JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – When ETSU revived its football program back in 2015, the school turned to Carl Torbush as head coach.
On Monday, the ETSU athletic department announced his passing at its weekly football press conference. Torbush was 72 years old.
The North Carolina native was hired by the Bucs in June 2013 to lead the Blue and Gold back onto the gridiron, after a decade-long hiatus. He compiled a record of 11-22 in three seasons with ETSU.
He helped lead the program to its first victory of a new era over Warner on October 31, 2015. The Bucs earned their first SoCon win under Torbush at Bristol Motor Speedway, 34-31 against Western Carolina in 2016.
Those who worked alongside Torbush during his time at ETSU remembered him as a great man, both on and off the field.
“That positive attitude, that his willingness to reach out to people, to engage with everybody and do whatever needed to be done to make people happy,” said Dr. Richard Sander, Director of Athletics at ETSU.
“He was just always just such a genuine person,” said Billy Taylor, Associate Head Coach for ETSU’s football team. “He’s just a great person. And just to have the opportunity to work with him daily for five years was just such a blessing to me.”
Those who played for him said he truly cared about his team.
“You could tell, just a genuineness and how much he wanted you to learn the game, and how much he loved you,” said Dylan Lewellyn, ETSU football’s inside linebackers coach. Lewellyn said he played for Torbush during his time at Liberty University.
“Just the biggest thing that, you know, I’ll always remember with him is how much faith; he’s a man of faith and a man of character,” said Austin Gatewood, ETSU football’s outside linebackers coach. Gatewood played for Torbush at ETSU.
Dr. Sander said Torbush’s legacy will continue for years to come.
“Every time we win a game, every time we play a game, every time a student-athlete steps out on that field, that’s Carl’s legacy; because without him, they wouldn’t be doing it,” Sander said.
Torbush played football and baseball at Carson-Newman in the early 1970s, starting his football coaching career at Baylor in 1975. Over the next 40 years, he coached at various levels of the game, including a notable stint with the University of North Carolina from 1988-2000.
He served as the Tar Heels’ head coach from 1997-2000, finishing with a record of 17-18.
Torbush spent a handful of years as an assistant back at his alma mater from 2006-2008, as well.