He beat the
defending national champions 34-14, and his legend was in the making in that
grateful little crossroads. As best we can tell, Bull Cyclone went 8-3 that
first season, and 21-9 for three years, which was more victories than Scooba
had enjoyed in its history. The college had been chartered in 1927, a step up
from a county agricultural school. However, in 1953 Bull Cyclone departed
Scooba, taking his family up to Nashville, where he wanted to finish up work
for his bachelor's degree in physical education at Peabody College.
Once he had his
degree in hand, though, he planned to return to Scooba. And he did—for the '56
season. East Mississippi had taken on a new president in the interim, a local
man familiar with Bull Cyclone's exploits, and he hired him back. The president
was a little red-haired fellow named R.A. Harbour. He always went by his
initials, hoping that no one would remember that his square name was Ritzi
Algeine. Unfortunately, behind his back he was called Stumpy, for he was as
small a man as Bull Cyclone was big.
Like the coach,
though, the president was married to a smart woman, one who was every bit his
partner. Edna Harbour joined the faculty at Scooba, and she eventually became
its public relations director. Edna was a beautiful woman, taller than her
husband, and she constantly pushed Stumpy, regularly correcting him and
embarrassing him in front of his colleagues.
Still, it's fair
to say that Stumpy wanted as much |for the college he ran as Bull Cyclone did
for the football team, and the new president was delighted to get Sullivan back
in '56. The team had again fallen on hard times, and the fans had grown
resentful, as all fans do, at the lack of success. When Stumpy hired Bull
Cyclone, the Kemper County Messenger ("This is the only newspaper in the
world whose sole interest is in Kemper County") exulted: "He is
considered one of the best offensive coaches in existence, including senior
college.... Sullivan's teams didn't always win, but they always put on a show
for the spectators. When you saw Sullivan's boys play, you saw a jam-up
scoring, razzle-dazzle game that left you breathless and sometimes mad also.
But you saw a football game."
But it was just
like '50 all over again. Scooba had only two players back from the '55 squad,
so Bull Cyclone had to scour the territory for live bodies. The way it worked
then, at Scooba and at a lot of other places, a coach would rope in so many
players, weed out the losers during summer practice and then "dress
out" the survivors. Bull Cyclone didn't disguise what he was doing. Just
the opposite. A candidate he was recruiting would ask, "Corch, are you
giving me a scholarship?"
Bull Cyclone would grumble, "I'm giving you a scholarship if you don't quit
or if I don't run you off." It was customary for a Scooba player—freshman
or sophomore—to sign his scholarship form as he boarded the team bus to go to
the first game.
"running off' was a fairly common gridiron practice in those days. It was,
for example, what cemented Bryant's reputation as a martinet when he started
coaching at Texas A&M in '54. You didn't get cut, you got run off the team.
Or perhaps, more often, you chose to run yourself off. "Bull ran off more
All-Americans than he kept," says Don Edwards, who played quarterback at
Scooba in the late '50s. Players can remember hearing suitcases banging down
the stairs of The Alamo just before dawn as boys decided not to go through
another two-a-day. Others would leave surreptitiously in the black of night.
They'd sneak down the stairs and then push their cars out of earshot before
starting them up, lest Bull Cyclone wake up and come after them and make them
stay on the team.
old players get together, they often wonder about the ones that quit. It wasn't
exactly dishonorable to get run off. After all, a lot did, and damn near
everybody almost did. Edwards, for example, left six times before ultimately
deciding to stay. Still, the survivors wonder what ever happened to the others.
Well, here's one report, from C.R. Gilliam of Carrolton, Ala.: "We'd
practice four hours in the morning and then four more hours in the afternoon. I
was playing defensive guard and got my nose broken. It was bleeding real bad
and pushed around to the side, but Bull just kicked my butt and told me to get
back in there.
I'm laying on that pillow, my nose is aching, I'm feeling real sorry for
myself, and I'm thinking, 'I don't have to take this.' I got up and met Bull in
the hall the next morning and told him I was going home. 'How?' Bull asked me.
'Walkin',' I told him. I started out and must have gotten four or five miles,
to near Geiger, when here come that red Pontiac station wagon of his. He picked
me up and took me on home to Carrolton. I never did go to the doctor about that
200 of Bull Cyclone's players became coaches, and he'd tell them, "Son,
don't never worry about a player who leaves. The only thing for you to do is
find out why he left and work on it for the next one comes along like