A 1-5 start to the 2018 season fueled speculation that head football coach Buddy Pough was going to be asked to step down as the head coach of his alma mater. Pough is one of the most popular figures on campus and in the country with a host of NFL players both former and current who have ties to Pough. He has also done his part to help raise money for the school by playing Division I programs in guaranteed games on the road - games that are guaranteed to be a win by the home team but also a win by the Bulldogs thanks to a six-figure check for making the trip.
But when South Carolina State won four of its last five games to finish 5-6, that was enough proof that Pough still had plenty of coaching left to do. The former S.C. State offensive lineman was given a one year contract extension with the coach and school agreeing to work together on a longer extension.
It appears that extension will be announced this week, just a few days after a massive celebration during halftime of South Carolina State's basketball game Saturday. MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas was there along with school president James Clark and athletics director Stacy Danley. But the headliners were the Bulldogs who were recognized for winning a share of the MEAC Championship. The team was presented with the championship trophy and Pough himself received a plaque for being named MEAC Coach of the Year.
"Coach of the Year is a neat award but it's not necessarily the Buddy Pough award," he said.
"It's more of the staff award. I think that's more a group of guys who have come together to do a good job as a staff as much as anything. I can tell you the Coach of the Year award is mostly the football staff at South Carolina State doing its job."
When asked if his Coach of the Year award could be considered the Comeback of the Year award, Pough understood the sentiment behind the question given his tenuous position recently.
"Well, it could be called the Comeback Award because of the fact we were on the edge last year at this time," he said.
"You never knew exactly where I was headed. At that same point, it feels good to be where we are now."
South Carolina State finished the 2019 season 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the MEAC. The league title was the 17th overall for the Bulldog program and number seven in the Buddy Pough era. It was the first conference championship for football since 2014.
Pough also became the school's all-time winningest football coach in October and will head into 2020 with 133 career wins as the head coach at South Carolina State.