Tullai attributes 200th win to longevity, but ex-players say he offers much more


Mitch Tullai has no delusions of grandeur about his 200 wins as football coach at St. Paul's School.

"Longevity is the key to it," said Tullai after his team defeated Southwestern, 45-0, over the weekend. "If you coach for 40 years and you have 200 wins, well, you can see . . ."

What you see is that Tullai's win percentage is not quite what Bear Bryant's was.

Tullai, however, has accomplished something Bryant didn't approach. Mitch has coached at one school for all 40 years. Bryant coached at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M; and Alabama.

Tullai is correct -- longevity is a big part of it, and it is such a big part of the celebratory mood that engulfed St. Paul's and its beautiful Brooklandville campus as the coach won No. 200.

When Tullai was doused with a bucket of water by his players at game's end, the spectators burst into applause. The wet but smiling Tullai waved back in appreciation.

On hand for this memorable moment were many of the coach's former players. They lined up to shake his hand.

One, Neale Smith, who captained Tullai's '57 team and later came back to coach with Mitch, summed up the occasion as only an insider can.

"Mitch is very modest when he talks about his win percentage [.618]," said Smith. "Over the past four seasons, his teams are 24-4.

"But more than that, Mitch is a man I respect immensely. When you play for him, he'll get on your case if you're not doing your best, but I never heard him say anything demeaning to an individual.

"All he ever asks is that you do your best on every play. He drilled that into me when I was a student, and, later, when I was sent to Vietnam, I called on that. It helped me to get through."

I don't think a football coach can have anything better said about him. Not even Bear Bryant.

St. Paul's has won three straight MSA C Conference championships. Friday (3:15 p.m.) St. Paul's and Severn, both 5-0 in the conference, will meet at St. Paul's with the title on the line.

* There was a big turnout -- around 3,000 -- at Gilman Saturday for an exciting high school football game in which the host school knocked off then-No. 2-ranked Loyola, 13-7.

Loyola was handicapped by the loss of its three-year starter at quarterback, Bill Evans, out with a broken wrist, so maybe it was not such an upset after all.

Loyola looked to me as if it was beginning to jell in the second half behind its new QB, John Baer. Don't write off the Dons. Obviously Loyola misses Evans' experience and leadership, but Baer is not bad.

Gilman fields a strong team every year, largely because it always plays good defense. Veteran assistant Nick Schloeder coaches the defense.

"Schloeder doesn't get enough credit," said Jody Martin, former Gilman athletic director. "Nick reminds me of Richie Petitbon with the Redskins. Every year the 'Skins have a great defense, but Petitbon doesn't get much of the credit, either."

Gilman, dipped into a little-used bag of tricks for its first touchdown. It came on an 18-yard halfback option pass from Jim Zimmerman to Mike McWilliams.

Gilman's only loss this year was to City College, which is 6-0 and deservedly ranked No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun poll.

City has at least two toughies left -- at Loyola Nov. 14 and, on Thanksgiving afternoon, Poly.

Poly's only loss was to Loyola. As we all know, anything can happen in a Poly-City game.

* It's interesting to see how many people at high school games these days say they prefer those to pro sports. As Buzz Getschel put it at the St. Paul's-Southwestern game: "The pros are a bunch of hot dogs. Everything is money. I'd rather watch high school kids who are playing for the love of the game."

* Coach Mark Duffner said before taking the field at Duke Saturday that a win was "the solution" to the problems of his then 1-6 Maryland football team. The Terps got the win, 27-25, over the Blue Devils on a 38-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from John Kaleo to Marcus Badgett on the last play of the game.

You have to feel good for Duffner, who puts his heart and soul into rebuilding Maryland as a football power. You also have to admire his players for their refusal to give up.

Before the season, I said Maryland would win two games -- over Wake Forest and Duke. The Terps lost to Wake and needed a miracle to beat Duke. I had no idea how bad Pitt (Maryland's other victim) would be. The Panthers lost to East Carolina, 37-31, over the weekend and are 3-5.

The real solution to Maryland's problems will come with a couple more good recruiting classes.

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