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East Tennessee State bringing back football after decade absence

After a 10-year absence, East Tennessee State announced today the school is officially bringing back football. 

The Tennessee Board of Regents approved a $125 student fee that will provide the $2.5 million funding needed to field a program. That figure is expected to rise to $2.8 million each year after that; by the 2018-19 academic year, ETSU estimates $4.9 million per year will be needed to fund the program.

East Tennessee Normal College, as it was then known, first fielded a team in 1920. The Bucs would go on to win the Smoky Mountain Conference title in 1938, post a 10-0-1 season in 1969, reach the Division I-AA quarterfinals in 1996 and score landmark victories over N.C. State, in 1987, and then-No. 1 Georgia Southern in 2001. The school folded the program two years later due to financial reasons. Efforts were started to re-launch the program in 2007, but the effort ultimately failed. 

The school currently competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference of Division I, which does not offer football. Fellow A-Sun member Kennesaw State has also announced plans to field a football team and is also looking for a conference home. East Tennessee State has not revealed when it plans to begin play, but the Johnson City Press has reported the school approached College Football Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer about assuming the Bucs' inaugural head coaching role.