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East Tennessee State Athletics

Sander back as ETSU's athletic director

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Dr. Richard Sander

Dr. Richard "Doc" Sander was introduced as the athletic director at East Tennessee State for the second time during a press conference on Monday in Johnson City. 

A familiar face will direct East Tennessee State University athletics. Just take the interim tag off his first name.

ETSU introduced Richard “Doc” Sander as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics during a press conference on Monday, a position he has had on an interim basis since Scott Carter resigned in August of last year.

This position is nothing new for Sander, who served as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at ETSU from 2013-17 prior to being in the same position for two decades at Virginia Commonweath.

“I am as excited today as I was 20 years ago when I got my first AD job at VCU,” Sanders said.

ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland credited Sanders with many accomplishments during his initial tenure, including the return to the Southern Conference, resurrecting the football program, the building of William B. Greene Stadium and working with Johnson City leaders in the renovation of Freedom Hall. He also mentioned Sanders’ coaching hires, including Carl Torbush to restart the football program and Steve Forbes, who led ETSU to a pair of NCAA men’s basketball tournament appearances.

“Dr. Sander is one of the most experienced and professional ADs in the nation. He has a long record of success both at ETSU and through his work with universities across the country,” Noland said. “Our student athletes, coaches and athletics staff are incredibly talented and possess enormous potential. I believe Doc is the right person to help us realize that potential and elevate ETSU athletics to the level of excellence I and our fans expect.”

Sander, who has remained as a faculty member and director for ETSU’s Global Sports Leadership program, took over for Carter in August, and Noland grew to feel that Sander was the choice to take over the permanent role for a second time in a dramatically changing landscape that college athletics has experienced in recent years.

“It is an exciting time, but it is a challenging time too,” Sander said. “This is a very difficult landscape in college athletics. NIL is very difficult, nobody has quite figured it out, the transfer portal, coaches have to try to figure out how to deal with that. It is reality and then the conference alignment.

“What lies ahead for us in the future? We have to figure out a way to be sustainable, we have to figure out a way to develop plans that help us with funding, with facilities, with community engagement, with student athlete development. All of those things are critically important and we have to pull everybody together to help us facilitate those in initiatives and figure out how to do that.

“We have the right people on the bus, we have got to figure out where the bus is going and how to get it there. I am very excited about where we are going. This is a great University. We did it once, I am absolutely sure we can do it again.”

Sander, who started his career in athletics as a high school basketball coach in Chattanooga, has also served as assistant basketball coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga and served as assistant director at the University of Memphis before leaving for VCU.

Noland felt like Sander was the right choice to lead an athletic program that has experienced some success in recent years, but has also had its struggles as well.

“I feel like we as an institution need a staple and proactive leadership, we need someone who has a deep sense of history of the NCAA past, present and future,” Noland said. “We have talked a great deal about the current state of our athletic department. We experienced significant success in programs such as volleyball, golf, tennis and others. I could not be more pleased with the transformation that is underway in our women’s basketball program. However, I think we all understand we have much room to grow in respect to football and men’s basketball.

“There is no better person to help lead that growth than Dr. Sander because he built the foundation we enjoyed over the last decade and I am confident he will steady the ship and point us back in the direction that we expect.”

Sander will be focused on more than just wins and losses.

“The most important thing to me is taking care of the students,” Sander said. “We want to win championships — and we will — but our students’ well-being and their experience at the university come first. We are not just developing players. We are developing the future leaders of our communities. Excellence is a byproduct of vision, conviction, perseverance and integrity.”

bwoodson@bristolnews.com — Twitter: BHCWoodson <&dateline> (276) 645-2543

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