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It’s difficult to explain to younger generations what Pat Sullivan meant not only to the Auburn Family but to the game in general. The Auburn legend passed away Sunday morning, he was 69 years old. He was not only a legend, he was a college football icon. He may be the last of the gentlemen coaches that used to roam the sideline. Men like his mentor, legendary Coach Ralph Shug Jordan.
Pat was a three-sport letterman at John Carroll CatholicHigh School in Birmingham – playing basketball, baseball, and football. Although he was a natural baseball player he went on to football stardom at Auburn.
In his day players were not allowed to play varsity sports till their sophomore year. In the three years he played, Pat broke or set school and NCAA records for passing and in 1970 led the nation in total offense.
Opposing coaches were in awe of his talent. After losing to Auburn, Georgia coach Vince Dooley said, “We were beaten by the best quarterback I’ve ever seen. Sullivan was a super player having a super day.”
Sports Illustrated, picking up on Dooley’s quote, headlined its article about the game with the title, “Underneath That 7 Is An S.” The magazine said Pat Sullivan could, “..do everything but leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
Dooley’s sentiment was often echoed by other SEC coaches such as Alabama’s Bear Bryant, who felt Sullivan was one of the best to ever play the game. After Sullivan rallied the Tigers from a 17-0 deficit to defeat Alabama 33-28 in the 1970 Iron Bowl, Bryant said,“[Sullivan] does more things to beat you than any quarterback I’ve ever seen.”
Pat finished his varsity career with 6,284 passing yards and a NCAA record of 71 total touchdowns (53 passing and 18 running). A two-time All American, he was a two-time SEC player of the year, most valuable player in two bowl games, and still commands a place in the SEC record books. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Sullivan was the second SEC Quarterback and the first Auburn player to win the Heisman Trophy. And he was given the Walter Camp Award in 1971 as the College Football Player of the Year.
He was part of the greatest tandem in college football history. The phrase “Sullivan to Beasley” is forever etched in the annals of Auburn football lore. Yet he remained a humble and gracious man.
I remember meeting him in the summer of 1988 at a booster club meeting. Although an Auburn sports hero, he treated my wife and I as though he had known us for years. And later he sent my wife an autographed picture that had been taken of our time together; a gesture that he went out of his way to do for us. Yes, he was a humble and gracious man.
After playing four years in the NFL he became a successful Birmingham business man and color analyst for Auburn football before becoming an Auburn assistant coach.
His career saw coaching stops at Auburn, TCU, UAB, and Samford University. As Pat Dye‘s quarterback coach, he helped Auburn win three SEC championships during the eighties while mentoring Auburn quarterback greats Jeff Burger, Reggie Slack, and Stan White.
He was the winningest coach in the history of Samford University, and in 2014 Samford renamed its football field house the Sullivan-Cooney Family Field House in his honor.
Many don’t realize it, but he was responsible for the renaissance of TCU football. In 2014 the school recognized that when it honored him and his 1994 Southwest Conference Championship team when TCU played Samford in the season opener. It was Sullivan who laid the foundation for the success the Horned Frogs enjoy today. And, he did it on a shoestring budget.
TCU trustee Malcolm Louden admitted, “We let him down on some things, and it made his job here more difficult.” He continued, “But down to the end, he remained one of the nicest, classiest people I’ve ever known.” Yet, the school refused to let him out of his contract when LSU made an offer to hire him in Baton Rouge.
Current TCU Coach, Gary Patterson said at the time, ““Pat Sullivan is an unbelievable man. A great football coach.” And anyone who ever met Pat came away with the same impression, he was just unbelievable.
His health hadn’t been good since he began a battle with throat cancer 16 years ago, and he had difficulty even coaching from the sideline his final 2914 season due to back surgery he had underwent before the start of that season.
Health issues precipitated his retirement as Samford Head Coach. But his impact on the game was far greater than just a football coach. Fiercely loyal to his alma mater, he spent his life teaching youth his values and mentoring them, teaching them to be men, to be accountable, to have integrity, and all the while treating them as if they were his own sons.
So, the man who was the gentleman of college football has gone. His passing is a great loss to his wife Jean and their family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. It’s a sad day not only for the Sullivan’s but for the extended Auburn Family as well.
It’s also a sad day for college football to not have this giant of a gentleman around the game. In this day of big ego coaches who always seem ready to move on to the next highest bidder, the game needs more Pat Sullivan’s.
“He was an unbelievable man.”
For college football fans there is nothing like the last weekend in November. It’s Rivalry Weekend, and the action began last night with a dramatic 21-20 Miss. State win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. More games continue today with 15 on tap, starting with No. 24 Virginia Tech at Virginia in an11:00 am CT game.
However, the biggest game in the south will take place on The Plains Saturday as Auburn and Alabama meet in what many believe to be the best rivalry game in the nation. It will be the 84th renewal of the Iron Bowl. The Tide is playing for a chance to get into the playoff while an Auburn win would likely keep the Tigers in the picture for a New Year’s Day Bowl. The No.15 Tigers will have to play their best game of the year to have a chance against No. 5 Bama.
It should be a great day for football on the Plains with a high around 70, falling to near 60 by the end of the game. For those who will be watching on television, we have prepared our usual broadcast schedule of all games leading up to and after the Iron Bowl’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff.
Game times are Central Standard, and all SEC games as well as those involving Top 25 teams are underlined. Games on ESPN/ABC can be viewed by clicking here, and games on ESPN3 can be viewed by clicking on this link.
Acid Reign will be at the keyboard doing his regular play-by-play during Saturday on our Open Thread. So why not check back here during the game and participate in the discussion as the game unfolds. War Eagle and …
Friday, Nov. 29, All times Central.
No. 24 Virginia Tech at Virginia – ABC
Bowling Green at Buffalo – ESPN-Plus
Kent State at Eastern Michigan – ESPN-Plus
Miami (Ohio) at Ball State – CBS Sports Network
Texas Tech at Texas – FOX
Toledo at Central Michigan – ESPN+
See the rest of the schedule after the jump.
Missouri at Arkansas (Little Rock) – CBS
No.17Iowa at Nebraska – Big Ten Network
No. 20 Boise State at Colorado State – CBS Sports Network
No. 19 Cincinnati at No. 18 Memphis – ABC
Washington State at Washington – FOX
West Virginia at TCU – ESPN
Arkansas State at South Alabama – ESPN-Plus
No. 25 Appalachian State at Troy – ESPN-Plus
South Florida at Central Florida – ESPN
Saturday, Nov. 30
No. 3 Clemson at South Carolina – ESPN
No. 4 Georgia at Georgia Tech – ABC
Louisville at Kentucky – SEC Network
Tulsa at East Carolina – ESPNU
Indiana at Purdue – ESPN2
Northwestern at Illinois – FS1
No. 1 Ohio State at No. 13 Michigan – FOX
Florida International at Marshall – CBS Sports Network
Texas State at Coastal Carolina – ESPN-Plus
Wake Forest at Syracuse – Fox Sports Regional Networks
Charlotte at Old Dominion, ESPN-Plus
Wyoming at Air Force – No broadcast
Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky – ESPN-Plus
New Mexico State at Liberty – ESPN-Plus
Rice at Texas-El Paso – ESPN3
UNLV at Nevada – AT&T SportsNet 2:30 p.m.
No. 15 Auburn host No.5 Alabama – CBS Game of The Week
Maryland at Michigan State – FS1
Rutgers at No. 10 Penn State – Big Ten Network
No. 12 Wisconsin at No. 8 Minnesota – ABC
Boston College at Pitt – ACC Network
Miami at Duke – ESPN2
Connecticut at Temple – CBS Sports Network
No. 9 Baylor at Kansas – ESPN
Southern Miss at Florida Atlantic – NFL Network
Texas-San Antonio at Louisiana Tech – ESPN-Plus
Tulane at SMU – ESPNU
Vanderbilt at Tennessee – SEC Network
Alabama-Birmingham at North Texas – No broadcast
No. 16 Notre Dame at Stanford – FOX
Utah State at New Mexico – No broadcast
Oregon State at No. 14 Oregon – Pac-12 Networks
Georgia State at Georgia Southern – ESPN-Plus
North Carolina at North Carolina State – ACC Network
Florida State at No. 11 Florida – SEC Network
No. 23 Iowa State at Kansas State – FS1
Texas A&M at No. 2 LSU – ESPN
Navy at Houston – ESPN2
Colorado at No. 6 Utah – ABC
Florida State at No. 11 Florida – SEC Network
Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette – ESPNU
No. 7 Oklahoma at No. 21 Oklahoma State – FOX
BYU at San Diego State – CBS Sports Network
Arizona at Arizona State – ESPN
California at UCLA – FS1
Fresno State at San Jose State – ESPN2
Army at Hawaii – CBS Sports Network
It’s finally here, the biggest week of the college football season. This is Iron Bowl week. There’s nothing else like it in college sports. It’s the renewal of the nation’s No.1 rivalry … Auburn vs. Alabama. This is a series where games are remembered by special names such as, “Bo over the top,” “The Kick,” “Punt Bama punt,” “The Cam back,” and “Kick Six.” Yes, when it comes to college football, it doesn’t get any better than this.
But of all the great games of all the Iron Bowls, none stand out to me as much as December 2, 1989. This Saturday will mark the 30 the anniversary of the greatest Iron Bowl in history. And to this day it ranks as one of the top five most important events of my life.
Up until that Saturday, Auburn was forced to play every Iron Bowl at Alabama’s home away from home, at nearby Legion Field in Birmingham. The Tide called it a neutral site but it was anything but neutral. As Alabama’s stadium was too small at the time to host large crowds they played all their big games at Legion Field. And adding insult to injury, the so called neutral site boasted a statue of Bear Bryant.
Since coming to Auburn eight years earlier, Coach Pat Dye had worked tirelessly to get the game moved to a home and home series. And Alabama’s administration along with Head Coach Ray Perkins had worked just as tirelessly to prevent it from happening. In fact, Perkins had said it would never happen. Even after it appeared Dye would win the tug of war, the city of Birmingham brought a law suit to try to prevent Auburn from hosting the game on the Plains.
But Dye prevailed and the game came to Auburn for the first time ever. I remember it like it was yesterday. The atmosphere on campus was electric all week building up to Saturday. In fact it was so much so that The Auburn players had to be bussed out of town to be able to get some rest the night before.
On Saturday, the stadium was packed out with another estimated 20,000 people outside the stadium listening to it on radio. And there must have been 25,000 people at Tiger Walk. Back then, players usually walked four and five abreast though the fans but on that day the crowd was so large that there was only room to meander through the orange and blue throng as people shouted and slap them on the back.
Grown men cried and people climbed trees, stood on top of cars and RV’s, just to get a glimpse of the team as they filed by. It was so loud and emotional that some players hyperventilated. Running back Stacey Danley told reporters, “The game was over that morning at Tiger Walk. It wouldn’t have mattered who we played.”
Still there are no words that can adequately explain what it felt like to be there. It’s like trying to tell some one what it’s like to hold there first born child in their arms. Yon can tell them but only when they experience it for them selves can they fully grasp the magnitude of the moment.
The 1989 Iron Bowl was more than a game. It was a deliverance from the oppression of not being allowed to play our home games at home. It was one of the biggest reasons for the Tide’s dominance for more than three decades. In the 30 years before the game was moved Alabama held an 18-9 record. Since the home-and-home format was instituted, Auburn leads the series 14-13 and is 9-5 in games played in Jordan – Hare.
In 1989 Alabama was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation. But at the end of the day, they left Auburn with a 30-20 defeat. There have been many great moments. Games like the “Kick Six” were thrilling at the end but the first Iron Bowl in Auburn was thrilling every moment of the entire game. We stood most of the game but when the Tigers went up 27-10, I was so excited; I had to sit down for a moment as I was getting faint headed.
Bama fought hard and made it close at the end but the emotional wave that poured over that stadium made it almost impossible for them to win. Talk about your 12th man, I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. It was loud before the game, during the game, and after the game.
And when Auburn’s Alexander Wright caught a 44 yard bomb on the opening drive, it was like a huge bomb went off in an already loud stadium. Alabama’s Roger Schultz said, “The field was shaking it was so loud.” And it stayed that way till the final horn blew.
Being there still ranks as one of the Top 5 vents of my lifetime. The first one was my spiritual conversion, No. 2 was marrying my wife. No.3 and 4 were the birth of my two sons, and …. No. 5 was, and will forever remain, being at the ever first Iron Bowl on The Plains. War Eagle and …