South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough still vividly remembers one particular matchup against longtime rival Bethune-Cookman.
It was nearly a half-century ago when Pough was a player for the Bulldogs competing opposite the hated Wildcats when the schools back then, just like now, were in separate conferences. B-CU represented the SIAC. South Carolina State carried the flag for the MEAC.
During a game in 1973, there was an infamous confrontation between Pough’s teammate and a Wildcat lineman named Willie “Foots” Lee.
As the story goes, “Foots” — as he was called because of his large feet — was accused by Pough’s teammate of concealing a weapon inside a padded arm guard after being plunked in the head.
“He calls timeout and says, ‘Mister Ref, check his armband. He has some iron in there,'” Pough recalled with a laugh during the MEAC virtual media availability. The official, said Pough, wasn’t buying it after investigating Foots’ equipment.
“He said, ‘Son, there ain’t nothing in his armband. You just have to take this butt cutting,'” Pough said.
“That’s the South Carolina State-Bethune-Cookman story.”
The teams will continue their longstanding meeting at 4 p.m. Saturday in Daytona Beach for the 59th time in what both sides hope is an early season turning point after Week 1 defeats at the hands of FBS opponents.
“It’s always been a great game. It’s always been a physical game,” said B-CU head coach Terry Sims. “I get in trouble all the time in the media for saying it’s a brawl, it’s a bloodbath.”
The Wildcats have dropped the last two in the series, including a 42-35 loss a year ago.
Despite a 70-13 loss at Miami last Saturday, there were some positives that the Wildcats hope to build on versus the defending HBCU national champions.
Bethune-Cookman quarterback Jalon Jones led the Wildcats with 243 yards passing and a touchdown against the Hurricanes. The offense as a whole tallied 342 yards.
The Bulldogs, who were humbled by UCF by a similar margin, want to recover from the “emotional bruise” it sustained and not fall into the same funk it did in 2021 when the team started 1-4 before going undefeated in MEAC play en route to a Celebration Bowl win.
“We got a little bit of a tough road,” Pough said about the Bulldogs’ first five games of the season. At the same time, our goal is to keep our team up and running and healthy into our conference schedule.”
For what it’s worth on the other side Bethune-Cookman is hoping to use the vigor of a familiar opponent to get in the win column.
“I think it is going to be a great football game, Sims said. It has always been and we’re looking forward to it this Saturday.”