|ORANGEBURG, S.C. – “Alright Coach Berry, it’s your show.”
With those words, legendary South Carolina State University Head Football Coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough handed the reins to his successor, Chennis Berry, in a news conference Tuesday on campus.
“This is year 30 coming up for me in this profession, and I’ve been following Coach Pough and just following his entire trajectory as he went through the profession,” Berry said of SC State’s winningest football coach. “What a great career.
“If my career can be anywhere close to what his career was, I think I will be heading in the right direction,” Berry said.
Berry acknowledged the expectations he faces as the Bulldogs’ new leader, not just in succeeding Pough after 22 seasons, but also in keeping the tradition of excellence set by Pough’s predecessor, Head Coach Emeritus Willie Jeffries. Berry described the challenge as an “opportunity to follow two living legends.”
“I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. The baton has been passed, and it’s time for me to run my race. The job is to move the legacy forward,” Berry said.
No stranger to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Berry arrives at SC State from the head coaching position at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. In three seasons at Benedict, he amassed a 27–7 record, going undefeated in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference the last two seasons.
Tuesday’s news conference was akin to a religious service, as Berry took the audience, including members of his new football team, to church, so to speak by delivering a sermon-like description of his coaching philosophies.
“My start date is here Dec 12, 2023, and there’s going to be a dash in the middle,” he said. “I don’t know what my last day will be here, but I have full control over that dash in the middle.”
What does he mean by the “dash” in the middle? It represents more than just the time between his start and finish at SC State. DASH stands for discipline, attitude, sacrifice and habit.
“Controlling that DASH is extremely important to me,” he said. “That’s kind of how I carry my everyday walk of life when you talk about building a program and building my brand.
“When you’re the head football coach, you’re really the CEO of the program,” he said. “As a CEO, I have to have the ability to motivate.”
Whether it be alumni, players, support staff or coaches, he said, the CEO must motivate.
“How do you do that? By showing them each and every day that you care and that you love them,” Berry said.
The new coach also outlined his expectations for his players in managing the Bulldog brand.
“I believe in branding. I tell all young men the logo never comes off. We’re going to be in the community — whether you’re in Walmart – whatever you do, the logo never comes off,” he said. “So how you speak to people, how you dress, your haircut, how you look is important.
“Our brand never comes off. So they have to understand that every day,” he said. “Image is important.”
Berry said the team will be active in the community and the campus community.
“I want leaders on this campus,” he said. “I want ambassadors. I want presidents of the student body. When the football team is involved in the campus – the entire campus way of life – what a great campus you may have.”
Following Berry on the program was SC State President Alexander Conyers, who described the weight of finding Pough’s replacement following his retirement announcement.
“What an awesome task I had before me — to hire a football coach – the first such action in 22 years, and I know that we selected the right coach,” Conyers said.
The president said he met with Bulldog football players on Oct. 5 and asked them what characteristics they wanted in a new head coach.
“They talked about a coach that will instill discipline, a coach that will hold us accountable, a coach that understands the lives of young Black men,” Conyers said. “So I went out to find that coach.”
SC State also will welcome a new athletics director, Dr. Nathan Cochran, in January. Pough has served as interim athletics director since November.
About Chennis Berry
Prior to his stint at Benedict, Berry held assistant coaching positions at Morris Brown, Kentucky State, Fort Valley State, North Carolina A&T, Morgan State, Howard and Southern.
Berry earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Savannah State University. As a player at Savannah State, he earned First Team All-SIAC at offensive tackle and was named Black College All-American Honorable Mention in 1994. He also served as Savannah State’s team captain. He later earned his master’s degree in public administration from Kentucky State.
As part of the NFL’s Minority Internship Program, Berry has interned with six different NFL teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears.
About Buddy Pough
Pough is a Bulldog through and through. As an SC State student, he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s, as well as All-MEAC honors as an offensive lineman. Pough amassed a 151–93 record in his 22 seasons at SC State. He ranks among the top coaches in the 53-year history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, as well as in the HBCU family:
- His record includes 15 winning campaigns, three MEAC Coach of the Year honors, two National Coach of the Year awards, and two national HBCU titles.
- His teams have also captured three MEAC titles (2008, 2009 & 2021) outright, shared five others (2004, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2019), and made four trips to the prestigious FCS playoffs (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013).
- His 2021 MEAC Championship team went on to defeat Jackson State and Coach Deion “Prime” Sanders 31-10 in the prestigious Celebration Bowl, earning his team the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Championship, the second of his college coaching career.
- His 2009 team, which finished 10-3 overall and 8-0 in the MEAC, was also named National Black Champion by the Sheridan Broadcasting Network, the 100 Percent Wrong Club of Atlanta, the Washington (DC) Pigskin Club and the Box-to-Row /BASN. In addition, the Bulldogs finished number seven in all three major FCS polls – The Sports Network, the FCS Coaches Poll and Any Given Saturday.
About South Carolina State University
Founded in 1896 as a land grant institution with a mission of providing service to the citizens of the state, South Carolina State University has evolved from a small teachers’ college into a major University center of learning and research. Located in Orangeburg, S.C., South Carolina State offers more than 50 different fields of study on the undergraduate and graduate levels. South Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools.