Note: The following appears in the Pittsburgh gameday football program.
I am sure that some of the millennials who come to “Death Valley” today will look at the names in the Clemson Ring of Honor on the north façade and ask, “Who was Bob Bradley? How many touchdowns did he score? When did he coach?”
Realizing this makes me a little sad at some level, I wonder how many of those young Clemson fans ask, “Who were Terry Kinard, Steve Fuller and Jerry Butler?”
So, I thought it was appropriate in this 125-year anniversary of Clemson football that I write a program story about Bradley, my predecessor as sports information director from 1955-89.
Bradley’s appearance on the façade of Memorial Stadium, or any FBS stadium for that matter, is rare. Not only is he the only non-player or coach honored in the Clemson Ring of Honor, he is the only sports information director in the country on the façade of a school’s stadium.
Just about every longtime Tiger fan holds the program dear because of his or her knowledge of the program. They have an appreciation of the program’s history, whether it be cold, hard facts, entertaining tales or heart-warming stories.
Chances are, you know of those stories and those facts because of Bradley. He came to Clemson as a student in 1941. He did not graduate until 1951 because of World War II, and to quote him, “I went to every football game in 1948 and flunked out.”
He returned to finish and took a job with the Clemson Alumni Association.
However, his passion was always Clemson athletics. He had a great relationship with Frank Howard, and when Brent Breedin left the SID position for a job in Pakistan, Howard quickly selected Bradley for his publicist.
They were quite a pair. When I reflect on Howard’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989, a part of “Mr. B” went in with him. Howard was legendary as a storyteller, but Bradley’s ability to recreate those stories to members of the media certainly spread Howard’s legend.
The most legendary story of Bradley’s impact on the history of Clemson football took place long after Howard retired in 1969. In 1985, Clemson faced Georgia in a nationally televised game by CBS, and Brent Musburger was in town to handle the play-by-play.
The day before the game, Musburger came to Clemson’s walkthrough at Memorial Stadium. During the walkthrough, Musburger asked Bradley how the tradition of running down the Hill started. I was standing with the group as Bradley told Musburger the complete story. When he was finished, Musburger said, “That’s the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”
If it had been today, Clemson’s social media team would have tweeted out that quote a minute after he said it. But this was 1985.
After the walkthrough, we returned to our offices in Jervey Athletic Center, Bradley told me what a great quote that was. The next day prior to the game in the press box, he told members of the media, in small groups and individually, the Musburger quote, and many used it in their Sunday columns. The quote picked up steam from there.
Musburger did not say the quote during the broadcast of that game, and in fact, he never used it on air until the 2013 Clemson vs. Georgia game, when ABC producer Bill Bonnell decided to do blowout coverage of Clemson running down the Hill. Musburger’s saying of the quote live on air was played over the public address system in the stadium.
You never would have heard that quote if it had not been for Bob Bradley.
Bradley retired after the 1988 season, but he still worked with me on an emeritus basis until 2000. He never missed a Clemson football game between 1955 and the middle of the 2000 season, a run of an incredible 502 consecutive games.
He passed away just two weeks after attending consecutive game No. 502 on Oct. 30, 2000. The following Saturday, Clemson played at Florida State. Prior to the game at Doak Campbell Stadium, a moment of silence was held for Bradley. That is the level of respect he had throughout the ACC.
Oct. 30, 2020 was the 20th anniversary of Bradley’s death. This social media post from noted author John Feinstein sums up Bradley and his relationship with the media.
“There was no one better than Bob Bradley. Bob treated me wonderfully when I was a student reporter (at Duke) and wonderfully when I worked for The Washington Post. He always found a way to make sure you could get your job done.”