Brayton tries to instill the same sense of responsibility and loyalty in his team. In agreeing to play for Brayton, a player must commit to some physical labor. Players helped install and paint the present fence. Brayton's next project is to build a stadium club, so box-seat fans can enjoy a meal before games. Players will help build that. "It's just part of the program," says pitcher Aaron Sele, who was an All-America the past two seasons. "Nobody minds, because you know about it coming in."
On the field, Brayton's players must be disciplined, and they must respect Cougar tradition. Between games of a double-header last spring, he caught redshirt freshman Doug Allen sitting in the stands! Sin. Next, Allen was caught smooching with his girlfriend! Mortal sin. Brayton pulled Allen into the dugout and said, "You don't know what it means to be a Cougar!"
Capital punishment—the Run to Idaho—swiftly followed. That's what Brayton imposes when you really screw up. Allen had to run to Moscow, Idaho—seven miles away—and back.
On the day we visited, Brayton raked the dirt around home plate after practice. Sele, who would soon become a first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox, raked the dirt between home and first. Brayton was asked what he'll do when, in three to five years, he retires. "Groundskeep," he said. "Full time. I'm going to take care of this field so it's the most beautiful field you've ever seen. Can't wait."
That won't be Brayton's only job in retirement. Tending to the F.C. Bobo Brayton baseball scholarship fund will occupy much of his time. The fund is already worth $170,000; the goal is $1 million by the time Brayton dies. By stipulation, no more than 10% of the money will be used in any one year.
Brayton has one other rule for the fund: Not a dime can be spent in any calendar year until that season's baseball schedule is posted on his tombstone. "The theory is that I'll be working for the Cougars when I'm dead," says Brayton. "Even when I die, I'm not leaving here."
Since when does a 26-year-old football practice jersey make a grown man emotional? Since mid-May. That's when Bryan Hinkle, an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, walked by the equipment room at Three Rivers Stadium and ran into equipment manager Tony Parisi. "Hey, Hinkle!" Parisi hollered. "That jersey's history! Don't bring that thing around no more! Can't even wash that thing anymore!"
Hinkle glared back. "This jersey," he told Parisi, "has still got some life in it."
A few words about this jersey. It is, as noted, 26 years old. In its early days, when no one in Pittsburgh had heard of coach Chuck Noll or even of Three Rivers Stadium, it was part of the Steelers' stock of loose-fitting yellow practice jerseys. In the early '70s, when Parisi handed out new, sleek practice jerseys, the faded yellow ones were shelved.
Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert, who was drafted by Pittsburgh in 1974, stumbled upon one of the yellow numbers in Parisi's quarters in the late '70s and wore it to practice for a couple of years. Hinkle, drafted in 1981, found another one around 1985. He has been wearing it ever since. He even rescued the thing from a garbage can in the summer of '89, when Parisi tried to throw it away. Hinkle paid a seamstress in Latrobe, Pa., $20 to patch it. "Worst thing I've ever seen," she told him. "This is just a bunch of rags."