2020 Football, Game 3: The Citadel vs. Eastern Kentucky

The Citadel vs. Eastern Kentucky, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on September 26, 2020.

The game will be streamed on ESPN3. Kevin Fitzgerald will handle play-by-play, while Brandon McCladdie 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 “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze

The Citadel Sports Network — 2020 radio affiliates

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

Links of interest:

– Game preview in The Post and Courier

– Game notes from The Citadel and Eastern Kentucky

A home game like none other

– The SoCon isn’t playing football this fall

Preview on The Citadel’s website

– Preview on Eastern Kentucky’s website

– Brent Thompson’s 9/21 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/23)

– There will be pods in the stands at Johnson Hagood Stadium on September 26. Yes, pods.

–  Eastern Kentucky vs. Marshall (WatchESPN video)

–  EKU is playing nine games in the fall and eschewing the spring, and it may have the right idea

–  Athlon Sports preview of the game

–  EKU student newspaper game preview

I was not aware the radio broadcasts of The Citadel’s football games were available “on demand”, but that is in fact the case. Here they are. Link

Obviously, things could have gone better for the Bulldogs in the first two games of the season. I think it is fair for fans to be mildly disappointed in the team’s play.

However, it hasn’t been a complete debacle (though at times in the first half against Clemson, it did seem like one). Quick observations, mostly of the “well, of course” variety:

  • Clemson is really good. Some of our defensive backs had good coverage and still got burned. I’m not going to worry about that, as this time next year Trevor Lawrence will probably be doing the same thing to NFL pro bowlers.
  • It’s tough to operate a run-intensive offense when you don’t have any experienced running backs.
  • That said, there is no excuse for all the pre-snap penalties. In two games, The Citadel has been called for 9 false starts and two delay-of-game infractions. I don’t care who you’re playing with or against, that’s way too many. The Bulldogs cannot afford those kinds of mistakes; they tend to short-circuit drives.
  • The defense has not played that badly, in my opinion. Tackling has been a little bit of an issue, but what the Bulldogs’ D really needs are more forced turnovers.
  • Special teams (one notable gaffe aside) have been okay. I thought Clemson should have been called for a penalty on its long punt return, but those are the breaks.
  • There were two occasions against Clemson that The Citadel elected to punt on 4th down, when I thought Brent Thompson should have gone for it. It wasn’t a big deal, but in a game like that, you should go for it whenever possible.

Oh, one other thing…

I applaud Thompson for not agreeing to shorten the game:

“We came here to play 60 minutes of football, and that’s what we were going to do,” Thompson said. “It didn’t matter whether I was going to get beat by 100 or get beat by 50. We were going to stand in there and play a full 60 minutes of football.

“They wanted to shorten (the quarters) to 10 minutes, but that’s not what we came here to do. That’s not what we’re about, that’s not what The Citadel is about, and I’m not going to cave in to that at all.”

Exactly right, coach. Exactly right.

Eastern Kentucky is located in Richmond, Kentucky, a little over 500 miles from Charleston. The school was founded in 1906…or maybe 1874. It depends on how you look at it:

The Kentucky General Assembly of 1906 enacted legislation establishing the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School. Governor J.C. Beckham signed the bill into law on March 21, 1906. On May 7 of that year, the Normal School Commission, meeting in Louisville, selected the campus of the old Central University, founded in 1874 in Richmond, as the site of the new school. On June 2, 1906, Ruric Nevel Roark was chosen President of the Normal School and the training of teachers was begun.

Ruric Nevel Roark (now that’s a name) led the institution until 1909, when he died of brain cancer. He was succeeded as school president by his wife, Mary Creegan Roark, which was unusual for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that at the time, women did not have the right to vote.

The college became a four-year institution in 1925. It was renamed Eastern Kentucky University in 1966. There are currently a little over 13,000 undergraduates at EKU, along with more than 2,000 graduate students. Most of the students are ensconced on the main campus, a rural setting of about 900 acres.

Eastern Kentucky was an early power in I-AA after the split of Division I football in 1978. The Colonels made four consecutive I-AA championship games between 1979 and 1982, winning two of them (the ’82 team finished 13-0).

The coach of those teams, and of many other EKU squads, was Roy Kidd, who won 314 games in a 39-year stint as head coach of the Colonels. While his later teams never quite reached the lofty heights of those outfits from the early 1980s, Kidd regularly won OVC titles and made NCAA appearances until the late 1990s. EKU finished with a winning record in each of his final 25 seasons as head coach.

After Kidd retired, he was succeeded by Danny Hope, who (like Kidd) was an alumnus of EKU. Hope won one conference title in five years before leaving to become (after a one-year wait) the head coach at Purdue.

The next coach charged with recreating the magic was Dean Hood, who spent seven years at Eastern Kentucky, winning two league crowns and making three NCAA trips. However, all three of those postseason appearances ended in the first round (in fact, EKU has not won a playoff game since 1994).

Following Hood (who is now the head coach at Murray State), Eastern Kentucky hired Mark Elder, who lasted four seasons. None of his teams reached the postseason, and his contract was not renewed after the 2019 campaign.

EKU’s new coach is Walt Wells, who previously served as an assistant at the school to both Kidd and Hood. This is Wells’ first head coaching job in a career that began in 1994 and has included stops at six universities and two high schools. For the last two seasons, Wells was a quality control assistant at Kentucky.

His specialty is the offensive line, as he coached the OL unit at EKU, New Mexico State, Western Kentucky, South Florida, and Tennessee. Wells played at Austin Peay before transferring to get his bachelor’s degree at Belmont.

While The Citadel and Eastern Kentucky have never met on the gridiron, there was a time in the mid-1990s when some folks at EKU would have been willing to play the Bulldogs on an annual basis, because they were very interested in joining the Southern Conference. From an Associated Press story dated June 25, 1995:

…for most of [Eastern Kentucky’s] coaches, however, it’s time to make a turn to the Southern Conference.

“It’s time that Eastern probably takes a good, hard look at maybe getting in the Southern Conference,” said EKU coach Roy Kidd, adding that all its sports programs “should take a good look at the Southern Conference.”

Southern Conference officials visited EKU in the early 1990s to evaluate the school as a possible member.

Eastern Kentucky’s president at the time was Hanley Funderburk, who advocated reducing the scholarship limit in I-AA from 63 to 45. I think it is reasonable to suggest that Funderburk was not on the same page with many of the school’s coaches (including Kidd) on the subject of conference affiliation — and perhaps a few other things as well.

It appears that some of the coaches were also unhappy with the OVC adding schools to its membership that were “so far away” from Eastern Kentucky, including UT-Martin, Southeast Missouri State, and Eastern Illinois.

(It should be pointed out that all three of those schools are geographically closer to Eastern Kentucky than is The Citadel.)

At the time, the SoCon was at ten schools, but everyone in the conference knew that Marshall was ready to bolt as soon as it got a chance to move to I-A. That happened in 1997, but the league elected to focus more on basketball in adding new members, bringing in UNC-Greensboro (along with Wofford) and, a year later, College of Charleston.

I don’t know if EKU was still interested in affiliating with the SoCon by 1997 (Funderburk remained as president of the school until 1998). One thing that clearly did not change was the scholarship limit.

In recent years, Eastern Kentucky angled for another conference affiliation. This time, however, the aim wasn’t the SoCon, but the Sun Belt. From an article in 2013:

In college football circles in the commonwealth, the scuttlebutt about Eastern Kentucky University in recent weeks has been rampant. Word is that Eastern, under its new president, Michael T. Benson, is considering moving its football program into the Football Bowl Sub-Division.

The rumors are true.

“There is some discussion of that,” EKU Athletics Director Mark Sandy…”It would be a big decision by our Board (of Regents) and president.”

Sandy said the idea of EKU joining Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky in the FBS is not as simple as Eastern just deciding to make the move.

[…]”You can’t just decide you want to move your program up,” [Sandy] said. “You have to have a conference invite you. So, unless or until that happens, it’s just something we are taking a look at.”

Sandy mentioned the Sun Belt Conference — which Western is leaving after this school year to join Conference-USA — or the Mid-American Conference as possible FBS leagues that could be a good fit for EKU…

…WKU, Eastern’s historic rival, made the move in 2009. The success that Western, which made a bowl game last season and has now beaten UK two years in a row, has enjoyed has not gone unnoticed in Richmond.

“We’ve kind of kept our eyes on the things Western Kentucky has done,” Sandy said. “That is something that we’ve factored into our thinking.”

A move from the FCS to the FBS would require a significant financial investment by EKU into its football program. It would mean going from a level that allows 63 football scholarships to one where there are 85 such players. “There would also be a need to enhance our facilities, there’s no question about that,” Sandy said.

At this point, Sandy said its premature to attach any timetable to it if or when EKU will try to make a step up in football classification. “Too soon to tell,” he said. “It’s something we’re going to look at and see if we are a viable candidate.”

By 2014, Eastern Kentucky had decided it was definitely a viable FBS candidate, applying to join the Sun Belt that year. It applied the following year as well.

Even though the university is planning a campus-wide construction boom of over $200 million dollars, the Sun Belt had facility questions, leading EKU to revise [its proposal].

So EKU pitched a $10 million stadium renovation.

“If you were to look at our athletic facilities, not a lot has been done to them over the last two, three decades,” EKU President Michael Benson told SB Nation. “I think that was particularly noticeable with our football stadium, which, when it was built in the late 1960s, it was one of the biggest in I-AA football. The bones of it are probably pretty good. It doesn’t have any of the amenities that one expects to see at an FBS level.

“The input we got back from the Sun Belt was that we needed to focus on football, softball, and baseball. We’ve already done the improvements to our basketball facility, and now it’s a great arena.”

In the end, the Sun Belt chose Coastal Carolina over Eastern Kentucky. It appears EKU will be remaining in FCS for the foreseeable future. Coincidentally, Michael Benson resigned as president of the school, leaving at the beginning of this year. The director of athletics (who had been in that role since 2015) also resigned, departing in October of 2019.

This season, Eastern Kentucky is playing nine football games and is not going to compete in the spring.

…the OVC gave its members permission to play up to four non-league games this fall while holding out hope of a conference football season in the spring of 2021.

EKU said thank you, but no thank you.

A founding member of the OVC, Eastern decided to go rogue on that league’s aspirations for spring football for three main reasons, [director of athletics Matt] Roan said.

First was concern about the health impact on players of playing back-to-back football seasons in one year.

“Even if you play only seven (games in the spring) and then you play 11 ‘next year,’ that’s 18 football games in a calendar year,” Roan said. “For us, there were some serious safety concerns.”

The second problem was the weather.

“Where we are located, spring football is really winter football, at least the front part of the schedule,” Roan said. “Well, we lack an indoor facility. We lack a lot of equipment and supplies to be able to effectively support our football student-athletes with playing games in January and February.”

The third issue was worry it would stretch Eastern’s athletics staff and facilities too thin.

“When you talk about the size of our staff, the infrastructure we have from a facilities standpoint, it’s great but it is not designed — from our training room to out sports performance center — to effectively provide services for all 16 of our teams in one semester,” Roan said.

Moving forward, one wonders if Eastern going its own way with its 2020 football schedule will weaken the bonds of affection between the university and the OVC.

“I’m not naive enough to say that there is probably not some frustration (within the league),” Roan said. “I think, peer to peer, as I have talked with some of the OVC ADs, I think they kind of appreciate that what we did wasn’t a decision done in haste.”

Start with the FBS road games at Marshall, West Virginia and Troy. Roan said EKU will reap roughly $1 million in combined guarantee money from those three contests.

Frankly, I think all three of Roan’s major concerns are legitimate (two of them would also apply to The Citadel). I believe spring football is still a very dicey proposition at best. I hope it works out for all the schools that are counting on it, but I have serious reservations.

What Eastern Kentucky is doing makes a lot of sense. It is quite possible that EKU will be in better position for a “normal” 2021 fall campaign (in all of its sports) than most other schools.

It seems that Mike Capaccio, AD at The Citadel, largely agrees:

“To be honest, they may have the right model,” Capaccio said. “I think it’s important to play as many games as you can in the fall. We would have liked to play more, because I have no faith about playing in the spring.

“You are talking about playing everyone of our sports in the spring in one semester, and trying to manage the logistics of that. I never thought it was possible and was never in agreement with that.”

Coming off a bye week, Eastern Kentucky is 0-2 this season after road losses to Marshall (59-0) and West Virginia (56-10). After playing The Citadel, the remainder of the Colonels’ schedule includes one more FBS opponent (Troy), home games against Western Carolina, Stephen F. Austin, and Houston Baptist, and a home-and-home with Central Arkansas.

The matchup with Houston Baptist (which is next weekend) was just scheduled last Wednesday.

One of the many aspects of playing college football in a COVID-19 world is that you are never sure which players will appear in a game (or if the game will be played, for that matter). Because of that, I’m only going to highlight a limited number of players for EKU.

Parker McKinney (6’2″, 208 lbs.) is the starting quarterback for Eastern Kentucky. McKinney, a redshirt sophomore from Coalfield, Tennessee, has completed 56.3% of his passes during his career, averaging 6.57 yards per attempt, with 12 TDs and 12 interceptions. He will occasionally run the football, averaging just over 7 carries per game (that includes sacks, however).

The Colonels had two preseason OVC all-conference selections. One of them was running back Alonzo Booth (6’1″, 250 lbs.), a wrecking ball of a back from Columbus, Ohio.

Booth, a redshirt junior, rushed for 14 touchdowns last season.

Keyion Dixon (6’3″, 185 lbs.), a transfer from Connecticut, has six receptions this season, including a TD catch against West Virginia. The redshirt senior is one of the “big wide receivers” referenced by Brent Thompson during his press conference on Monday.

EKU’s projected starters on the offensive line average 6’4″, 289 lbs. Right tackle Tucker Schroeder (6’4″, 295 lbs.) was a preseason all-league pick. The native of St. Cloud, Florida is a redshirt junior who has started 25 consecutive games for EKU.

Matthew Jackson (6’2″, 205 lbs.) is a redshirt junior linebacker from Nashville who had 12 tackles versus Marshall.

Free safety Daulson Fitzpatrick (6’1″, 193 lbs.), a junior from Akron, has started 14 consecutive games for the Colonels, while cornerback Josh Hayes (6’0″, 185 lbs.) has started 12 games over the last two seasons. Hayes is a redshirt senior from Indianapolis who began his collegiate career at Purdue.

Placekicker Alexander Woznick (5’11”, 165 lbs.) is a graduate transfer from South Carolina who is 1 for 2 on field goal tries through two games at EKU, making a 32-yarder against West Virginia. His miss was a 54-yard try versus Marshall that went wide right.

Woznick played his high school football at Eastside High School in Taylors, South Carolina.

Eastern Kentucky has a fairly lengthy history with Australian punters. EKU has had an Aussie on its roster in every season since 2009 (one of them, Jordan Berry, had been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ punter for the past five seasons; he was released two weeks ago).

Last season, Phillip Richards (6’4″, 215 lbs.), a junior from Mount Dandenong in Victoria, Australia, was the regular punter for the Colonels, continuing that tradition with kickers from Down Under. However, he has been supplanted this year by a grad transfer from Limestone, Thomas Cook (5’9″, 193 lbs.). Cook, who went to Byrnes High School, has punted 11 times so far this season, averaging 40.5 yards per punt, with a long boot of 59.

Kickoff returner Quentin Pringle (5’9″, 178 lbs.), a sophomore from Bolingbrook, Illinois, averaged 27.1 yards per kick return last season, which was eighth-best in FCS. Pringle is also a running back who had a 23-yard rush in the Colonels’ season opener at Marshall.

Odds and ends:

– The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high of 83 degrees.

– Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 10-point favorite over Eastern Kentucky. The over/under is 48½.

– Other lines of note this week (as of September 22): Appalachian State is a 35½-point favorite over Campbell; UCF is a 27½-point favorite at East Carolina; Louisiana-Lafayette is a 14-point favorite over Georgia Southern; Auburn is a 7½-point favorite over Kentucky; Oklahoma State is an 8-point favorite over West Virginia; Cincinnati is a 14-point favorite over Army; Georgia is a 26-point favorite at Arkansas; Alabama is a 27-point favorite at Missouri; Miami (FL) is a 11½-point favorite over Florida State; and Tennessee is a 3½-point favorite at South Carolina.

Clemson is off this week, a much-needed break for the Tigers.

– Massey Ratings

Massey projects the Cadets to have a 70% chance of winning on Saturday, with a predicted final score of The Citadel 28, Eastern Kentucky 21.

Of the 127 schools in FCS, fifteen will play at least one game in the fall. Massey’s rankings (in FCS) for each of them, as of September 22:

North Dakota State (1st), Central Arkansas (26th), Missouri State (41st), The Citadel (48th, down one spot from last week), Austin Peay (51st), Chattanooga (52nd), Jacksonville State (54th), Abilene Christian (58th), Mercer (64th), Stephen F. Austin (69th), Houston Baptist (70th), Eastern Kentucky (72nd), Western Carolina (76th), North Alabama (86th), Campbell (88th).

– Massey’s FBS rankings (as of September 21) for some of the teams actually playing this fall (now including the Big 10): LSU (1st), Ohio State (2nd), Clemson (3rd), Alabama (4th), Georgia (5th), Notre Dame (6th), Auburn (7th), Penn State (9th), Oklahoma (11th), Florida (12th), Texas (13th), Texas A&M (17th), Minnesota (18th), UCF (19th), Kentucky (24th), North Carolina (26th), South Carolina (29th), Nebraska (32nd), BYU (37th), Tennessee (38th), Northwestern (42nd), West Virginia (44th), Louisiana-Lafayette (50th), North Carolina State (54th), Navy (57th), Army (61st), Georgia Tech (64th), Louisville (66th), Wake Forest (67th), Marshall (73rd), Florida State (80th), Appalachian State (82nd), Rutgers (85th), Coastal Carolina (94th), Liberty (98th), USF (101st), Kansas (104th), Georgia Southern (108th), Charlotte (116th), North Texas (119th), UTEP (130th).

There are 130 FBS teams.

– Eastern Kentucky’s notable alumni include Hall of Fame outfielder Earle Combs, health scientist Eula Bingham, and Lee Majors — a/k/a “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

– The Colonels have made 21 appearances in I-AA/FCS postseason play. Only Montana (24) has made more trips to the FCS playoffs.

– EKU’s roster (as of September 22) includes 33 players from the state of Kentucky. Other states represented: Ohio (22 players), Florida (11), Georgia (11), Tennessee (9), Michigan (4), Alabama (3), California (3), Illinois (3), South Carolina (3), North Carolina (2), and one each from Connecticut, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

As noted above, punter Phillip Richards is from Australia.

Unfortunately for Eastern Kentucky, no Colonel is an alumnus of the Palmetto State’s premier pigskin powerhouse, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. It is hard to imagine EKU returning to the summit of FCS without any members of the famed maroon and orange around to lead the way.

One of the three South Carolina natives on Eastern Kentucky’s roster, redshirt freshman defensive lineman P.J. White Jr. (6’5″, 200 lbs.), has Orangeburg, S.C., listed as his hometown. However, he played his high school football in Warner Robins, Georgia. White clearly has O’burg connections, though (his cousin is former O-W, UGA and NFL cornerback Tim Jennings).

– The Citadel’s geographic roster breakdown (per the school’s website) is as follows: South Carolina (59 players), Georgia (19), Florida (10), North Carolina (7), Virginia (4), Texas (3), Alabama (2), Oklahoma (2), Tennessee (2), Pennsylvania (2), and one each from Kentucky, Ohio, Nebraska, and New York.

Defensive lineman Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– The Citadel has an all-time record of 6-7 for games played on September 26. The Bulldogs are 4-2 on that date in contests played in Charleston. Among the highlights:

  • 1925: The Citadel defeated the Parris Island Marines at Hampton Park, 7-0. The game’s only touchdown came on a pass from Teddy Weeks to the man known as ‘The Sumter Comet’, Stanley “Rebo” Weinberg. Weeks added the PAT. The Bulldogs’ D held firm throughout, thanks to a tough line which included Joe Matthews, Ephraim Seabrook, and K.P. “Sheik” Westmoreland.
  • 1936: At the original Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel stopped Erskine, 13-6. Chet Smith and Kooksie Robinson both scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs, with Robinson adding the PAT after Smith’s TD. Orville Rogers and Archie Jenkins starred on a defense that held the Seceders to just one first down; Jenkins’ exploits included blocking a punt that set up The Citadel’s first touchdown.
  • 1970: Bob Duncan rushed for 199 and two touchdowns as The Citadel shut out East Carolina, 31-0, before 17,420 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Ben Chavis and Jon Hall also scored TDs for The Citadel, and Jim Leber converted all four PATs and a 27-yard field goal try. Defensively, the Bulldogs were led by a strong pass rush (ECU was 13-42 passing), with the front four — Tommy Utsey, Don Cox, Norman Seabrooks, and Charlie Kerr — drawing particular praise from head coach Red Parker. The Bulldogs forced several turnovers, including a fumble recovered by Jeff Martin and an interception by Charlie Baker.
  • 1981: In front of 17,250 spectators and before a regional TV audience, The Citadel outscored Appalachian State, 34-20. The only football game ever played by The Citadel to be referenced in a judicial opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court, the contest featured a star performance by the Bulldogs’ Danny Miller, who scored 4 TDs while rushing for 182 yards. Byron Walker took a punt back 70 yards for The Citadel’s other touchdown. The defense made plays when it had to down the stretch, including key interceptions by Kelly Curry and Hillery Douglas in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game, Prince Collins had also picked off a Mountaineers’ pass. Incidentally, the television announcers were Chris Lincoln (perhaps best known for his horse racing coverage) and Russ Francis (who had just retired from the NFL; the Pro Bowl tight end would then unretire after the season to play for the San Francisco 49ers, foreshadowing a similar move by Jason Witten four decades later).
  • 1992: From Ken Burger’s column in The Post and Courier after The Citadel’s 15-14 win at Army: “[H]ere in the rolling Ramapo mountains where names like McArthur and Eisenhower and Patton trained, Charlie Taaffe and his Citadel Bulldogs beat Army for the second straight year on the field where Taaffe took his basic training for what could be the greatest era of football the military school has known.” Everette Sands rushed for 174 yards and a TD, while C.J. Haynes replaced an injured Jack Douglas in the third quarter and proceeded to complete all seven of his pass attempts, leading two scoring drives. Cedric Sims scored The Citadel’s second touchdown, while Jeff Trinh’s 37-yard field goal (set up by two huge pass completions from Haynes to Cornell Caldwell) gave the Bulldogs the lead for good. An ensuing Army drive was scuttled by a fumble that was recovered by Mike Wideman. For the sixth time in seven tries, The Citadel defeated a I-A opponent.
  • 2009: The Citadel caught fire in the second half to get by Presbyterian, 46-21. Andre Roberts caught 12 passes for 184 yards and 4 touchdowns, all from Bart Blanchard — who threw 6 TD passes in all, tying a school record. His other two touchdown tosses went to Alex Sellars. Cortez Allen and Keith Gamble both intercepted passes, with Gamble returning his pick 89 yards for a score — the fourth-longest in Bulldogs history. (Tangent: the third-longest in school annals, 92 yards, belongs to Brandon McCladdie, who is the analyst for this Saturday’s ESPN3 broadcast.)

Note: The Citadel’s 32-0 victory over Camp Davis in 1942, listed in the school record book as having been played on September 26, was actually played on Friday, September 25.

I’m glad The Citadel is playing at home this week. The players deserve at least one fall game at Johnson Hagood Stadium, and a chance to play in front of friends and family (and some of their loyal fans, too). It won’t be the same atmosphere, but you have to take what you can get.

It should be a good game. Both teams will be looking to win this contest, and I expect the energy level on Saturday to be very high.

There is not much more that I can add. I will not be in the stands myself, as it simply would not be in my best interests to attend. C’est la vie.

I’ll be watching on ESPN3 and listening to the radio call and following the statistical play-by-play online, however. (Yes, all of those things — that’s how I roll.)

Go Dogs!

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!