|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
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The reference to dove shooting wasn't unusual, either. Most Scooba players were country boys who had, like the coach, grown up with guns. Because Bull Cyclone was almost paranoid about opponents spying, he outfitted his managers with rifles. On at least two occasions it's documented that Bull Cyclone grabbed a rifle from a manager and fired at a private airplane that had strayed into his practice airspace. Another time he bade the manager to open fire on a plane, but the boy panicked, threw down the gun and, so the story goes, ran off the field, never to show his face again in Scooba. On another occasion, a succession of shots heard from where a manager was stationed-with a shotgun and orders to shoot to kill any suspected spies.
"Oh my Lord!" Bull Cyclone screamed. "Who did he shoot?"
Mercifully, no one. The manager was just another old country boy, and when he saw a covey of quail nearby, he blasted away.
Scooba boys were the last in the country to eschew leather helmets, because Bull Cyclone believed that the hard modern helmets caused more injuries than they prevented. He thought his players would be better off with the nice, soft leather helmets-especially if they were decked out with skull and crossbones. No sooner had he thought of the skull-and-crossbones idea than he dispatched a manager with a bunch of helmets for Mrs. Sullivan to start painting. "Bob thought the skull and crossbones would kind of rattle the other team," she says. "He told the players, 'Now, you don't have to make faces. But don't smile.' "
Traditionally, when the Scooba players came out before a game, they didn't make a sound. Most teams scream and shout and carry on to prove they're ready to play, but Bull Cyclone thought that was a waste of good energy. His charges came out as silent as the fog. Imagine being a player on the other team, and here comes the bunch you're going to play, togged out in star jerseys-and now in skull-and-bones helmets-quiet as mice, and then on the sideline they start going one-on-one. That was likely to get your attention.
Bull Cyclone had some kind of temper. Because he was a man of his word, remarks he made while in a rage were not disregarded. He often drove the team bus, a rattly, broken-down vehicle that was known as Night Train because it seemed to function better after the sun went down. After one defeat, Bull Cyclone climbed behind the wheel and announced that he was so mad he was going to run the bus off the road and kill the whole team. Box, who was aboard, says, "I don't know how many of us believed him-most of us believed everything he ever said-but the manager sure did, because he started crying, 'Well, let me off first, Corch, because I'm just the manager, and I didn't have a thing to do with us losing this game.'"
Bull Cyclone's tempestuous hijinks didn't go unnoticed. People would come out just to watch him carry on, throw his coat down, stomp on his hat. One time at Holmes the crowd got so abusive that Bull Cyclone called time and had his players pick up their benches and march to the other side of the field. Robert McGraw, now an assistant at Ole Miss, recalls seeing Bull Cyclone storm onto the field because a wide receiver had run the wrong route. He picked up the player by his jersey and sort of flung him aside. The boy scurried to the bench and hid under it, quaking, while the coach stormed back, the fans all the while chanting, "Give 'em hell, Bull!"
At his maddest, he could really kick a ball. Langston Rogers, who served as Bull Cyclone's aide-de-camp and is now the sports information director at Ole Miss, swears that on one occasion when the coach got mad at the officials, he blustered onto the field between plays, right up to the line of scrimmage, and booted the ball 30 yards, soccer style, dead through the uprights. Another time he went out and kicked the game ball into the stands. As a result the Mississippi Junior College Association required him to spend the whole next game in a chair on the sideline. Stumpy Harbour was infuriated. He acted as if Bull Cyclone had embarrassed him in front of the other presidents. None of them had a football coach kicking game balls into the stands, did they?
A lot of people thought Bull Cyclone would never be able to sit still in the chair the entire game, so there was no telling what Stumpy would do. But, wouldn't you know it, Bull Cyclone stayed put, barely even rising from his seat. That might have made Stumpy even madder. Bull Cyclone could control himself when he had to. Why, to this day, you'd have a hard time finding a lady in Kemper County who ever heard coach Bob (Bull) (Cyclone) Sullivan utter a curse word.
For that matter, although he constantly fought with officials, he never argued just to dispute a call. Bull Cyclone only let the officials have it when he thought they had misinterpreted a rule. "You stink, Billbo!" he screamed when Billbo Mitchell made a call that Sullivan didn't agree with. Mitchell stepped off 15 before saying, "Can you still smell me, Bull?" Bull Cyclone was a stickler about the rules. He knew the book so well and cared so passionately for it that General Neyland, the revered Tennessee coach, eventually got Bull Cyclone from Scooba appointed to the NCAA rules committee, even though his unknown little school wasn't even a member of that august national body.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
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