Kevin Schnepf, Published December 03 2012
Schnepf: Football is king at Wofford
Wear a bowtie.
It would coordinate perfectly when you start dancing to “Gangnam Style” – the No. 1 YouTube video of all-time that shows a galloping dude wearing a bowtie.
It would also pay homage to this week’s quarterfinal opponent: Wofford College of South Carolina. That’s where male students wear bowties and sport jackets and female students wear sundresses to football games.
“It’s a southern thing,” Wofford sports information director Brent Williamson said of the game-day attire.
It’s pretty much all a southern thing at Wofford – a private school of 1,600 students that sits in the northern South Carolina city of Spartanburg. Just ask Josh Vaughan, an NDSU graduate who spent one year working at Wofford.
“They love their football and football in the south is another animal,” said Vaughan, who distinctly remembers seeing the bowties and sundresses worn mostly by fraternity and sorority members. “Most of the students at Wofford … you are either an athlete or you are in a fraternity or a sorority.”
Vaughan, who was a backup guard for the 2009 Bison men’s basketball team that reached the NCAA Tournament, was director of basketball operations for the 2010-11 Wofford men’s team that made its second straight trip to the Big Dance.
“That was a pretty exciting time, but football is still the sport at Wofford,” said Vaughan, now an assistant coach at Minnesota State Moorhead.
Kevin and Kellie Pifer of Fargo were hoping to attend one of those football games Thanksgiving weekend, until they realized Wofford had a first-round bye like NDSU. Kellie grew up in Spartanburg – where her father Ray Eubanks played basketball at Wofford.
Eubanks was a roommate of Jerry Richardson – the owner and founder of the NFL Carolina Panthers.
“He is a very interesting person,” Kevin Pifer said.
According to Pifer, Richardson played tight end in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts when Johnny Unitas was the quarterback. He left the Colts after a dispute over his contract paying him $250 a month.
He then opened a hamburger shop in Spartanburg and eventually the first Hardee’s franchise in the early 1960s. It created enough wealth for him to own an NFL franchise today.
“He is living proof that hard work and determination are still key ingredients to success,” Kevin Pifer said.
The same can be said for Mike Ayers, Wofford’s head football coach for the last quarter of a century. He inherited a program whose claim to fame was an NCAA record five consecutive ties during the 1948 season.
Ayers guided Wofford through the transitions from NAIA, to Division II to its current Division I status. He has accumulated 162 wins.
But in the last decade, he has built an 81-39 record, a 67 percent winning percentage that only Appalachian State has bettered in FCS football. That includes nine winning seasons and six playoff appearances.
“Ayers is kind of a legend down there,” Vaughan said.
As legendary as bowties and sundresses.
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor
Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549