|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
Page 17 of 20
Without question he would have delighted in a larger stage, for even his family agrees that he loved recognition. But he had to learn to take refuge in his pride. "He knew he was a great coach," Bobbie says, and that had to be enough for him. Besides, he had come to believe that Scooba was his destiny, that that little stretch of nothing on the one hand and pu'pwood on the other was his realm. That was where he would teach football players to be men, and everybody else he could to be patriots and Christians. If the world was changing, at least the gridiron was a rectangular verity.
Around campus he came to be an amalgam of Mr. Chips and Mister Roberts. This image was heightened by his disputes with Stumpy. "If I agreed with Harbour on anything it was unintentional," Bull Cyclone later wrote. Once during a cold snap, many of the school's pipes burst. The campus had no water and the toilets didn't work, but Harbour wouldn't cancel school. Eventually Bull Cyclone persuaded him otherwise. Sullivan became even more of a hero. Some came to think that the roughest, toughest football coach in creation might make a terrific college president. Insecure little Stumpy, literally in the big man's shadow, envious of his esteem, now imagined a rival to his throne.
In 1967, The Lion, the Scooba yearbook, was dedicated to Bull Cyclone, with this inscription: "We respect your strong will, strength and spirit. We admire your nature, loyalty and competence. You are just, you are fair, you are great." The coach who had spent a lifetime hewing grown-ups out of pu'pwood had shaped himself into a whole man, too. This may be the best thing about the best coaches-not what they make of others in a couple of years but what, in the long run, they make of themselves.
Bull Cyclone was comfortable now. His family was growing up; two of the girls were already in college. He had his house by the end zone. He had completed his studies, and he was at peace with his God. The rest of the football world was even beginning to catch up to his wide-open style. All that eluded him was a championship, the one that had been wrenched from his grasp when Buckner ran with the damn ball. And the '69 squad was going to give him that. Already, by that spring, Virginia says, he had so many index cards that he had "a whole new box of offense." It was a lock. It was, as we know, "going to be like taking candy from a baby."
School was out, so the players and students who loved Bull Cyclone were away from Scooba when Stumpy Harbour convened the Board of Trustees to fire him on June 29, 1969. Three of the coach's strongest supporters weren't on hand. Still, word of the meeting and what the president had in mind leaked out. Joe Bradshaw, one of Bull Cyclone's former players, distributed petitions in his support that were signed by every high school coach in the Scooba district. Stumpy refused to admit the petitions. Neither did he admit friends of Bull Cyclone's who gathered outside the meeting room.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
|< Prev||Next >|