Can Former Citadel Football Players Turned Coaches Win National Championships in Consecutive Years?

By Brian Gargone
Asst. Director of Media Relations/Football SID

Coaching Tree

In the midst of The Citadel’s first head football coaching change in nine years, several former Bulldog head and assistant coaches will be spending the holidays “bowling” with their teams.

Nine former Citadel coaches or players (or in most cases both) will grace the sidelines at nine different FBS bowl games starting this afternoon at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl and spanning all the way to the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.

A season ago, former Bulldog football players turned coaches went 5-1 in bowl games including a national championship honor when Lance Thompson (Class of 1987) helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 42-14 win over Notre Dame.

This season it will be former Bulldog athlete (1971-74), assistant coach (1975 and 1982) and head coach (2001-03) Ellis Johnson’s chance to earn the coveted national championship trophy.

Johnson is in his first season as the defensive coordinator at Auburn and fresh off his first Iron Bowl victory as a member of the Tigers’ coaching staff. The former Bulldog defensive lineman won five Iron Bowls as a member of the Alabama coaching staff during his two stints in Tuscaloosa from 1990-93 and 1997-00, but it was the one at Auburn that launched him into this season’s national championship game on Jan. 6 when the Tigers take on top-ranked Florida State.

Ellis Johnson

Ellis Johnson

Thompson, who played linebacker for the Bulldogs from 1984-87, will return to the sidelines for a bowl contest on Jan. 2 when Alabama takes on Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La.

Former defensive backs and special teams coach Nick Toth is the first to return to the sideline for the postseason when he leads the Fresno State defense into Las Vegas, Nev., for the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21 against Southern California.

Toth, who coached one season at The Citadel (2009), is in his second year as defensive coordinator at Fresno State and has made an immediate impact on the California Bulldogs’ defense.

In 2012, Toth’s first year running his 3-4 defense, Fresno State ranked in the top 25 of the FBS in six defensive categories and also ranked fifth nationally in takeaways with 35 and third in interceptions with 22 and the Bulldogs scored eight defensive touchdowns.

Sean Cronin, who worked with Toth at The Citadel in 2009, is next on the bowl docket and will take the field in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 27 as Marshall’s defensive ends coach. The Thundering Herd take on Maryland in the Military Bowl.

The following day will showcase four-year Bulldog assistant head coach, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Carter, who is also a 1990 graduate of The Citadel.

Carter, who has spent the last four seasons as the running backs and special teams coach at Louisville, was a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs from 1986-90. His Cardinals will take on Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 28.

The next few days will showcase two games with two former Citadel coaches who worked for the Bulldogs decades apart.

Keith Jones, who is a 1975 graduate and worked as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at The Citadel from 1997-01 is now in his 12th year as the secondary coach at Navy.

Longtime Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer started his career at The Citadel under Bobby Ross from 1973-78 and helped coach Jones when he was a player on the team.

Beamer, who is currently the longest-tenured coach and winningest active coach in Division I FBS, will lead the Hokies into the Hyundai Sun Bowl against UCLA on Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas, while Jones’ Midshipmen will take on Middle Tennessee State 600 miles away on Dec. 30 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

Frank Beamer

Frank Beamer

Another interesting Citadel connection will be on the sidelines in a pair of New Year’s Day games.

Former Bulldog head coach Charlie Taaffe, now the offensive coordinator at Central Florida, helped lead UCF to its first BCS bowl game in the history of the program as the 11-1 Golden Knights take the field in Glendale, Ariz., for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Baylor.

Across the country in Orlando, Fla., former Bulldog standout Everette Sands, who was coached by Taaffe at The Citadel and is now the running backs coach at South Carolina, will help lead the Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl against Wisconsin.

Charlie Taaffe

Charlie Taaffe

Taaffe was the head coach at The Citadel from 1987-96 and led the Bulldogs to their most successful season in program history and its last Southern Conference Championship in 1992 when they finished 11-2. Sands, a Bulldog running back from 1990-93, was an integral part of that team which was ranked No. 1 in the country and awarded the top seed in the playoffs.

Sands garnered All-America accolades as a junior, served as a team captain in 1993 and was inducted into The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. Taaffe still stands as The Citadel’s all-time winningest coach with 55 victories over nine seasons.

Sands, Everette

Everette Sands, Class of ’93

While all of these coaches, along with many other successful coaches and players not in bowl games this season, have moved on and up to the FBS ranks, they will always have the small military school tucked away on the banks of the Ashley River in Charleston, S.C., on their coaching tree for the rest of their lives.

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Marketing and Promotions at The Citadel can be dated all the way back to the 1920s

McAlister Field House-MSU-5

Andy Solomon
Assoc. AD/Marketing

Marketing and promotions for an intercollegiate athletics department have become the norm as they help with the entertainment factor for home games as well as serving as another source of revenue.

And we’re no exception as we’ve had quality people in those positions for quite some time.  But when did promotions and marketing start at The Citadel?  The 1970s?  The 80s?

Would you believe that the earliest known promotion dates back to 1938?

John E. (“Jack”) Rogers, Citadel Class of 1922 who earned 10 letters in football, baseball and track, and who was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 1984, served as an assistant football coach for six years. He may not have started the “Knot Hole Club” but he evidently coordinated it for Charleston-area elementary-age students in 1938.

The mission of the club was to target future ticket buyers with free tickets to a special seating section and to have children learn The Citadel’s yells in advance, helping make their visit to Johnson Hagood Stadium memorable and more enjoyable. Naturally, kids didn’t travel to the games by themselves and parents paid full admission price. And one can only assume that the eventual purchase of salted popcorn and a Coke were factored into the equation.

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The official, pocketsize “Knot Hole Club” membership card reads:

CITADEL KNOT HOLERS must:

  1.      Sit in sections designated by the ushers.
  2.     Remain in designated sections during game.
  3.     Aid in keeping order during game.
  4.     Learn yells and songs taught by cheer leaders.
  5.     Sing and cheer when requested to do so.
  6.     Help forward interest of Knot Hole club.
  7.     Report loss of card to school Principal.
  8.     Forfeit membership for violation of these rules or bad conduct.

I agree to the foregoing.

(Individual) is a CITADEL KNOT HOLER and entitled to admission to all games played in Charleston n 1938 by the CITADEL teams as long as he obeys the rules printed on this card.

By Order of:

Board in Control of Athletics

J.E. Rogers

On the front of the four-panel card is a cut-out spot for the individual student’s picture, and on the back are four “Citadel Yells” that include the “Long Yell,” “Spell Citadel,” “In Cadence Count” and “Skyrocket” – yells that the students were expected to know and chant on cue.  Interestingly, a variation of one of those yells is still in use.

The card’s third panel provided the opportunity for the student to write his/her name, height and weight, and a place to list hair and eye colors.  It appears that Coach Rogers signed each one and there was a place for each student to sign as well.

Memories of the Historic 1992 Football Season Remain Fresh 21 years Later

By Brian Gargone
Asst. Director of Media Relations/Football SID

1992 Bulldogs

Twenty-one years ago today, Dec. 5, 1992, the Bulldogs’ miraculous “dream season” came to end in a 42-17 defeat at the hands of then sixth-ranked Youngstown State in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. That 11-2 Citadel team’s only two losses came against the teams who competed for the 1992 National Championship – Youngstown State and Marshall.

The game, held at Johnson Hagood Stadium, was a week after The Citadel’s first-ever NCAA Division I-AA playoff win as the top-ranked Bulldogs routed North Carolina A&T 44-0 and two weeks after claiming its first Southern Conference title since 1961.

The Citadel was picked to finish fifth out of the eight league teams in the preseason poll and instead won a program-record 11 games, including two against Division I-A foes Arkansas (10-3) and Army (15-14), and spent four weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation.

The resilient ’92 squad, which overcame early adversity after a controversial Sports Illustrated article attempted to put a black eye on the program, won its first six games, including a 25-0 shutout of No. 13 Appalachian State in Boone, N.C.

The Citadel’s only loss of the regular season came in week seven when ninth-ranked Marshall, which was then a member of the Southern Conference, came to Charleston and beat the Dogs in front of a sellout crowd. That attendance mark of 23,025 still stands as the biggest crowd ever at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Citadel 93 Cover

The Bulldogs dropped to No. 6 in the polls following the loss, but more importantly fell to second place in the conference. They needed to win the rest of their conference games paired with at least two losses from the Thundering Herd in order to keep their league title hopes alive.

The Citadel did its part and collected a big 36-31 win at Western Carolina the following week, leaving the Bulldogs with a bye week as the team watched closely at the Marshall-Western Carolina game.

The Catamounts topped the Herd in a close 38-30 contest, and the Bulldogs were suddenly right back in the conference title hunt.

The following week, while The Citadel was posting a 32-14 non-conference win over Newberry, Marshall lost to the Mountaineers, putting the Bulldogs atop the conference standings and national rankings.

In front of a crowd of 21,811 (second most in JHS history), the Bulldogs dominated their military rival in a 50-0 win over VMI for the coveted Silver Shako trophy and followed up that performance with a 20-14 road win against long-time conference foe Furman in the regular season finale.

The Dogs won the outright conference title (6-1) and were subsequently awarded the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, earning the right to host a postseason game for the first time in program history the following week against No. 15 North Carolina A&T.

Jack Douglas completed three passes for 142 yards in the first half to catch the Aggies off guard and give the Bulldogs a 13-0 lead in the second quarter. Todd Lair scooped up a fumble and ran it back 65 yards for a score as time expired in the first half to give the Bulldogs a dominant 20-0 advantage.

A 66-yard punt return by Lester Smith gave The Citadel the scoring trifecta, posting points on offense, defense and special teams to lift the Bulldogs into the second round of the playoffs against Youngstown State.

Three first half scores by the sixth-seeded Penguins gave YSU a 21-0 lead before a nine-yard touchdown run by Douglas put the Bulldogs on the board before the half.

Sands, Everette

A 13-yard rush by Everette Sands which cut the deficit to seven was the lone third quarter score. A 32-yard field goal by Jeff Trinh shrunk the margin to four, but it would be the closest the Bulldogs could get on the day. An explosion of fourth quarter points on three rushing scores by three different Penguins gave YSU its final margin and ended the most successful season in Bulldog history to date.

Sands logged two stints at The Citadel, first from 1999-2000 and again from 2005-10. During his second stint he coached three running backs who were named to the Southern Conference All-freshman team.

Sands logged two stints at The Citadel, first from 1999-2000 and again from 2005-10. During his second stint he coached three running backs who were named to the Southern Conference All-freshman team.

Youngstown State defeated Northern Iowa 19-7 the following week to punch its ticket to the national championship, while Marshall defeated Delaware 28-7.

The game, held on Marshall’s home field in Huntingdon, W.Va., ended with the Southern Conference runner-up Thundering Herd gaining the 31-28 win.

Even falling two wins shy of the ultimate goal of every team, the Bulldogs gained national recognition as the roster boasted two AP All-Americans in Carey Cash and Lester Smith. Terrance Forney and Lance Hansen, along with Smith and Cash, were named to the Walter Camp All-American list, and Smith, Cash and Hansen were selected as The Sports Network’s All-Americans.

Lester Smith and Jack Douglas with Coach Taaffe

Lester Smith and Jack Douglas with Coach Taaffe

Head Coach Charlie Taaffe was voted as the Eddie Robinson Award winner (National I-AA Coach of the Year) and went on to coach the Bulldogs until 1995. During his nine-year tenure at the helm, Taaffe collected 55 wins, which still stands as the most in school history.

Following The Citadel, Taaffe went north to become the offensive coordinator of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes for two seasons before being named head coach in 1999. During his final season with the Alouettes, Taaffe’s squad broke the CFL’s all-time record for points in a regular season with 594.

The following year Taaffe returned to the states to take over as offensive coordinator at Maryland where he would find great success from 2001-05. Following a short stint at the University of Pittsburgh and two seasons with CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the former Bulldog coach made his way to Central Florida where he has been a fixture on the Golden Knights’ sideline since 2009.

Taaffe, the offensive coordinator at Central Florida since 2009, helped guide the Golden Knights to a Conference USA Championship in 2010 and the team is guaranteed at least a share of the first-ever American Conference title in 2013.

Taaffe, the offensive coordinator at Central Florida since 2009, helped guide the Golden Knights to a Conference USA Championship in 2010 and the team is guaranteed at least a share of the first-ever American Conference title in 2013.

Taaffe helped guide UCF to a Conference USA Championship in 2010 and the team is guaranteed at least a share of the first-ever American Conference title. The 15th-ranked Knights (10-1, 7-0) can win the league outright this weekend when they take on Southern Methodist in Dallas.

Time has not dimmed the memory of that historic 1992 season. Although the players and coaching staff have all moved on in their lives and careers, they will always look back at the season that they helped put Bulldog football on the map.

Check out the video below, which captures  all of the media surrounding the 1992 Bulldog football team!

Sadath and His Ladies

Furman Program Cover

By Mike Hoffman
Sports Information Director

If a photograph can adequately caption a man’s life, then the one taken outside McAlister Field House following last year’s ring ceremony begins to tell the story of Sadath Jean-Pierre.

At first glance the image is nothing unique; in fact it was one replicated hundreds of times that October morning. A proud Citadel cadet is showing off his shiny new piece of jewelry, being embraced by family members.

But for Sadath, it represents a milestone chapter in a life that was always filled with love but was never easy. And the women with him in that picture – his mother, Moranie, and younger sisters Linda and Kenya – provided a solid foundation that enabled him to achieve his goals.

Now in his fifth season as a member of the Bulldog football team and second as a starting cornerback, Sadath took the road less traveled to The Citadel. He was born in Haiti before moving to Immokalee, Fla., at age four and became the man of the house when his parents divorced when he was in fifth grade. He hasn’t seen his father, Vernio, since his high school graduation.

It was at that time that Moranie became the rock of the family.

“My mom worked at Marriott Hotels in Marco Island, which was an hour and a half from our house,” said Sadath. “She would wake up at 5:30 and not get home until after seven. She was really tired but still had breakfast ready for us in the morning cooked dinner and made sure the house was well kept.”

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When Sadath was old enough, he was determined to help out his mother. If that meant getting a job and giving up his after school activities, including football, that was a sacrifice he was willing to make. But mom would hear none of it.

“She told me at a young age that she didn’t want me working,” remembered Sadath. “I tried to get odd jobs, but she always said ‘son, focus on school, focus on sports. You and your sisters do what you need to do now and let me take care of you. Later on I’ll reap the benefits of what you produce.’”

Sadath respected his mother’s wishes, but that didn’t prevent him from taking on more of a role at home. He became a father figure for his sisters, taking on the responsibility of getting them ready in the morning, walking them to school, picking them up in the afternoon and heating up dinner. He even tried his hand at cooking with mixed results,

“He had a cooking class in high school and came home one day and announced that he was going to make us spaghetti,” said Linda, who is now a sophomore at Florida State. “He cooked it and burned it. The spaghetti was black. How do you burn spaghetti? But we still ate it.”

The bonds that were formed between brother and sisters forged in those early days in Immokalee have only strengthened through the years.

“My sisters and I are very close,” said Sadath. “Linda calls me all the time. She’ll talk for 10 minutes straight, and I won’t say a word. She’ll tell me her whole life story, about the problems she’s having in class. I still help her with her schoolwork to this day.

“Kenya (a senior at Immokalee High School) calls every night before game day and again on the bus to wish me luck.”

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Sadath credits his relationship with his family and less-than-usual circumstances of his youth for helping pave his way to The Citadel. His story made a strong impression on Bulldog head coach Kevin Higgins during the recruiting process.

“You not only evaluate players but their families and how they grew up,” Higgins said in an interview with the Charleston Post & Courier during the 2012 season. “He had so much to do just to keep his family going and being a surrogate dad for his sisters. It was really impressive.”

The challenges that faced the Jean-Pierre family took an even more serious turn when their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while Sadath was a student at Immokalee High School. The fragility of life stared them right in the face, but again Moranie refused to blink.

Sadath would occasionally catch her crying in her room and found it hard to see his mother like that. But he knew she had the foundation to face her illness.

“She’s always been strong in faith and straight in prayer,” said Sadath. “When that happened it was hard on everybody because of the uncertainty. We knew it was something that could potentially kill her. But she kept battling and praying and had the support of her family and members of our church.

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“(Her illness) has made me appreciate life, appreciate those around me and the opportunities and blessings I’ve been given. Watching her fight makes me want to do better in my life. I don’t want to let her down.”

Which brings us back to that family photograph. It means so much more to Sadath than the opportunity to share that special day his special ladies. It is an affirmation that there is still a place for faith in an otherwise cynical world.

Moranie has already exceeded the time her doctors originally gave her, and she’s still holding on strong. That strong will and fighting spirit enabled her to make the trip to Charleston and share in Sadath’s special day. The significance of that occasion was lost on no one.

“It was the first time mom had traveled to see Sadath at The Citadel,” said Linda. “For her it was a really big deal; he was the first member of the family to go to college. She saw the product of who she raised and the product of his good work.”

Later that afternoon, his mom saw her son play in a football game for the first time since he was a senior in high school. And Sadath made her proud in that venue as well, playing a big role in The Citadel’s win over Western Carolina with nine tackles and two pass breakups.

Regardless of what the future may hold for Sadath, the ladies in his life will always be his legacy.

“I didn’t realize the impact he had on my life until I was in college,” said Linda. “Everything he did I wanted to do. If I was a boy, I would be a younger version of him. He isn’t just a big brother. He is a lot more than that.”

Marshall Harris III Is the Basketball Team’s Quarterback

Marshall Harris III-PC-2013-4 

By Kevin Connell

When one enters McAlister Field House during basketball season, they will see a player from San Antonio, Texas: Marshall Harris III, the quarterback on the basketball team.  He has been a starter for two years going on three, and while there have been many great players in the Bulldogs’ past, I believe that Harris is one that fans should keep an eye on.

The junior point guard went to William H. Taft High School in San Antonio and considered multiple Division I schools like South Alabama, Stephen F. Austin and Santa Clara before he decided on The Citadel.  Harris was a two-star recruit, according to ESPN for the Class of 2011, and his team reached the Final Four of Texas 5A Basketball State Tournament.  Harris earned three letters in basketball and one in track and field.

Harris had a very productive freshman year here while starting 11 straight games and leading all freshmen in free throws made and attempted (42-of-60).  His biggest offensive game was a 14-point effort during the double-overtime loss at Georgia Southern on January 23.  Though the Bulldogs lost, Harris showed that he knew what it took to score and from then on, he has started his climb to being a great player.

As a sophomore, he started all 30 games and played 30 minutes or more in 19 of those games.  Harris marched his way up to 13th in school history with assists (230) at the conclusion of that season.  Harris looks comfortable controlling the team whether it is on the court or off.

Throughout the Corps of Cadets, there is a leadership opportunity for every captain of all our intercollegiate teams.  Though there are no true seniors on this year’s team, Coach Chuck Driesell has named Harris the team captain.  Only a junior, his rank is Master Sergeant, which is one of the top ranking juniors in the Corps.

NCAA FCS: VMI 7, Liberty 17

“I feel like Marshall can become a great player for us and that he not only wants to score but loves being the point guard of our team and I look forward to coaching him again this season,” said Driesell.

Late this summer the Bulldogs went to Canada and faced some of the best competition that Canada had to offer.  They played three games and Harris did a nice job controlling the tempo of the game to what the coaches wanted him to do.  Harris and other Bulldogs love to run the floor because they are young and can really push teams to the limit with their fast offense.  Matt Van Scyoc is one of Harris’s go-to guys when he is looking to make something happen on offense.

Van Scyoc was a freshman last year and caught the eye of multiple teams with his performances.  Harris’s roommate, Ashton Moore, has been right with Harris since the beginning of their knob year.  They have become great friends on and off the court, and always look for each other when the offense is looking to score.

The Bulldogs have a competitive schedule for the 2013-14 season.  They open with the All-Military Classic at VMI, November 8-12, which also features Army and the Air Force Academy.

Cadet Kevin Connell

Cadet Kevin Connell

Kevin Connell is a pitcher on the baseball team.