2023 West Georgia vs Valdosta State

Valdosta State Football In 2023: What To Know About The Blazers

Valdosta State Football In 2023: What To Know About The Blazers

The Valdosta State University football team returns in 2023 as a member of the Gulf South Conference. Here’s what to know about the program.

Oct 4, 2023 by Matt Cannizzaro

The Valdosta State University football team was on an amazing run, collecting Gulf South Conference titles in 2018, 2019 and 2021 (shared with West Florida), but the 2022 campaign was a rebuilding year for the Blazers.

The calendar year started with Tremaine Jackson being introduced as the team’s new head coach, replacing Gary Goff, who led the team to 22 wins, two Gulf South titles and a spot in the 2021 Division II title game (where Valdosta State fell to Ferris State) during his two seasons with the team. 

Jackson entered very focused on developing a “brand new mentality.” He also has focused on building a complete football program, which includes more than just winning games—it also means excelling in the classroom, serving the community and working as a unit, from the field to the fans.

On the field, the team went from 10-1 and 12-2 under Goff to a 5-6 performance in 2022, which included a 2-5 mark in GSC games, putting them in unfamiliar territory in the bottom half of the GSC standings.

Among the challenges for Valdosta State in 2023 will be replacing quarterback Ivory Durham, who passed for nearly 2,800 of the teams 2,884 total passing yards last season. As a starting quarterback for the Blazers, he posted a 17-8 record.

In 2023, the Gulf South Conference will include nine teams (up from eight) and return three that finished with winning records in 2022. Among the returning teams are the University of West Florida and Delta State, which posted 6-1 records in conference play to share the Gulf South title. 

West Florida finished 2022 with a 12-2 overall record, and Delta State was 11-2. West Florida made the NCAA Division II semifinals, losing to eventual national champion Ferris State.

Gulf South football action will be streamed live on FloFootball and the FloSports app, including all of Valdosta State’s Gulf South games.

Here’s What To Know About Valdosta State University Football:

What Year Did Valdosta State University Start Playing Football?

The first year of football at Valdosta State University was 1982, and the program celebrated its 40th year during the 2022 season.

Valdosta State has enjoyed 31 winning seasons and 34 years of being .500 or better. All-time, Valdosta State owns a 321-135-4 record. The Blazers are 208-93-3 in the Gulf South Conference.

The team has won nine Gulf South titles and four Division II national championships – 2004, 2007, 2012 and 2018.

In What Division Of College Football Does Valdosta State Play? 

The Valdosta State football team plays at the NCAA Division II level.

How Many Times Has Valdosta State Football Made It To The Playoffs?

The Valdosta State football team has been to the Division II Playoffs 18 times. The team’s NCAA postseason record is 29-14.

The Blazers’ last appearance was in 2021, when they lost to Ferris State in the national championship game (58-17).

Valdosta State achieved a perfect season in 2018. The Blazers were 14-0, including a 49-47 win over Ferris State for the national title. 

When Did Valdosta State Football Join The Gulf South Conference?

The Valdosta State football team immediately began playing in Gulf South Conference during its first year of competition – 1982.

Has Valdosta State University Football Ever Won The Gulf South Title?

Yes, Valdosta State has won nine Gulf South football titles – 1996, 2000 (shared with Delta State and West Georgia), 2001, 2002, 2004, 2010 (shared with Delta State and Henderson State), 2018, 2019 and 2021 (shared with West Florida).

Who Is The Valdosta State University Football Head Coach?

Tremaine Jackson is the head football coach at Valdosta State University. His hiring as the 11th head coach in team history was announced in January 2022.

Jackson was named by ESPN as one of 45 minority coaches under 45 to watch. He replaced Gary Goff, who led the team to 22 wins, two Gulf South titles and a spot in the 2021 Division II title game (where Valdosta State fell to Ferris State) during his two seasons with the team. 

Though his debut season with the Blazers had some learning curves (and a 5-6 record), Jackson helped his players excel in the classroom and accumulate more than 1,100 service hours in the Valdosta community.

Immediately before being hired at Valdosta State, Jackson spent two years as the head coach at Colorado Mesa University, where he went 10-3.

Previous stops for Jackson included defensive coaching roles at Texas State (2019), Abilene Christian (2017-2018), University of Sioux Falls (2013-2016), Evangel University (2012), Texas Southern (2008-2011), Trinity Valley Community College (2007) and Texas A&M-Kingsville (2006).

As an assistant head coach at the University of Sioux Falls, he helped the team to a conference championship and three postseason appearances. 

On the field, Jackson started his collegiate career at the University of Louisiana-Monroe and then transferred to Texas Southern for two years on the defensive line. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in 2006.

Who Is Valdosta State's Biggest Rival? 

The most noteworthy opponent for the Valdosta State football team each year is in-state rival—the University of West Georgia.

The teams, which both came into existence in the early 1980s, have played 42 times, with the regular-season matchup each year hailed as the Battle for the Peach Basket. The “trophy” they battle for is a decorated authentic peach basket. Georgia is the Peach State, after all.

Since 1985, the game has alternated between the two campuses. Valdosta State leads the series 28-14, which includes winning their first nine meetings and winning at least four consecutive games three additional times. 

Also among the 42 meetings are playoff games in 2014, 2015 and 2021. West Georgia won the first two, and Valdosta State won the most recent.

Heading into their 2022 battle, Valdosta State had won four consecutive games, but the Wolves ended that streak with a 54-17 walloping of the Blazers in October. 

The 2023 meeting between the teams will take place in Valdosta on Nov. 11. That is the final regular-season game for both teams and Senior Day for Valdosta State.

In 2021, Valdosta State and West Georgia added a layer to their rivalry and an annual contest that includes all 11 sports both schools sponsor. Points are earned for each game/series win across the sports, with 11 points being up for grabs each year.

The new addition is called the Red Clay Rivalry, and the team that earns six points is declared the winner for the year, earning the shiny trophy that displays the winner for each edition. 

Valdosta State won the first year, and West Georgia won last year.

Where Do The Valdosta State Blazers Play Football?

For nearly its entire four decades in existence, the Valdosta State football team has played its home games at Cleveland Field or Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. 

The venue originally was constructed in 1922 and named for a former superintendent of Valdosta City Schools—Dr. A.G. Cleveland. In 1996, two local standout coaches were honored with a renaming—Wright Bazemore and Nick Hyder. 

The stadium was demolished in 2003, making way for a state-of-the-art facility that seats more than 10,000.

The Blazers are 176-57-1 at home and 167-53-1 at Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. 

From 1989-1991, the team played at Martin Stadium, where it was 9-4.

Where Is Valdosta State University?

Valdosta State University is located in Valdosta, Georgia. It was founded in 1906 and opened in 1913 as a normal college for women, South Georgia State Normal College, featuring a two-year program to prepare them to be teachers.

In 1922, the school transitioned to a four-year college, and the state legislature changed the name to Georgia State Women’s College. Within a decade, however, the Great Depression forced changes that included moving away from the training for which it originally opened, and the institution became a four-year liberal arts college.

In 1950, it was time for GSWC to become a coed school, and the name was changed to Valdosta State College. It took time for the school and students to adjust to the change in culture, which shifted again in the 1960s with diversification.

Growth continued, and the college became Valdosta State University in 1993. It was the second regional university in the state.

Notable Valdosta State University Alums

Among the noteworthy alumni at Valdosta State University are Nancy Grace (TV journalist), Elsie Quarterman (ecologist), Pauley Perrette (actress), Amy Carter (Georgia House of Representatives) and Tim Golden (Georgia State Senate).

Two notable football alumni are Jessie Tuggle, who played with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons from 1987-2000 and quarterback Chris Hatcher, who led the Blazers to the playoffs in 1994 and returned as the team’s head coach from 2000-2006, helping the Blazers to 68 wins, four conference titles and a national championship.

Valdosta State University Football Schedule 2023

  • Sept. 2: Point, 7 p.m. ET
  • Sept. 9: at Albany State, 6 p.m. ET
  • Sept. 16: Keiser, 7 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Sept. 23: North Greenville, 7 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Sept. 30: at Chowan, 1 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Oct. 7: Delta State, 2 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Oct. 14: at Mississippi College, 3 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Oct. 21: Shorter, 3 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Oct. 28: at West Florida, 5 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Nov. 4: at West Alabama, 2 p.m. ET, FloSports
  • Nov. 11: West Georgia, 7 p.m. ET, FloSports