John Alred: It was long overdue
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Former coach Bill Burgess is honored before Saturday’s JSU game. Photo: Steven Gross / Consolidated News Service
Former coach Bill Burgess is honored before Saturday’s JSU game. Photo: Steven Gross / Consolidated News Service
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There was a lot going on in Jacksonville this past Saturday. So much so that it’s hard to zero in on one particular thing.

I, like many Jacksonville State alum, wanted to be among the crowd at the dedication of the renovated stadium. Plus the opponent was Chattanooga, which for older JSU grads like me, is a detestable foe. Not as detestable as Troy, but pretty darn close.

And when James Shaw caught that 72-yard touchdown pass from Marquis Ivory with 1:12 left to play, I was cheering my insides out. I couldn’t cheer outside because I was in the press box and they throw you out if you display any emotion like that.

But a long time friend, Keith Goss, was sitting next to me, and we actually did a “silent” high-five.

Anyway, enough about the game. That’s history. Now JSU plays Georgia State. Like coaches love to say, that was last week, this is this week. Now JSU has to worry about the Panthers in the Georgia Dome.

What I would like to remember about last Saturday night is Bill Burgess, better known to most people as Coach B.

The stadium at Jacksonville State has been known as Paul Snow since the 1960’s. I have read about Mr. Snow, but didn’t know or meet him. He certainly deserved having the field named after him.

But there comes a time when a school has to honor the coach that has meant more to the program than any other coach. For Jacksonville State, that man is Coach B.

Saturday night, Jacksonville State renamed its stadium Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium.

It was an honor long, long overdue for Coach Burgess.

Alabama did it with Coach Bryant. Auburn did it with Coach Jordan. And anyone with any football knowledge in this state knows what those men meant to those schools.

Coach B is that man to JSU.

After all, he is the only coach to deliver a national football championship. He coached 12 seasons, winning 84 games, losing 49 and tying four (that was before overtimes).

Before the game, sports writers each took a turn at getting his comments about what the honor meant to him. The only thing I wanted to do was hug his neck, which I did. And the only thing I could choke out was, “You certainly deserve this.”

Coach B has always been one of my favorite people. Not only is he one of the most likeable people I have met, but he is one of the most sincere. And for football coaches, that is refreshing.

For all those wins and a national championship, I know his players mean more to him than anything. And the players feel the same way about him. At least the ones I have talked to.

When you meet one of Coach B’s former players, they still call him Coach Burgess. I have noticed that players who respect their coaches tend to do that.

When you meet former Bryant or Jordan players, they don’t say Bear or Shug, they say Coach Bryant or Coach Jordan. Same way with Coach Burgess. In fact, it was the persistence of former players who finally got JSU to recognize their coach.

Coach B also has one of the greatest senses of humor of any coach I have met. Once a young Birmingham reporter misquoted him in a story (Coach B had said down lineman and the young writer had thought he said d--- lineman). When Coach B’s mother read that in the Birmingham newspaper, she called her son up and chided him for using foul language. Every press conference after that Coach B always said DOWN and usually spelled it out. He didn’t want another call from his Mama.

I could go on and on about Coach B. Let’s just finish by saying JSU did the right thing Saturday night. Oh, and did I mention, over 22,000 folks saw JSU’s come-from-behind win over Chattanooga.

What a start to Burgess-Snow Field.
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