St. Paul's Tullai shows coaching's ultimate reward isn't money

The Inside Stuff

November 04, 1991|By Bill Tanton

We need more people in sports -- and in education -- like Mitch Tullai, who, over the weekend, coached St. Paul's School to its third straight football championship.

Tullai, who has taught history and coached at St. Paul's for 3years, led the small (68 seniors) boys school to a 15-0 win over Boys' Latin. That gave St. Paul's the MSA C Conference co-championship with Severn, which finished its season Saturday with a 16-6 win over St. Mary's.

Tullai, at 63 (he came back from a severe heart attack four yearago), is never going to go on to coach college or pro. He's never going to get rich through summer camps or shoe contracts. But he enjoys satisfaction and fulfillment that few big-name coaches find.

MSA C Conference coaches don't inherit great football talent, although one of Tullai's defensive backs, junior Joey Unitas (who is also the No. 2 quarterback behind Chas Offutt), is the son of the immortal Johnny Unitas. But a coach like Tullai can teach his players a certain degree of proficiency and impart some important values along the way.

Coach Tullai knows the game, backward and forward," says his senior wingback Andy Schnydman.

Football is only one of Tullai's two passions. The other is historyA Lincoln scholar of note, he is head of the school's history department.

"Mitch is the best teacher at St. Paul's," says Kent Darrell, whhas been on the St. Paul's faculty with Tullai for 20 years.

When the homecoming game with Boys' Latin ended and thfootball season was over (St. Paul's record: 8-1), Tullai was the picture of contentment.

He shook hands with the many who came out on the field tcongratulate him. He posed for snapshots with his players and their parents --and grandparents. A young man carrying his infant child and accompanied by his wife walked up to the coach.

"Jeff Fountain!" said Tullai with obvious pleasure. "It's been while."

Fountain graduated from St. Paul's in 1977. Nearly 15 years latehe was out there to shake the hand of his old coach once more.

Bud Hatfield, a St. Paul's grad from the '40s, gazed at Tullai anhis former player.

"That's their wealth," Hatfield said. "These coaches may nomake a lot of money, but they're rich in other ways."

If they're as good as Mitch Tullai, they certainly are.

* Never have I heard a TV announcer heap praise upon a coacin the process of losing a 38-0 game the way Bill Walsh did on Navy's George Chaump at Notre Dame Saturday.

Walsh raved all day about the excellent job being done bChaump and his Navy staff. Walsh overdid the rah-rah bit with his continual reminders that a particular player would someday be a Marine officer or a Navy pilot and that all 100 football play

ers at Annapolis are headed for great futures.

Question: If George Chaump is a great coach with his record aNavy, which is 5-14 for two seasons, 0-8 for this one, what does that make George Welsh, who was 55-46-1 from 1973-1981 at the same institution?

* Give Walsh credit for an honest answer to the question of whether Navy and Notre Dame should continue playing after 28 straight Irish wins.

Said Walsh: "I think Navy is in more of an Ivy League-type situation."

That's true. If we're looking for a competitive game, Navy anNotre Dame should not play. But if we're content watching 38-0 games (Notre Dame was a 41-point favorite) and hearing announcers praise the clean-cut, upstanding young Middies, then by all means carry on. Me? I need a better game.

* Navy's overmatched players were sensational in at least onarea: effort.

If you watched our state's two Division I-A schools get shut out iback-to-back televised games Satur

day, you had to be struck by the difference in Maryland's uninspired play in a 24-0 loss at North Carolina and the do-or-die performance of Navy's kids at South Bend. You'd have thought the Middies were playing for the national championship instead of seeking their first win of the season.

Hey, is there something in the water over in Washington? The Redskins are the only 9-0 team in the NFL, the Capitals lead their NHL division, and -- miracle of miracles! -- the Bullets are 2-0 with weekend wins over Indianapolis and the Celtics. The Sixers, who are 0-2, will play the Bullets at the Cap Centre tomorrow night.

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