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Sloan remembered as a college football...

Sloan remembered as a college football gentleman

By: Parrish Alford - April 16, 2024

Steve Sloan on Ole Miss sidelines (Courtesy: Ole Miss Athletics)

  • Former Ole Miss head football coach Steve Sloan passed away on Sunday at 79. Quarterback John Fourcade remembers him as a coach who cared about his players.

I wasn’t an eyewitness to the Steve Sloan Era at Ole Miss, but I know a guy.

John Fourcade was widely considered Sloan’s most prolific recruit.

The former Ole Miss quarterback expressed sadness over his coach’s passing over the weekend. Sloan, 79, died in Orlando with his wife of 55 years, Brenda, at his side.

Steve Sloan throws a pass in the Tide’s Orange Bowl win over Nebraska January 1, 1966 (Courtesy: Bryant Museum)

The Sloan Era, from 1978-82, wasn’t known for mounting victories. Sloan’s playing career was far more successful than his time as coach. He was an All-American quarterback under Bear Bryant at Alabama, an SEC player of the year and two-time national champion.

He won enough at Vanderbilt – 12-9-2 in two seasons – to get hired at Texas Tech. Ole Miss hired Sloan after he led the Red Raiders to two bowl appearances in three seasons. His 1976 Texas Tech team tied for the Southwest Conference title.

But even in the ’70s coaching in the SEC was different than coaching in the SWC.

The Rebels were 20-34-1 in Sloan’s five seasons, teams that were described to me as strong on offense and light on defense.

In that sense, he wasn’t a trailblazer. I’ve covered more than a few Mississippi teams who were highly skilled on one side but not so much as to cover the liabilities of the other.

“I wish I could have done more to help him win games,” Fourcade said.

John Fourcade on the field at quarterback for Ole Miss.

If the results left Fourcade wanting, the relationship did not.

“He was a religious man, loved each player on the team. I loved him because he was always there for me, win or lose,” he said.

Fourcade embraced Sloan and welcomed their chats on the football field or the golf course.

“The man loved his golf. I would play with him a lot while I was up at Ole Miss. Steve always had time for me to talk, always asked how my family was doing. He was a caring man,” Fourcade said.

Maybe that compassion influenced how Sloan worked to motivate young men.

“People would always say Coach Sloan was too nice to be a head coach. He wasn’t a screamer who got into players’ faces,” Fourcade recalled.

That’s not to say Sloan lacked passion or was indifferent to the program’s struggles during his time — struggles that included just three SEC wins over his last three seasons and none in his finale in 1982.

“He wanted to win more than anyone I knew. I saw the losses eating him up, but he never would let that bring him down,” Fourcade said.

“We looked good getting off the bus,” Sloan was known to tell reporters postgame.

The Sloan hire made sense for Ole Miss at the time, a Bear Bryant standout with enough success in a neighboring major conference to hope you were catching a coaching star on the rise.

After leaving Ole Miss he coached the next season at Duke, where he’d go 13-31 in a four-year span.

In retrospect, the combined Ole Miss tenures of Sloan and Ken Cooper before him may have intensified the administration’s interest in Billy Brewer.

Cooper had coached for three seasons at Ole Miss under Billy Kinard and John Vaught, but he was a Georgia native, a former Georgia player and assistant coach.

Back-to-back failed experiments with former SEC players, perhaps, intensified the administration’s feelings for one of their own, one of Vaught’s boys. In the quest to replicate Vaught’s success the thought might have been, “Let’s bring in someone who knows how we do things here and fix this.”


Ole Miss in the ’70s and ’80s has been described to me as a place that held its people and traditions in very high regard. I don’t think that makes the school much different from the others of its time.

The coming of Steve Sloan to Ole Miss, an outsider, was a time of great anticipation and excitement, I’m told.

“He was an awesome man, a family man. He knew football,” Fourcade said.

About the Author(s)
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Parrish Alford

Parrish Alford brings the cumulative wisdom that comes from three decades of covering Mississippi sports to Magnolia Tribune. His outstanding contributions to sports reporting in the state have twice been recognized with Sports Writer of the Year awards. Alford currently serves as the associate editor of American Family News.
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