Bob Sullivan, Jr., right, speaks to the crowd at the unveiling of a bronze statue of his father – legendary EMCC football coach Bob “Bull” Sullivan.
Bob Sullivan, Jr., right, speaks to the crowd at the unveiling of a bronze statue of his father – legendary EMCC football coach Bob “Bull” Sullivan.
SCOOBA - The toughest coach there ever was now has a permanent place to oversee his football Lions of East Mississippi Community College on the field named in his honor.

A larger-than-life bronze statue of legendary coach "Bull" Sullivan was unveiled during 2012 Homecoming activities Oct. 6 on the Scooba campus. The 7-foot, 6-inch bronze of Sullivan with his clipboard overlooks the field from beyond the north end zone.

Bill Buckner, chairman of the Sullivan Division of the EMCC Development Foundation, EMCC president Dr. Rick Young and EMCC Vice President of Alumni Affairs Nick Clark spoke to a large crowd on hand to see the statue - which was unveiled by two of Sullivan's sons, "Little Vic" and Bob Jr., before EMCC's 35-0 victory over Holmes.

"Coach Sullivan was a gift from God to me personally, all his players, students, faculty, community and his family," said Buckner, an All-American quarterback for Sullivan who is now regional director for the Mississippi Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "I am tremendously blessed to be here today, to be a part of the unveiling of the bronze of Coach Bull Cyclone Sullivan."

Sullivan coached at East Mississippi Junior College from 1950-52 and 1956-69, piling up 87 victories which still stand as the most in school history. But the coaching tactics and antics of the former World War II veteran who fought alongside his fellow Marines in Okinawa were far more legendary than his on-field wins.

Popularized as "The Toughest Coach There Ever Was" in an April 1984 cover story of Sports Illustrated - still, today the longest story ever published in SI - Sullivan produced 31 All-Americans in his 16 seasons and more than 200 of his former players went on to become coaches.

"Coach Sullivan was a transformational coach," Buckner told the crowd. "Winning is important, but the team and the player is the focus. Developing men of integrity and character; teaching them how to succeed in life.

"I hardly ever go any place in Mississippi that I am not asked to tell a Bull Sullivan story. I wish we had the time for every player to voice their feelings about Coach or tell their favorite story. Could he coach today? This is a question I am often asked. Coach was brilliant and innovative. I think he would have adjusted and would have continued being an excellent coach."

Robert Victor Sullivan (1918-1970) was acknowledged as an offensive genius with a passing attack which was years ahead of its time. He was the first Mississippi coach to serve on the NCAA Rules Committee and was later featured in a 2010 book by Mike Frascogna entitled "Bull Cyclone Sullivan and the Lions of Scooba, Mississippi" which recounted some of his legendary tales.

Five decades later, Sullivan's footprint on the EMCC football program remains heavy - as evidenced by the school's famous five-star jersey and skull-and-crossbones helmet. And now, by a bronze statue which towers over Sullivan-Windham Field in Scooba.

"Mrs. Virginia Sullivan, in her acceptance remarks at the induction service of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame for Coach Sullivan, made these remarks," Buckner remembered. "'Every player meant so much to Coach. You are Bob Sullivan's legacy. His memorial is not carved in bronze, but in human hearts.'

"Today, he is carved in the hearts of all of us, but today he is also carved in bronze," Buckner said. "This is not an idol to worship, but a marker to remember the life of Coach Sullivan. He was a rare breed. He was unique."

More than a year in the making, the Sullivan bronze was created by Mississippi artist Ben Watts. The base of the statue includes replicas of the five-star jersey and skull-and-crossbones helmet. Index cards with football plays scribbled on them - another Sullivan trademark  - are also on the base in addition to the clipboard, and a handful of former Sullivan players assisted in creating the facial features to help portray him as closely as possible.

Miniature versions of the statue - about 18 inches in height - are available through the EMCC Foundation Office at (662) 576-5063.