Rivalry renewed ... Sander shares memories of ETSU/UTC rivalry
ETSU AD Dr. Richard Sander (left) faced the Bucs three times during his playing days at Chattanooga.
ETSU AD Dr. Richard Sander (left) faced the Bucs three times during his playing days at Chattanooga.
Sander glides in for two points during his time on the Mocs' team.
Sander glides in for two points during his time on the Mocs' team.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 16, 2014)Dr. Richard Sander has had a unique perspective of the ETSU vs. Chattanooga men’s basketball rivalry – because he’s been on both sides of the fence.

Sander, who played collegiately at Chattanooga, now serves as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at ETSU. During his time as a player for the Mocs, Sander stepped on the floor opposite of the Buccaneers on several occasions, and remembers the special nature of those matchups.

“My first home basketball game as a UTC player was against ETSU and it was in Chattanooga’s Maclellan Gym, which I guess tells you how old I am because they’ve built a new facility since then,” Sander said. “My last game as a senior was also against ETSU, which is an interesting coincidence. The thing I remember the most though is when we came up here and played ETSU in Brooks Gym. We were all just so glad to get here because it was snowing and the roads weren’t so good. We weren’t sure our bus driver knew what he was doing. Once we got here, though, it was obvious how good ETSU’s team was at that time. They had guys like Tommy Woods, Harley Swift, Leroy Fisher and Richard Arnold, and they were all really good players.”

Sander also said he enjoyed those matchups because he played well in those games – even though his teams did not fare well.

“I loved the environment there and the shooting background, and I made a couple of shots early so I think that helps to also make you feel good about a place,” said Sander, who would ultimately score a combined 58 points against the Bucs during his college career. “We lost that first game, and in fact, we played ETSU three times over three years and we lost every one of those games. One of those years ETSU went to the final 16 in the country. I remember my junior year having a really good game and scoring 27 points against them, but Leroy got us for 35. I kept thinking are we ever going to guard this guy? I also remember Harley Swift being a big, strong, ball-handling point guard who was just – let’s say – a colorful player. And Tommy Woods was just a great rebounder.”

Today, Sander has been part of bringing this rivalry back to the forefront. Initially, it was through the process of returning the ETSU athletic program to the Southern Conference, which will occur on July 1 of this year. However, when the chance arose to bring the Mocs to Johnson City as part of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, Sander was quick to capitalize on that opportunity as well.

That work has resulted in providing ETSU fans a sneak peak of this rekindled rivalry when ETSU and Chattanooga meet in the CIT’s first round Tuesday night at 7 p.m. inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.

“Restarting this rivalry early is something special,” Sander said. “Since the days of the Southern Conference and those games where both teams were playing for conference championships, that’s what really created something unique between ETSU and Chattanooga. Even today, both team’s fans have a great respect for the other program, and they really want to win these games. That’s what college athletics is all about.

“To come back to the Southern Conference was a very strategic move and we really valued regaining the rivalry with UTC. And in talking to Chattanooga’s AD David Blackburn, they feel the same way, so this is going to be a great preview for what’s in the future. This is just the start of what will be many great games between the two teams. Chattanooga has a really fine, young coach in Will Wade and I think Coach (Murry) Bartow’s record speaks for itself. I hope our fans get out and help us make this a great restart for this rivalry.”

To purchase tickets to Tuesday’s game, click on the link to the right. For more on ETSU men’s basketball throughout the postseason, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s hoops link.

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