|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
Page 9 of 20
Before departing Union at the end of the school year, Bull Cyclone got his first real coaching experience and crowned it by marrying one of his players. His marriage to Thelma had been dissolved by now, and when Bull Cyclone took over a girls' softball team on campus, he took a shine to the shortstop. He named the team the Terrapins because he thought the players were so slow. He shifted the shortstop, Virginia Dale, to first (and later tabbed her All-League in his column) and led the club to an undefeated season. The first big game he ever coached was a showdown between the Terrapins and their main rival, which boasted the league's fastest pitcher. To prepare his girls Bull Cyclone brought in his roommate, a softball pitcher, to throw batting practice. The first two days, they didn't get a bat on the ball, but by the time they had to face the female fireballer, her vaunted offerings looked like change ups, and she was quickly driven out of the box. Not long afterward, Sullivan married his first-sacker, and they headed to Reno so he could play football at the University of Nevada, where a coach named Whistlin' Jim Aiken was assembling a postwar juggernaut.
Nevada set national offensive records that stood for years, and Bull Cyclone was a standout at center and linebacker, good enough to make the Shrine All-Star game in Honolulu, where he intercepted three passes. The Baltimore Colts of the old All-American Conference offered him a contract. But when Whistlin' Jim went north to take over as coach at the University of Oregon in 1947, he asked Bull Cyclone to come along as an assistant, and he did. Sullivan had decided it was time to stop playing and get on with his calling in life, which was to coach football.
When Bull Cyclone arrived in Scooba in '50, the split T, a grind 'em-out power offense, was in fashion, but he favored a wide-open passing game, so he operated from the I formation. Jimmy Jobe, who played and coached against Bull Cyclone, says, "Things you saw last Sunday for the first time on TV, well, I guarantee he was doing them 20 years ago. All that motion and then reverse-Bull was doing that in the late fifties."
"I had to laugh when Bill Walsh won the Super Bowl two years ago and everybody discovered a genius," says Bradberry. "Corch Walsh may be a genius, but Corch Sullivan was doing the same thing when I played for him in the sixties. I don't believe we ever ran a play that didn't have five receivers."
Adds Poole, "Every play was pass action. I don't know how anybody prepared for us. He'd make up at least six plays for every game."
He conjured them up at all waking hours. Around the house, plays would be sketched on newspapers, napkins, books, calendars; they were found on church programs and high school prom dance cards. One morning Bobbie discovered that her father had absentmindedly scribbled plays all over the margins of a term paper she was turning in that day.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
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