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The Last Word

The Last Word

Nov. 22, 2000

By Tim BourretThe South Carolina Game Program – November 18, 2000

In 1978, I was given the opportunity to interview to be the assistant sports information director at Clemson University. My prospective superior was already a sports information legend named Bob Bradley (henceforth known as Mr. B), so I was a little nervous. He had just recently won the Arch Ward Award as the Man of the Year among college sports information directors on a national basis. He had been President of CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) and was already in the CoSIDA Hall of Fame.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I need not have anxious feelings. I interviewed with Mr. B on a Saturday afternoon in his office in the five-year-old Jervey Athletic Center. He took me to “Mac’s Drive In” for lunch and he told me all about the history of Clemson (a lot of Frank Howard stories), something I knew a little about because I had traveled to Clemson the previous fall with the Notre Dame football team. He made this Connecticut Yankee feel right at home.

During the course of the weekend, I met with the late Jerry Arp, then the personable promotions director at Clemson. He had been Mr. B’s assistant in the early 1970s. At the end of our interview he told me Clemson would be a great place to start my career because I would be, “working for a person who would treat me like a son.”

On the plane ride to South Bend, that last comment struck me. A 22-year-old graduate student at the time, I hadn’t been through a lot of job interviews, but it certainly seemed unusual that a virtual stranger would tell me that my prospective boss would treat me like a son.

When I returned to work that Monday at Notre Dame, I met with my boss, Roger Valdiserri, himself a legend in the profession, and he told me how much he respected Mr. B and that he would be a great person to work for, especially for my first job out of school.

Respect is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Bob Bradley. Recently, his name has been on my mind and in the thoughts of thousands of people who follow Clemson and college athletics. He passed away this past October 30 after an heroic three-year battle against bone cancer.

His desire to attend Clemson sporting events and serve his University was an inspiration to everyone. During the 2000 NCAA Baseball Tournament at Clemson, on consecutive days, he went through a chemotherapy treatment at 1:00 PM and was at the baseball press box to serve as official scorer by 2:00 PM.

His drive to reach 500 consecutive Clemson football games worked was a demonstration of physical and mental toughness that I will remember the rest of my life. The last two weeks of the streak he spent Monday to Thursday going through radiation and chemotherapy treatments, followed by rest in bed. Late in the week he would take some steroids and by Saturday he had a smile on his face as he made it to the press box. He kidded that he would not have been allowed to compete in the Olympics in Sydney this year. I don’t know if they keep national medical records, but Mr. B went through 136 chemotherapy treatments during his courageous battle.

Earlier this year I wrote a story in this program about Ring of Honor recipient Dale Davis, calling him the toughest Clemson athlete I had ever seen. That was a list of former Clemson athletes. The only person who might be tougher than Mr. B is his wife Louise, known as Mrs. B to all, who personally greeted (standing) all 600 people who attended her husband’s funeral on November 1. They were quite a couple for over 47 years.

During his 34 years as Clemson’s Sports Information Director and his over 45 years serving the athletic department and Clemson University, Mr. B sought ways to document the accomplishments of Clemson athletic teams and its players. In this business you do that through extensive research, or by providing interesting stories that prove your point, something he did as well as anyone in the business.

Here are some facts surrounding the events of his final days that give credence to the claim that Bob Bradley was one of the most respected and admired administrators in the history of this institution.

*When he reached his milestone 500th consecutive Clemson football game at Duke on September 30, the Duke Athletic Department waived a 60-year rule prohibiting the posting of banners in Wallace Wade Stadium. They figured Wade himself, a personal friend of Frank Howard, would have wanted it that way. IPTAY proudly posted a “Congrats on 500 Consecutive Games Mr. B,” in full television view.

*I have only witnessed the media give applause at an athletic event in a media facility on three occasions. The first was for Arnold Palmer after he gave his post-round press conference after his final round of US Open play. The other occasions were at the Duke University Press Box when Mr. B reached his 500th consecutive game, and the following Saturday when we honored him at Clemson for that accomplishment. When you look at what Bradley did for the integrity of Clemson Athletics, you could make a case that he was the Arnold Palmer of Tiger sports.

*Over 600 people attended his funeral at United Methodist Church in Clemson on November 1, 2000. Attendance records of this nature don’t exist (if anyone would have kept them it would have been Mr. B). The attendees at the funeral included the ACC Commissioner John Swofford, athletic officials from South Carolina (Including Dr. Mike McGee), Georgia and the other ACC schools, former Clemson coaches, current Clemson coaches, athletes and administrators, legends of sports writing and broadcasting.

*The attendees included 40 of his former student assistants and full-time assistants, people who traveled to Clemson on one day’s notice, from all over the country. Rich Murray, the sports information director at the University of Virginia since 1983, drove seven hours, attended the services, then drove seven hours back to Charlottesville.

*The Saturday after his funeral, the Florida State athletic department acknowledged Bradley’s contribution to ACC Athletics, by observing a moment of silence prior to the Clemson vs. Florida State football game in Tallahassee. I’ve never heard of a school honoring someone affiliated with the visiting team in that nature.

*ABC sports aired a testimonial to Mr. B during its November 4 broadcast. What was unusual was that Clemson wasn’t even playing in the game, it was shown during the Maryland vs. NC State contest.

*On Saturday, October 28, he was presented the Order of the Palmetto, the highest honor a resident of the State of South Carolina can receive. The award was presented in his hospital room.

So, why did veteran sports writers struggle to fight back tears at NC State’s weekly football press conference when they were told the news of Mr. B’s passing?

Bob Bradley treated everyone with the same high level of respect, that is why he received so much respect in return. Noted author John Feinstein once told me that Mr. B treated him the same whether he was a student writer with Duke Chronicle or a feature writer with Sports Illustrated.

I witnessed countless examples of this in the 23 years I worked for him and with him. He must hold the record for most tires changed for members of the media after a sporting event. He also fixed a parking ticket now and then, respect from Clemson policemen that media members REALLY APPRECIATED. He always carried jumper cables in his car trunk so he could help a member of the media when car lights were left on while covering a Clemson event.

Everyone who came into the Clemson press room, no matter what the sport or circulation of the publication was greated with a friendly, personal, firm handshake. It was the personal touch, those intangibles, that made Mr. B special.

He had an impact on the careers of coaches, student-athletes in all sports, broadcasters and sports writers. He had a big impact on the Clemson fans also. Why do you have a strong love for this institution and its athletic teams? Why do you know about Frank Howard, Howard’s Rock, Running Down the Hill, Banks McFadden, Jeff Davis, legendary Memorial Stadium….? Stories, press guides and books that Bradley authored probably have a lot to do with those feelings.

United Methodist Church Minister Rev. Dr. George K. Howle, who gave a terrific eulogy to Bradley at his funeral (words equaled only by the thoughts of Mr. B’s grand daughter Amanda), said it best. “Bob Bradley is the spirit of Clemson.”

Bradley was layed to rest on November 1, All Saints Day in the Catholic Church. Bradley was Methodist, but it seemed a fitting day for the many Catholics who worked for him. That night 23 of us went to dinner to celebrate his life. We all told personal stories of how he had an impact on our lives.

My personal favorite had nothing to do with work. Back in 1984 I had just bought my first house. I was having a plumbing problem, so I called Mr. B to get a recommendation on a plumber who could fix my problem. An hour later, Mr. B showed up at my front door in an old pair of overalls with plumbing equipment in both hands.

Jerry Arp….you sure were right about Mr. B!

Testimonials to a True Clemson Man

“He was a very unique person. Not many people have the ability to touch so many people like he did…He was a real treasure for Clemson, the state of South Carolina and intercollegiate athletics.”Bobby Robinson, Clemson Athletic Director

“We lost a giant in our business and in our society.” Marvin Skeeter Francis, former Wake Forest Sports Information Director

“What John Wooden is to basketball coaches, Bob Bradley is to sports information directors.”Mark Cohen, Wofford Sports Information Director

“Not many people have ever done their jobs as well as Bob Bradley did his. People across this country in that business try to measure up to the Bob Bradley standard. And it was a high standard.”Wilt Browning former sports editor of the Greensboro News & Record and the Asheville Citizen Times.

“If you ever wanted to write a definition of loyalty to a school, it would be Mr. Bradley. No one loved Clemson Univeristy the way Mr. Bradley did.”Former Clemson Basketball Coach Rick Barnes

“He was always a source of strength and information when you traveled because he simply had been through everything imaginable in this league. He told bus drivers how to take shortcuts to the gyms.”Larry Shyatt, Clemson Head Basketball Coach

“I’m in this field because of Mr. Bradley. I thought I was going to be a sportswriter until I called him out of the blue about working for him. He talked to me like he was my grandfather. “Every time people find out I worked at Clemson, they always ask, ‘Do you know Bob Bradley?’ All of sudden I have a little more credibility.”Annabelle Vaughan, Sports Information Director, NC State University

“I have only been at Clemson a year and a half, but it is obvious to me that Bob Bradley was a special person in this school’s history. I will always remember giving him the game ball after the Duke game in celebration of his 500th consecutive game. He will be missed by everyone.”Tommy Bowden, Clemson Head Football Coach

“Bob Bradley has been a fixture in the Atlantic Coast Conference since its inception and his work as the SID at Clemson has been one of the reasons the conference and Clemson University have achieved such a strong and positive reputation both regionally and nationally.”John Swofford, Commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference

“Every morning I put on this Clemson ring. It is a little more special for having known Bob Bradley.”Bob Peeler, Lt. Governor of South Carolina

Bradley Scholarship Funds Established Clemson’s IPTAY fund has established a Bob Bradley Memorial Scholarship Fund. People wishing to make a donation in Bradley’s name are asked to send the contribution to the IPTAY Office, PO Box 1529, Clemson, SC 29633.

Contributions may also be made in Bradley’s name to the United Methodist Church, 195 Old Greenville Highway, Clemson, SC 29631.

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