|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
Page 18 of 20
Bull Cyclone couldn't speak in his own behalf, but he wrote a letter to the board. His desperation was obvious, his supplicant's tone almost pitiful: "I have heard through the grapevine that you have been called together to take up my contract as coach at East Mississippi Junior College. I beg you not to do this. This school is part of my life and I am a part of it; as a matter of fact, this school is my life."
He was dictating to Virginia. "If you put me out now it will be just like killing a man, for I know that I wouldn't live six weeks." When she finished typing the draft, she told him that that last sentence was overwrought. He took out his pen and scratched this instead: "If you put me out now I won't live long." But the letter went on, pleading-he had only four more years to retirement; he was working 16 to 20 hours a day at a summer job to help put his kids through college. "I have given of myself to this school so diligently and so long and so completely that now I have nowhere to turn.... Thank you and God bless you."
Harbour and his cohorts weren't moved. Bull Cyclone was a disgrace to a respectable institution. He was a Neanderthal man, more backward than his Woodland Culture people. Why, he'd been forced to sit in a chair for a whole game. No, he was fired. All he got was a 30-day eviction notice to clear his family off campus and a deal to keep his mouth shut or forfeit 18 months' severance. "Our entire lives, value systems and hearts were ripped out and we were cast to an unknown destiny," recalls Royce. "Being young and having been raised to believe in justice, honor, patriotism and love made our pain and confusion undefinable."
The family found an old house up in Columbus, where the Chicken Chef franchise was. A radio station there hired Bull Cyclone to do some sports commentary, and he got a job selling insurance. All his friends bought a little, and that helped. That the situation was so desperate was good in a way, because he didn't have the time to dwell on football when the season started. "Still," Bobbie says, "you can't imagine what it did to him after the leaves started to fall, and he knew he was supposed to be on a football field, and everybody knew he was supposed to be on a football field, and he didn't have his field."
Under its new coach, Scooba had a fine year. He installed a conventional attack--you established the run before you dared pass--and he went 9-1. Nonetheless, Pearl River won the conference, and there wasn't any national championship. The 9-1 finish kept the pressure off Stumpy for a while, but he had signed his own notice when he got Bull Cyclone fired. The coach's friends began to mobilize, and on April 10, 1970 the board summarily fired Harbour. The school comptroller was ordered to change the lock on the school safe.
But all that was small beer for Bull Cyclone. "The firing of Harbour does not restore my wrecked life," he wrote shortly afterward. "I came to Scooba when I was 30 years old and left when I was 50. If ever a person gave his life for anything, I gave mine to EMJC."
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
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