STARKVILLE – Mississippi State Athletics will enshrine eight new members into the MSU Sports M-Club Hall of Fame on Sept. 25 when the Bulldogs play host to LSU at Davis Wade Stadium. Water Valley resident Bob Tyler is included in the six-member class of 2020 that also features All-American defensive lineman Billy Jackson, baseball standout Bobby Thigpen, three-time All-SEC pick Ray White of men’s basketball and the NCAA Championship women’s tennis doubles tandem of Jackie Holden and Claire Pollard. The 2021 class consists of All-SEC center Sharon Thompson from women’s basketball and football’s Charlie Weatherby, who served Mississippi State University for 58 years.
Affectionately known as “Coach” across the state, Tyler coached football for 32 seasons. This tenure spanned 10 years in the SEC, from 1968-78, and included a six-year reign as MSU’s head coach. He served as both head coach and director of athletics from 1976-79, assuming the twin roles in May, 1976. He was offensive coordinator for MSU in 1972 before being selected as head coach in 1973.
“I am elated and overwhelmed to be selected for induction in the Hall of Fame at this great university,” Tyler told the Herald. “I appreciate the support of the members of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, those who nominated me, President Keenum, our players and assistant coaches. I am blessed by being a member of the Bulldog Nation. Actually I cannot fully express my feelings of gratitude and appreciation for this great honor. This is the highlight of my long coaching career.“
The 27th head football coach in MSU history, Tyler turned in four winning seasons with the Bulldogs, including a pair of nine-win campaigns. During the 1974 season, Tyler led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record, including SEC wins over Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and a victory over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. That year, he was named National Churchman’s Hall of Fame Coach of the Year after guiding the Bulldogs to a No. 17 final ranking and the second-best season record in program history at the time. Only the 10-0-1 mark of the 1940 team topped the 1974 results.
A God-Given Talent
Rocky Felker was the star quarterback on that 1974 team and readily recalls Tyler’s success.
“He had a way to motivate players to play, he got the best out of what he had to work with,” Felker explained.
He noted that Tyler brought a positive attitude to a program that had not been to a bowl game in a decade or longer.
“He built a belief and confidence in us, that we could win and be successful. He instilled that in us,” Felker told the Herald.
Felker, who also had a long coaching career, including serving head coach at MSU from 1986 to 1990, shared another strength that made Tyler successful.
“He was the kind of head coach who hired people and let them do their jobs. He learned that from coach (Bear) Bryant and coach (Johnny) Vaught.”
Felker said the bond between the Tyler and his players was strong.
“He really showed a lot of love for the players he coached. He reached out to all of us, black and white. He didn’t recruit the first African American at Mississippi State, but he was certainly a big part of that process. I would call him a father-figure for so many of us. He had a God-given talent – knowing when to get on to you and when to put his arm around you and love you,” Felker added.
That God-given talent also extended to Tyler’s earlier years of coaching, where he posted an impressive 91-19-6 record over 11 years at five high schools before entering the collegiate ranks. At one point, at the high school level, Tyler’s teams won four consecutive conference championships at three different schools, and two of those were state championships. At the collegiate level, three SEC Conference schools – teams with which Tyler was associated – advanced to Sun, Sugar, Orange, Liberty and Gator Bowls. He also coached in the post season Senior Bowl in Mobile and North/South Shrine Game in Detroit.
The induction on Sept. 25 will be a reunion for many of Tyler’s former players and coaches including Felker.
“It is an honor that he deserved a long time ago. It is an exciting time for those who played for him and who coached under him. He is special to me and a lot of people at this university,” Felker added.