pushed the Tigers around. They dominated them in every phase of the game. His plan lured JSU into playing “Buddy-ball,” and its hard to beat SCSU at a between-the-tackles game of physicality.
If you talk to anyone about Pough the same message comes out. Joe Taylor, Black College Hall of Fame Coach, who regularly faced Pough as head coach of the Hampton Pirates and FAMU Rattlers was emphatic about the results of playing a Buddy Pough-coached team.
“Well, first of all, you’re talking about a real competitor, whenever you played against one of Buddy Pough’s teams,” Taylor said. “The way he recruited and coached teams, you better be prepared because he was going to be fundamentally sound. But man were his teams 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.”
Pough has sent more players to make NFL rosters over the last decade than any other HBCU. Not only do his players make the NFL, but they excel. Both Javon Hargrave and Shaq (formerly Darius) Leonard, were recently the highest-paid players at their positions in the NFL. The toughness to play in the NFL was learned in Orangeburg, S.C.
Pough’s first game of the season against JSU ended in a 37-7 loss. But, anybody who knows Pough knows not to count this team out this early. Pough is a wise veteran coach and often figures it out. But, in case he doesn’t…in case this team struggles in 2023, we must remember that we are watching the descension of a legend of nearly a half century of coaching. A maker of men out of boys. A man that is respected not only in the HBCU realm, but the entire college football landscape.
So often, we discard our legends as they are no longer able to perform legendarily…let’s not do that with Pough. Especially in HBCU football, let’s show one of the greatest that he is appreciated for what he did over 22 years at the little school in Orangeburg.