The tantalizingly brief charge of The Citadel’s Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, 1854

A movement has been inaugurated at The Citadel for the adoption of “Light Brigade” as the appellation designating Citadel sports teams, and the name does not appear a misnomer. Light is the word for the football teams and brigade possesses a military ring that well befits the gun-toting boys on the banks of the Ashley. The whole has a jaunty swing like the name of a movie or a new song. Light Brigade, Light Brigade. It reads good. Clicks off well on the typewriter.

James Harper Jr., The News and Courier, November 22, 1937

Traditions are never started. They exist and grow strong long before anyone discovers them.

– Rev. John W. Cavanaugh, former President of the University of Notre Dame, quoted in ‘The Dome’ yearbook,1924

 

The Citadel’s varsity athletic teams have been called ‘Bulldogs’ for a very long time. The nickname’s origin is slightly obscure, but a quote by former athlete and coach C.F. Myers has been repeated in various school publications for decades:

When The Citadel started playing football [in 1905], we didn’t have real good teams. But the guys played hard and showed a lot of tenacity…like a Bulldog. The local paper started calling us Bulldogs and then the school picked it up.

The ‘Bulldogs’ moniker quickly took hold following the founding of the football program. There are references to the team by that nickname in The News and Courier dating back to 1908; it was likely used for the squad even earlier than that.

All was well and good, and everyone was seemingly satisfied with The Citadel’s teams being called Bulldogs, until an enterprising young sports publicist from North Carolina State had an idea…

His name was Fred Dixon, and besides the work he did for his alma mater, he found time to be a scoutmaster, president of the Raleigh Junior Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Raleigh Jaycees. He also co-owned a local insurance company.

In October of 1937 Dixon was looking for an angle for N.C. State’s upcoming conference football game with The Citadel — the first meeting on the gridiron between the two schools. He apparently found inspiration in the words of Lord Tennyson.

Here is Dixon’s game preview article (headlined “N.C. State to Face ‘Charge of Light Brigade’ Saturday”):

Tennyson’s immortal poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” may have more meaning for the Wolves of State College after their battle here next Saturday with The Citadel Bulldogs in Riddick Stadium.

The Citadel, a military school, has a brigade of football players which is one of the lightest yet most powerful the Charleston institution has developed.

Star of the backfield is Kooksie Robinson, who weighs 134 pounds and who is just five feet seven inches tall. Because of his diminutiveness, Robinson can get through holes that larger backs could only hope to get their heads through. He is believed to be the smallest first string halfback in the nation. Robinson is also one of the fastest members of The Citadel eleven.

Citadel has a comparatively light line from end to end and is light in the backfield, but it is a brigade of hard charging, hard running, speedy and elusive players. State’s Wolves probably will not face as much speed and fight this fall as they will when Citadel’s “Light Brigade” charges into them next Saturday.

The game comes as a feature Southern Conference battle of the week. It was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but for fear that the weather would be too cold for a night game, athletic officials of the schools had the game switched to the afternoon.

As a special feature at the half, Citadel’s famous drill platoon of 90 cadets will parade on the playing field and will go through intricate company maneuvers without commands from any officer or member of the company.

The company is said to be one of the best drilled in the nation and will be unlike anything ever seen in this state before. Officers of the R.O.T.C. staff at State have seen the company in action and are high in their praise of it.

The game will be as colorful as the autumn woods. It is the first time Citadel has appeared on a State college schedule and a large crowd is expected to be on hand to see what the “Light Brigade” will be able to do to State’s Wolfpack.

 

Dixon may have been a fan of the poem, but it is also true that The Charge of the Light Brigade was a very popular film which had been released just the year before. It is thus conceivable that Errol Flynn was an influence on his “Light Brigade” theme (to say nothing of Olivia de Havilland and Nigel Bruce).

In the actual on-field matchup, The Citadel wound up with a sizable advantage in total offensive yardage, but was bedeviled by turnovers and lost, 26-14, before an estimated crowd of 7,000 fans.

Tangent #1: the game story printed in The News and Courier was written by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., who was then working for the AP out of its Raleigh bureau. Later, Gilbreth co-wrote two bestselling books that were made into movies (including Cheaper By The Dozen, which has been filmed twice). He eventually relocated to Charleston permanently, and for many years wrote a widely quoted column in the N&C using the pen name Ashley Cooper.

It didn’t take long for several people, residing both inside and outside the gates of the military college, to decide that “Light Brigade” would be an ideal nickname for The Citadel, much more so than “Bulldogs”. Just two weeks after the contest in Raleigh, James Harper Jr. penned a column outlining the advantages of the new designation, the first few sentences of which are quoted at the beginning of this post.

Harper was ready for a change, claiming that with the Bulldog nickname, the “first thing you think of is rabies and the Health Department.”

The column also included comments from an article written in the student newspaper, which was then called The Bull Dog (it would somewhat ironically undergo a name change to The Brigadier in 1954).

According to cadet J.G. Morton:

…The Citadel footballers have become known as the “Light Brigade”. It is strange that no one has conceived of this idea before. Light Brigade — how well it fits the Citadel eleven! With due respect to tradition, Light Brigade has much more of an implication than Bulldogs.

Again the subject of originality arises. There are high school and college teams all over the United States known as the Bulldogs…Distinction is something vital to greatness in an institution.

Morton went on to name several schools with particularly distinctive nicknames, including Wake Forest’s Demon Deacons, Nebraska’s Cornhuskers, Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish, Washington and Lee’s Generals, and Erskine’s Seceders.

(Of course, by 1937 Erskine was no longer known as the Seceders, having changed its nickname to “Flying Fleet” back in 1930, but news travels slowly out of Due West.)

The cadet summed up his feelings on the subject by stating that “Light Brigade, both military and distinctive, seems to fit The Citadel like the proverbial glove…This columnist favors the retention and official adoption of ‘Light Brigade’ as the term to designate the stalwart and stubborn little teams of The Citadel. A galloping cavalryman, saber extended, charging to the fracas, would look mighty attractive and most distinctive on Citadel stickers.”

By early 1938, it was apparent that Morton was going to get his wish. On March 1, a column by The News and Courier‘s Russell Rogers included the tidbit that Fred Dixon was “proud to learn that the locals were planning to adopt his nickname for the team officially”.

On September 10 of that year, The News and Courier‘s new sports editor, R.M. Hitt Jr., noted in his weekly column that “Citadel authorities have abandoned the name of ‘Bulldogs’ in favor of ‘Light Brigade’ when referring to the football team. In the 1938 Blue Book of College Athletics, ‘Light Brigade’ is the only nickname given for Citadel teams.”

Hitt wasn’t so sure going with “Light Brigade” exclusively was a great idea:

Personally, we like Light Brigade but we don’t believe we would abandon Bulldogs entirely. Light Brigade doesn’t fit too well in snappy cheers and Bulldog does…We like Bulldogs for the cheering section and we like Light Brigade for the writers. There’s no reason why The Citadel doesn’t use both. After all, Furman’s teams are Purple Hurricanes and Purple Paladins.

Clearly, the switch had the support of more than just a few random students and journalists. It certainly had the backing of important administrators at The Citadel, presumably including David S. McAlister, then just a few years into his long career as the Director of Student Activities for the military college. It is also easy to see how the new nickname could have had a personal appeal for the school president, Gen. Charles P. Summerall, who among other things was an advocate of maintaining a peacetime cavalry corps.

Newspaper headlines started to incorporate the new nickname. Just a sampling from 1938 and 1939:

  • “Citadel Light Brigade Opens Season Against Davidson Here Tonight”
  • “Citadel Light Brigade Rolls Past Scrappy Wofford Terriers, 27-0”
  • “Citadel Brigade Prepares For Final Game Of Season”
  • “Light Brigade Leaves Today for Wilmington – Will Play Tomorrow”
  • “Bantams and Brigadiers To Perform Here This Week-end”
  • “Brigadiers To Battle Blue Hose Warriors Here Tonight”

Those are fairly typical. (The “Bantams” referred to the High School of Charleston.)

In a bit of a surprise, local newspaper writers rarely used “Light Brigade” as an excuse to wallow in florid prose. Much of the time, “Bulldogs” could have been substituted for “Light Brigade” in the various previews and stories about the football team without having any effect on the descriptions contained in the game accounts or the ancillary articles.

There were intermittent references to “Brigadiers” (as seen in a couple of the headlines noted above), but not as many as one might expect.

While most prominently employed for football, the nickname was used by The News and Courier for all of The Citadel’s varsity sports. For example, it occasionally appeared in descriptions of the boxing team (“Light Brigade Mittmen to Meet North Carolina”) and the hoops squad (including at least one reference as late as 1943).

Meanwhile, a new fight song, “The Fighting Light Brigade”, made its debut at The Citadel. This song first appeared in The Guidon in 1939:

We’re here cheering loudly, as the Brigadiers parade.
Bucks, we claim you proudly as THE FIGHTING LIGHT BRIGADE!
March on, ye valiant warriors; your courage shall not fade;
As we yell, we yell like hell for you, THE FIGHTING LIGHT BRIGADE!

 

“The Fighting Light Brigade” remained a staple in The Guidon‘s listing of school fight songs until 1968, when it disappeared from that publication. However, the tune made its triumphant return to the book in 1993, and is today one of five more or less “official” fight songs at The Citadel, even though it was inspired by a team nickname that has not been in use for almost 80 years.

In 1940, another song with lyrics referencing the Light Brigade made an appearance in The Guidon. This was “Cheer, Boys, Cheer”, not to be confused with the popular 19th-century song featuring that exact title (or yet another, unrelated fight song at The Citadel by that same name from the 1920s).

The 1940s-era “Cheers, Boys, Cheer” featured lyrics by Erroll Hay Colcock and music by Carl Metz (who served as The Citadel’s band director from 1912 to 1943). However, “Cheer, Boys, Cheer” evidently did not have the staying power of “The Fighting Light Brigade”, as its last appearance in The Guidon came in 1946.

Incidentally, Colcock and Metz teamed up to write several musical numbers for the school during this period, one of which (“The Citadel Forever”), like “The Fighting Light Brigade”, enjoys a place on the college’s list of official fight songs.

Tangent #2: if the name ‘Colcock’ sounds familiar, Erroll Hay Colcock was related to Richard W. Colcock, Superintendent of the South Carolina Military Academy (now known as The Citadel) from 1844 to 1852. He was her great-grandfather’s brother. Erroll Hay Colcock’s father was the principal of Porter Military Academy for many years.

Despite the push for the new nickname from the school, and the willingness of the press to go along with it, there was clearly always resistance to the change. Primary evidence for this comes from a noticeably long column by R.M. Hitt, Jr. in the October 15, 1939 edition of the local newspaper.

Hitt began his column (amusingly called “Hitt’s Runs and Errors”) by noting the dismay of Teddy Weeks over the switch. Weeks was a well-known former football and basketball star at The Citadel, an all-state performer for three consecutive years in both sports, and a hero of The Citadel’s first Homecoming game in 1924.

Later, he was a prominent coach in the Lowcountry at the high school level. (Weeks’ older brother was also an all-state quarterback at The Citadel; his son, Teddy Jr., played basketball at the military college for Norm Sloan.)

The sports editor quoted from a letter Weeks had written to him:

As you know, the Citadel teams have always been called the Bulldogs for as long as can be remembered. And they have been known for their ferocious attack, fighting always, never conceding defeat until the end.

I would like to suggest and I believe that I am voicing the sentiments of all the old Bulldog graduates…that you drop the term ‘Light Brigade’ and put back the old term of Bulldogs. In doing this I believe you might revamp the present team and put more vim, vigor and the will to do or die for the team and more spirit in the alumni.

Hitt then wrote 19 more paragraphs on the issue, one of the longer opinion columns on a single topic I can remember in the sports section of The News and Courier. It was particularly unusual for its length when considering the fact that it did not concern an actual game.

His initial comments following Weeks’ plea were as follows:

So there you are, Citadel men. After all, it’s your football team…it belongs to Citadel cadets and Citadel alumni.

It seems to us that if Citadel men want their team to be called Bulldogs it ought to be called Bulldogs. It certainly wouldn’t make much difference to us. In fact, Bulldogs can be more easily fitted into a headline that Light Brigade in many cases.

Hitt pointed out that there were arguments in favor of “Light Brigade”, observing that it was unique in a way that “Bulldogs” was not. He listed numerous other schools that shared the old nickname, including Arizona State (which changed its moniker from Bulldogs to Sun Devils in 1946).

The columnist wrote that school officials “decided the term was a trifle on the hackneyed side but they probably wouldn’t have touched it” if not for Fred Dixon’s efforts.

At that point, stated Hitt, “the phrase [Light Brigade] caught on. It carried the same atmosphere of grim determination, of fight to the death, and it was unique. No other institution had it. Light Brigade also brought in a military angle, an angle of which The Citadel is justly proud.”

However, Hitt then perceptively noted some of the drawbacks of the new nickname:

Use of ‘Light Brigade’ leaves much to be desired. It is not snappy enough and while newspapermen might delight in having the Brigade charge into the jaws of death with cannon on the right of them and cannon on the left of them, the nickname won’t fit very well into a good old salty college yell.

Imagine a wad of cadets screaming with zest such phrases as “Light Brigade! Light Brigade! Rah! Rah! Rah! Bulldogs would fit much easier. In fact Bulldogs does fit much easier.

All the yells in The Citadel’s category, as far as we know, fail to mention even once the term Light Brigade. The cadets, we noticed the other night, were still yelling about Bulldogs, fight, fight, fight.

The fact of the matter is, Light Brigade, because of its almost sacred historical significance, just never would sound right mixed up with rah-rahs and boom-booms.

Hitt finished his column by stating that “we have no authority to change the name back to Bulldogs. That’s up to The Citadel. If they say they’re the Light Brigade, then, by George, we’ll call them the Light Brigade. And if they say they’re not the Light Brigade but are the Bulldogs, then you’ll see us calling them Bulldogs. We ain’t mad at nobody.”

Reading it decades later, it seems to me that one of the more interesting things about Hitt’s column is its impartiality.

Hitt himself had not been a big sports fan, and had only been named the sports editor in the spring of 1938, when the job opened suddenly. Prior to that the native of Bamberg (whose parents had published the local weekly paper there) had worked the city beat for The News and Courier. 

When he was appointed to helm the sports section, he was just 24 years old. Hitt would eventually become the editor of The Evening Post, holding that job for 15 years until dying of complications from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 53.

Oh, and one more thing — Hitt was a 1935 graduate of The Citadel. You would never know it from reading that column.

The controversy, such as it was, limped along over the next couple of years. Over time, it became obvious that “Light Brigade” was not going to gain a following among alumni or the public at large.

One probable reason for this, something subtly alluded to by Teddy Weeks in his letter to the newspaper, was that the school’s teams were not all that successful while called the Light Brigade.

For the four years (1938 – 1941) in which The Citadel’s varsity athletic teams were officially known as the Light Brigade, the football team had a cumulative win/loss record of 17-21-1. The basketball squad was 30-40 over that same four-year period.

In the four years prior to the nickname switch, the football team went 18-18-2, while the hoopsters were 33-31. In other words, the fortunes on the gridiron and on the hardwood declined while The Citadel’s teams were called the Light Brigade.

In 1942, the year after the school reverted back to “Bulldogs”, both the football and basketball teams finished with winning records.

Lack of on-field and on-court success is obviously not the only explanation for why the “Light Brigade” moniker didn’t appeal to many of the school’s fans, but it certainly didn’t help.

In February of 1940, The News and Courier printed a short blurb which seemed to gently mock the nickname situation:

Many Charlestonians have suggested a new nickname for The Citadel’s football team.

The gridmen, instead of being called the Light Brigade, should be called the Bo-Cats.

The head coach is Bo Rowland and the assistant Bo Sherman.

I seriously doubt that many (if any) Charlestonians were making this suggestion, but I suppose it did fill up some blank space in the newspaper.

The death knell for the “Light Brigade” nickname was announced publicly on September 19, 1942. Under the heading “Citadel Nickname Again Bulldogs”, The News and Courier reported:

Citadel’s athletic teams this year again will be called the Bulldogs. For the past several years Blue and White aggregations from the military college have been carrying the nickname “Light Brigade”, but football publicity being churned out this fall shows that the school has returned to its original appellation — Bulldogs.

That wasn’t the end of “Light Brigade” in print, although the term’s usage with regards to The Citadel became increasingly rare.

In 1955, Ed Campbell (then The News and Courier‘s sports editor) used “Light Brigade” while mentioning a 1938 football game. From what I can tell, that was the last time in the 20th century in which the term was used in the local press to describe one of The Citadel’s varsity athletic teams, and even then the context was in reference to the past. The last use of the nickname in the newspaper while chronicling a “current” squad from the military college came in 1951, and that was in an AP article originating from New York.

My personal opinion is that the school eventually got it right. Sure, “Bulldogs” is a common nickname. So what? Over the years, The Citadel has put its own inimitable spin on “Bulldogs”.

Spike The Bulldog is very much unique among anthropomorphic characters, and the establishment of the live mascot program in 2003 has certainly helped differentiate The Citadel’s bulldogs from other collegiate exemplars of the breed (and has also generated a great deal of positive publicity for the college in the process).

More importantly, it is a nickname with which cadets and alumni can identify. It is something very traditional at a school that values tradition.

Conversely, I am not enamored with “Light Brigade” as a school nickname. The most famous light brigade, the one immortalized in poetry by Lord Tennyson, was a British military unit that is best known for:

…a failed military action involving the British light cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. British commander Lord Raglan had intended to send the Light Brigade to prevent the Russians from removing captured guns from overrun Turkish positions, a task for which the light cavalry were well-suited. However, there was miscommunication in the chain of command, and the Light Brigade was instead sent on a frontal assault against a different artillery battery, one well-prepared with excellent fields of defensive fire. The Light Brigade reached the battery under withering direct fire and scattered some of the gunners, but they were forced to retreat immediately, and the assault ended with very high British casualties and no decisive gains.

Is that really what anyone wants as a sobriquet for a football team?

I know, I know…Tennyson’s poem is largely about honoring bravery and sacrifice, no matter the circumstances, and that is very fine and laudable.

Let’s face it, though: players don’t suit up expecting to get badly beaten, and fans don’t go to a game hoping to experience the glory of a six-touchdown defeat.

The suggestion that the Light Brigade appellation has “almost sacred historical significance” also rings true. It is arguably difficult, if not impossible, to fully reconcile the term with a sporting motif.

The move to the “Light Brigade” nickname was a brief and curious episode in the long history of The Citadel, and is now a distant and mostly-forgotten memory. However, the valiant warriors will march on, and their courage shall not fade.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

2018 Football, Game 1: The Citadel vs. Wofford

Spartanburg, Sept. 18 [AP] — Showing a flashy passing game and ripping the Wofford line to shreds on running plays, The Citadel Bulldogs flattened the Wofford Terriers, 38-0, in the opening tilt of the 1937 season here this afternoon for both elevens.

…Kooksie Robinson, a hip-shaking ball of fire for the Cadets, was all over the field running and passing the ball with reckless abandon…

…Employing a tricky forward passing attack well mixed with line smashes, the Bulldogs rang up 29 first downs compared to only one for Wofford.

The Bulldogs gained 390 yards to 30 by Wofford by rushing. The Citadel attempted 12 forward passes and completed 5 for a total of 63 yards, as compared to no successful aerials for the Terriers, who tried two.

…Two thousand fans attended the game.

…Bulldog coaches have promised that this season their charges will really toss the ball around and that Charleston fans will see some of the hipper-dipper stuff which has raised the annual fall madness to a hysterical pitch.

-The News and Courier, September 19, 1937

The Citadel at Wofford, to be played to be played at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 1, 2018.

The game will be televised by WYCW-62 (Spartanburg, SC), and streamed on ESPN+. Jason Patterson will handle play-by-play, while Toby Cates supplies the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via the various affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. 

Luke Mauro (the new “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Cal McCombs. The sideline reporter will be Jay Harper.

The Citadel Sports Network — 2018 radio affiliates

Charleston: WQNT 1450AM/92.1 FM/102.1 FM (Flagship)
Columbia: WQXL 1470AM/100.7FM
Greenville: WLFJ 92.9FM/660AM
Sumter: WDXY 1240AM/105.9FM

Per The Citadel’s game notes:

Head Coach Brent Thompson joins “Voice of the Bulldogs” Luke Mauro for The Brent Thompson Radio Show each Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. at the Marina Variety Store. The show airs on ESPN Radio – 94.7 FM & 910 AM in Charleston.

At the time of this post, it was unclear whether or not the radio show would be simulcast on YouTube, as has been the case for the last three years.

A few of my recent posts revolving around The Citadel’s football program in general and the upcoming season in particular:

– Part 1 of Inside the Numbers (The Citadel’s 2017 run/pass tendencies and yards per play numbers)

– Part 2 of Inside the Numbers (The Citadel’s 2017 fourth-down decision-making and plenty of other statistics)

– A look at advanced statistics, first down/third down information, and standard/passing down data

– Last year’s conference-only statistics for the SoCon (all teams), with some additional league observations

– Preseason rankings and ratings

– Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium: the annual review

– Which teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

– A glance at the SoCon non-conference slate

Creating more big plays with an aggressive fourth-down philosophy

Links of interest:

– Season preview from The Post and Courier

– Preview of Saturday’s game from The Post and Courier

– STATS SoCon preview (The Citadel is picked to finish 7th in the SoCon)

– Hero Sports’ preview of the Bulldogs (The Citadel is picked to finish 6th in the SoCon)

– Season preview from the Chattanooga Times Free Press

– SoCon outlook from the Chattanooga Times Free Press

– SoConSports.com preview of the league (Part 1 and Part 2)

– Countdown to Kickoff: The Citadel (video featuring interviews of Brent Thompson, Jordan Black, and Aron Spann III)

– SoCon media and coaches’ preseason polls (The Citadel is picked to finish 7th in both polls)

– The Citadel: Quick Facts

The Citadel’s 2018 leadoff “Hype Video”

Wofford: Quick Facts

– Game notes from The Citadel and Wofford

– SoCon weekly release

– FCS Coaches’ poll

– Profile of Jordan Black in The Post and Courier

– Brent Thompson has a conversation with Phil Kornblut (8/23) on SportsTalk; Kornblut also talks to Jordan Black and Aron Spann III

– Brent Thompson’s 8/28 press conference (video)

– Mike Capaccio is the new director of athletics at The Citadel

No warmup for Wofford

Countdown to Kickoff: Wofford (video featuring interviews of Josh Conklin, Miles Brown, and Andre Stoddard)

Wofford season preview in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal

It’s time for football!

FOOTBALL!!!

FOOTBALL!!!

FOOTBALL!!!

For those fans attending the game on Saturday, keep in mind that the “clear bag” rule which has become the norm in many stadiums across the country will apply to Gibbs Stadium beginning this season:

Wofford College will institute a clear bag policy for all events at Gibbs Stadium and Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium starting with Wofford’s home opening game against The Citadel on September 1.

The policy will help enhance existing security measures and ensure a safe environment for all guests while making for a quicker entry into the venues. The policy will be in effect for all Wofford athletic contests as well as special events…

…Fans will be permitted to enter with a clear bag that does not exceed 12″ in height by 6″ in depth by 12″ in width. A simple one-gallon clear plastic bag, such as a Ziploc bag or similar, is acceptable.

Fans will be allowed to carry in a small clutch bag, approximately the size of a hand or 4.5″ by 6.5″, with or without a handle or strap.

An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at the game.

For the first two home football games, Wofford will be providing 1,500 free clear bags thanks to Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s Sports Medicine Institute. These bags will be available at all gates, as well as at the entrances to parking lots.

Also not to be ignored: an updated Wofford campus parking map.

Saturday’s game is being promoted by Wofford as “Blackout the Bulldogs”. Fans of the Terriers are being encouraged to wear black. Other promotions for the game: schedule magnets, posters, and a $10,000 drawing.

It will be interesting to see how black contrasts with large quantities of light blue and white. The Citadel should (as usual) bring a sizable contingent of fans.

Also making an appearance: 600 freshmen from the Corps of Cadets. Don’t be surprised if quite a few upperclassmen make the trip to Spartanburg as well.

At the beginning of this post, I included an excerpt from a game story of the 1937 matchup between The Citadel and Wofford in Spartanburg, the season opener for both schools that year. That 1937 season turned out to be a good one for the Bulldogs, with Tatum Gressette’s squad finishing 7-4.

(It would have been 8-3 if not for the cheatin’ refs in Orangeburg, as the Man in the Brown Suit would say.)

The Citadel also picked up wins over Furman and Richmond during that 1937 campaign, along with a 46-7 thumping of Erskine in Charleston.

Erskine discontinued its football program 14 years later, following the 1951 season. Last week, however, the school announced that the Flying Fleet would return to the gridiron in time for the 2020 campaign.

Wofford was 2-7 in 1937, with wins over Newberry and Presbyterian, both at home. The Terriers’ other game in Spartanburg that season resulted in a loss to Oglethorpe. One must always be wary of the Stormy Petrels, as they do not know how to give up.

Last year, The Citadel and Mercer were the only two league teams that had instant replay review capability. This season, three more schools (Furman, Western Carolina, and Samford) will employ the technology.

That leaves four SoCon schools still without it: Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, VMI, and Wofford.

Allegedly, all league schools will be required to have instant replay review by 2019. Whether or not that actually happens won’t be known until next year, of course.

At any rate, Saturday’s game will be one of just two league contests this season played by The Citadel in which instant replay review won’t be used (the Bulldogs’ game at VMI is the other).

Fans of the Bulldogs will understandably be concerned about the lack of replay review, given the game’s location and the state of the SoCon’s officiating. There is nothing that can be done about it, however. The league office is apparently satisfied with the current state of affairs, in which conference matchups are contested under two sets of rules, depending on where the game is played.

Wofford has an unusual dilemma right now: The Jerry Richardson Problem.

After Sports Illustrated reported last December that the Carolina Panthers owner had made monetary settlements to multiple individuals due to “inappropriate” workplace conduct by Richardson (including sexually suggestive behavior and a racial slur), things went downhill fast for the founder of the franchise. He received a $2.75 million fine from the NFL, and was basically forced to sell the club.

Richardson’s impact on his alma mater has been enormous, which has raised questions about what (if anything) the school plans to do in response to the developments of the past nine months. It’s a tough situation; after all, just this past winter Wofford’s alumni magazine headlined a laudatory story about the school’s well-known benefactor “The Remarkable Jerry Richardson”, with a now-unconvincing subtitle: “And the core values that led to the new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium”.

Would Wofford consider changing the name of its new basketball arena, or its physical activities center? Will the statue of Richardson that was installed on campus just a few years ago be removed?

Don’t count on it.

Spartanburg-based Wofford College, where Richardson is an alumnus and former trustee member, also has an indoor stadium and physical activities building named after him.

Wofford did not answer questions about whether buildings will keep bearing Richardson’s name.

“Mr. Richardson’s contributions to Wofford College are extraordinary, and for that we are grateful,” spokeswoman Laura Corbin said in a statement. “It is not appropriate for us to comment further.”

I saw an online comment from a Wofford fan that “without [Richardson] we are Presbyterian and getting ready to play Division III football”, which probably sums up the feelings of many of the Terriers’ gridiron supporters.

The powers-that-be at Wofford also have to be mindful of what Richardson could potentially leave the college in his will.

A side issue (but a very important one) related to the Richardson saga is the status of Wofford as the host of the Panthers’ training camp. Could the team move its camp elsewhere in the near future?

Richard Johnson, the school’s director of athletics and inarguably Wofford’s most well-educated administrator, had this to say earlier in the summer:

“The trend is not to go off to camp anymore,” Johnson said. “We’re one of the few places that still hosts camps (away from NFL cities). That’s clearly the trend. What does that do to us? It’s too early to tell. We haven’t had those conversations.”

Johnson said the Panthers’ impact on the Upstate has been “immeasurable,” and he said that there aren’t many places like Spartanburg and Wofford that would have been able to build facilities fit for a professional football team, an hour’s drive from an NFL city.

“We thought it was kind of the perfect symmetry and everything kind of came together for us,” Johnson said. “But times change and interests change and needs change. We’re going to continue to do what we can to be helpful and to provide facilities and service that suits them for as long as they need us to. If it’s not any more, well, we’ve had a great run and we’re very appreciative and it’s been wonderful.”

Wofford has a new play-by-play voice for football, Jim Noble, after longtime radio man Mark Hauser could not come to a contractual agreement with the school. This development was a bit unsettling to a portion of the Terriers’ fanbase, particularly when combined with the departure of much of the football coaching staff (though the latter situation was a more natural occurrence with a new head coach on the scene).

Hauser, who is paid through IMG College…informed the company that he could no longer continue as play-by-play announcer for the same compensation as years past. He said his disappointment, however, is actually with the school.

…“It comes down to whether Wofford wanted to take out any more money from its budget [said Hauser]. In the end, for me, it’s Wofford’s call.”

Hauser said there was no discussion. Nobody even asked how much more money he wanted.

“That’s the most disappointing thing,” he said. “At no point did anyone ever say, ‘Well, what would it take? What are you looking for?’ They didn’t ask if I wanted $5 more a game or $50 or $100. I might have shocked them. But it never even got off the ground for a negotiation. After this many years, I feel like I should’ve gotten a phone call from somebody to at least talk about it.”

…Sports information director Brent Williamson said the school would be interested in bringing Hauser back “if he wants to work for what he worked for last year.”

Hauser began doing Wofford football games in 1992 and became an honorary letterman in the athletics department’s hall of fame in 2000.

That quote from Williamson sounds a bit abrupt, so it is only fair to note the SID also said of Hauser’s time with the school, “It was an unbelievable relationship. We’re definitely going to miss him and we know our fans are going to miss him.”

The Terriers’ audio broadcasts are online-only. I don’t know if that was a factor in Wofford’s evaluation of Hauser’s value, but Wofford does not have a radio network, and (unlike The Citadel) does not even have a station in the Greenville-Spartanburg area carrying its football games at the present time.

Wofford did use its radio broadcast team to provide the audio for its home ESPN3 games in the past. I’m not sure if that will be true going forward; it will not be the case on Saturday.

Saturday’s game will be on ESPN+ and WYCW-62, a local TV station in Spartanburg. All of Wofford’s home games except one, the matchup with East Tennessee State, will be carried by WYCW and either ESPN+ or ESPN3; the contest against the Buccaneers will be on ESPN+ but not WYCW.

Josh Conklin is the new head coach at Wofford. He replaces Mike Ayers, who retired after 30 seasons as the Terriers’ head man.

Conklin, who turned 39 years old in June, is a Wyoming native who graduated from Dakota State. He then began his coaching career at South Dakota State (no, not the same school). After several years there, he moved to Wofford for three years, then The Citadel for two seasons (serving as the defensive coordinator under Kevin Higgins).

He spent one year at Tennessee and two seasons at FIU before becoming the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, where he stayed for three years before taking the Wofford job.

Conklin’s brother-in-law, Al Clark III, and father-in-law, Al Clark Jr., both played football at Wofford. Each is well connected to the school, with the younger Clark a former official with the Terrier Club and a onetime assistant director of athletics, while his father is a longtime associate of Wofford trustee Jimmy I. Gibbs (for whose family the Terriers’ football stadium is named).

Also worth mentioning:  Conklin extolled the virtues of Mexican food in a Chattanooga newspaper article, specifically name-checking two local restaurants. I was dubious at first (Tex-Mex in Spartanburg?), but I’ve subsequently been informed by an unquestioned authority that ‘Willy Taco’ is legit, so there you go.

The coaching staff underwent a major makeover after Conklin got the job, though longtime assistant Wade Lang (31 years at Wofford) remains on board, also retaining his title as offensive coordinator. Other than Lang and tight ends coach B.J. Connelly, it is a fairly young staff, though Conklin also kept wide receivers coach Freddie Brown (who has been at the school for eight seasons).

While relatively youthful, it appears to be a group with some promise, though by far the most impressive résumé on the staff clearly belongs to equipment manager VanDyke Jones II.

The primary football-related issue that people are talking about with regards to Conklin:  will he change the Terriers’ offense? Is Wofford about to become a team that throws the ball all over the lot? Are the days of the triple option over in Spartanburg?

Well, probably not — at least, not right away.

That said, Wofford worked in the spring on diversifying its offense via the pass:

…the difference [from previous spring scrimmages] was that many of these passes were called at the line of scrimmage by quarterbacks Joe Newman and Miller Mosley.

“They’ve been working on their RPOs (read/pass options),” [Josh] Conklin said. “I was really pleased.”

…“I think we just have to have the ability to throw the ball,” Conklin said. “And I’m not talking down-the-field, vertical passing game. I’m talking about things that the defense is going to give because of what we do schematically as far as running the ball. They have to commit nine guys to the run. That allows us to attack the flats and do some other things.

“We need to get into second-and-5, third-and-2. Those are hard for the defense, especially when we can run the ball like we do.”

Conklin further explained his offensive philosophy in a conversation with Chattanooga sportswriter Gene Henley:

Part of who Conklin ultimately will be is a coach who adjusts the option offense the Terriers have run for decades, although it doesn’t sound like he’ll be opening it up too much. Wofford hasn’t thrown 20 passes in a game for 10 seasons, but the new leader would like to see the Terriers eventually get to “20-25 attempts” a game.

“We’re going to incorporate some run-pass option on offense,” Conklin said. “When you look at how people have defended us offensively, you have to be able to throw the ball a little more vertically and relieve some pressure off the run game.”

A few links to articles from the Spartanburg Herald-Journal on Wofford’s preseason practices:

2017 FCS national rankings (all games) in select categories for The Citadel and Wofford:

The Citadel Wofford
Scoring offense 75 54
Scoring defense 64 36
Avg rush/play – offense 18 21
Avg rush/play – defense 94 33
Avg yards/pass attempt – offense 39 11
Avg yards/pass attempt – defense 103 47
Yards per play – offense 55 48
Yards per play – defense 102 35
Tackles for loss rate – defense 20 88
Turnover margin 48T 32
Penalty yards per game 6 21
Net punt average 60 30
Time of possession/game 1 39
3rd down conversion rate – offense 24 8
3rd down conversion rate – defense 42 112
Red Zone TD rate – offense 90 16
Red Zone TD rate – defense 117 72

There was a competition to be the starting quarterback at Wofford this season. That appears to have been decided, however (even though the two-deep for the Terriers lists two potential starters at the position).

Joe Newman, a 5’11”, 181 lb. junior from Riverdale, Georgia, is a dynamic athlete capable of making big plays. He proved that during the 2016 playoffs in games against The Citadel and Youngstown State, appearing in relief in both of those contests, and scoring touchdowns in each game.

Frankly, I was surprised he wasn’t employed more often by the Terriers last season. It is hard to argue with the team’s results, of course, but Newman brings something to the table that Wofford hasn’t always had, a true breakaway threat at quarterback.

He is considered much more of a runner than a passer (for his career, he is 10 for 26 passing, with 2 interceptions). If he is going to get most of the snaps under center, it is hard to see Wofford going into passing mode much more often than it has in the past. Of course, he may have improved his skills in that area.

Andre Stoddard, Wofford’s starting fullback, received first-team All-SoCon honors last season after rushing for 825 yards and 15 touchdowns. One of the few league games in which the 5’10”, 240 lb. senior from Greenville didn’t excel came against The Citadel; Stoddard did rush for a score, but was held to ten yards on eight carries.

The Terriers have two halfbacks who can make big plays. Lennox McAfee (5’7″, 175 lbs.), a senior from Nashville, averaged 7.5 yards per rush last season. McAfee can catch the football out of the backfield, as can 5’9″, 190 lb. speedster Blake Morgan. The native of Florida caught 22 passes last season, including three against The Citadel. Morgan averaged 6.2 yards per carry.

While listed as a backup on the depth chart, Jason Hill (5’11”, 195 lbs.) is someone to watch when it comes to long gainers. Last season, the junior from Spartanburg caught two TD passes — a 59-yarder against The Citadel, and a 75-yard catch versus Presbyterian. The player who threw him the football against PC? Lennox McAfee.

Average size of Wofford’s projected starters on the offensive line: 6’3″, 292 lbs. That is in line with the average size of the Terriers’ starters on the o-line in previous seasons (6’3″, 297 lbs. in 2017; 6’3″, 296 lbs. in 2016).

Left tackle Michael Ralph (6’4″, 290 lbs.) is a preseason first-team all-conference pick. The junior from Ohio started all 13 games for the Terriers last season at right tackle.

Justus Basinger (6’4″, 305 lbs.) started all 13 games for Wofford last season at right guard, and the junior from Longwood, Florida is expected to do the same this year. Basinger is a preseason second-team all-SoCon choice on the offensive line; admittedly, no fewer than eight guys are preseason second-team all-league selections on the o-line, but he is a fine player regardless.

Wofford’s defense is keyed by its defensive line, which is both enormous and very effective.

Miles Brown, the Terriers’ 6’2″, 320 lb. nosetackle, is probably the best player on Wofford’s roster, and one of the better players in the SoCon. In a league with several truly exceptional defensive linemen, Brown is a standout.

The senior from Maryland has started on the d-line for the Terriers since his freshman campaign.

Brown’s primary tag-team partner on the defensive line is 6’1″, 300 lb. Mikel Horton. While he missed some time last season (appearing in only eight games), the native of Kentucky made an impact when on the field. Horton, a junior, was a second team all-league pick last year.

Wofford has shifted some players around on the defensive line and at linebacker. One player staying in place is inside linebacker Datavious (DT) Wilson (6’1″, 225 lbs.), a tackling machine from Hartsville. The junior was a preseason first-team All-SoCon selection.

The Terriers have an experienced secondary. Devin Watson, a 5’11”, 190 lb. senior cornerback, was a first-team all-league choice last season after making 55 tackles and intercepting four passes.

Mason Alstatt (6’0″, 210 lbs.), a junior safety from Kentucky, was a preseason second-team all-conference choice. Alstatt was the second-leading tackler on the team last year (with 76 stops).

Luke Carter (6’1″, 215 lbs.) was the all-SoCon placekicker in 2017 after finishing the season 11 for 12 on field goal tries, with a long of 44 yards, and not missing a PAT all year (41 for 41). Carter also served as the Terriers’ punter, and the junior from Florence will handle both roles for Wofford again this season (in addition to being the kickoff specialist).

Miller Mosley (5’11”, 185 lbs.) is the Terriers’ holder on placements, and (as seen above) he also may be in the game at quarterback at times. The sophomore from Alabama is obviously someone who has to be accounted for when it comes to possible fake field goal attempts.

As has been the case for the last three seasons, Ross Hammond (6’1″, 230 lbs.) is Wofford’s long snapper. Hammond is a third-generation college football player.

Lennox McAfee will be Wofford’s primary punt returner and will also be on the kickoff return team, as will starting free safety JoJo Tillery (6’2″, 210 lbs.). While McAfee is the primary threat on both return units, Tillery is a good athlete with a fair amount of speed. He has only one career kick return, however.

Odds and ends:

– Wofford, perhaps inspired by The Bronze Bulldog, has a new on-campus sculpture, one probably safe from controversy. It is a bronze rendition of a Boston Terrier.

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Spartanburg, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers during the day and into the evening. It is expected to be partly sunny, with a high near 88 degrees. The projected low on Saturday night is about 70 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 10-point underdog at Wofford, with an over/under of 48.

That is easily the biggest spread for this particular matchup in several years. The over/under is slightly higher than has been the norm in recent seasons.

– Other lines involving SoCon teams: On Thursday night, Chattanooga is a 13.5-point favorite over Tennessee Tech, while Samford is favored over Shorter by 45.5 points.

Saturday, Western Carolina is a 21.5-point favorite over Newberry; VMI is a 46-point underdog at Toledo; Mercer is a 26-point underdog at Memphis; and Furman is a 48.5-point underdog at Clemson.

There was no readily available line for the Mars Hill-East Tennessee State game.

Also of note: Towson is a 23-point favorite at Morgan State; Charleston Southern is a 39.5-point underdog at Florida; and Alabama is a 25-point favorite over Louisville in Orlando.

Massey Ratings: The Citadel is ranked 57th in FCS as of August 27 (the Bulldogs moved up 3 spots following Week 0 action). Wofford is ranked 33rd.

Massey projects the Bulldogs to have an 21% chance of winning, with a predicted final score of Wofford 27, The Citadel 17.

Other FCS rankings of note in Massey (as of August 27): Kennesaw State (19th), Samford (25th), Yale (28th), Furman (29th), Elon (35th), Mercer (39th), Towson (40th), Colgate (41st), Western Carolina (45th), UT Martin (55th), Charleston Southern (56th), Chattanooga (58th), East Tennessee State (81st), Gardner-Webb (84th), Tennessee Tech (92nd), South Carolina State (93rd), Presbyterian (95th), VMI (113th), Davidson (124th), Mississippi Valley State (125th and last).

Massey’s top 5 FCS squads to begin the 2018 campaign: North Dakota State, James Madison, South Dakota State, Weber State, and Western Illinois.

In case you were wondering about Massey’s preseason rankings of certain squads that participate in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the top ten (in order) in the FBS standings as of August 27: Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Wisconsin, Auburn, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma State. Florida State is 25th, South Carolina 33rd, Memphis 42nd, Navy 51st, North Carolina 57th, Army 65th, Appalachian State 67th, Wyoming 72nd, Tennessee 73rd, Toledo 74th, Air Force 89th, Old Dominion 117th, Coastal Carolina 121st, Georgia Southern 122nd, Charlotte 124th, Liberty 129th, and Jim Senter’s UTEP 130th and last.

– Wofford’s roster includes 35 players from South Carolina. Other states represented on its roster: Georgia (14 players), Florida (9), North Carolina (8), Ohio (8), Tennessee (8), Kentucky (4), Maryland (3), Virginia (2), and one each from Alabama, Maine, and New Jersey. Ronnie Brooks, a junior offensive lineman listed on the Terriers’ two-deep, is from Washington, DC (and attended Maret School, where the head basketball coach is one Chuck Driesell).

Oddly, none of Wofford’s 35 players from the Palmetto State are graduates of traditional pigskin powerhouse Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. While former coach Mike Ayers is said to have retired on his own terms, the possibility remains that the coach was gently but firmly “pushed out” due to his failure to recruit gridiron mainstays from the famed Maroon and Orange.

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (47), Georgia (28), Florida (9), North Carolina (5), Texas (5), Tennessee (4), Pennsylvania (3), Alabama (2), New York (2), and one each from Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

Music matters at The Citadel’s practices. Surprisingly and disappointingly, though, neither Alison Krauss nor Ella Fitzgerald are featured.

– The Citadel’s game notes state that the “Block C” on the helmets is back for the 2018 season! This is very good news indeed.

It is the opening game of the 2018 campaign, and the level of excitement is high. I think the level of uncertainty is a little bit on the high side, too.

I could write a lot of sentences about my expectations for the opener, but to be honest, I’m not completely sure what my expectations are.

(Also, I’ve written way too many sentences in this post already.)

I guess the bottom line is that I think the Bulldogs are going to be good this season. How good, I don’t know.

We’ll begin to find out on Saturday.

Can’t wait…