Skip to content
Remembering Mississippi State’s Bob...

Remembering Mississippi State’s Bob Tyler

By: Parrish Alford - April 30, 2024

  • Tyler’s professional but personal relationship with his players made an impact far beyond the field.

Norman Joseph, then best known as a former Mississippi State player, didn’t really need secondary confirmation.

On this particular subject matter, John Vaught was the ultimate qualified source.

Joseph and Vaught ended up on the same golf course one day, and Joseph asked the legendary Ole Miss coach to share in-house secrets about his own college coach, Bob Tyler.

Tyler, a Water Valley native and a Mississippi high school football coach with phenomenal success, left us Saturday at the age of 91.

His official Mississippi State University record, the one with forfeited wins, isn’t nearly as impressive as the one that matters most. 

On the field, Tyler was 39-25-3, 14-22-1 SEC, in six seasons as the Bulldogs head coach.

On the field, his 1974 team went 9-3 with SEC wins over Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss, a Sun Bowl win over North Carolina and a No. 17 national ranking.

On the field, his 1976 team went 9-2, 4-2 in the league and was ranked No. 20 at the finish.

Reggie Bush has his Heisman back. Maybe the NCAA can acknowledge wins forfeited by Bob Tyler and others for violations that today are celebrated and covered by the school’s NIL collective.

But Tyler coached in a different era.

Vaught sharing secrets

The secrets Vaught shared with Joseph were from an even earlier era.

“We teed off, and we had played a few holes. I went up to Coach Vaught and told him Bob Tyler was my college coach at Mississippi State,” Joseph recalled. “He said, ‘Hmph … If they would have let Bob Tyler remain as head football coach Ole Miss would have never missed a beat.’”

That wasn’t how the story was written, though.

Billy Kinard became Vaught’s successor, debuting in 1971.

Tyler coached that season under Bear Bryant at Alabama. He became Charles Shira’s offensive coordinator at Mississippi State in 1972.

Joseph later approached Tyler with Vaught’s summation of Ole Miss in-house drama, and Tyler gave him further confirmation.

“All he did was nod,” Joseph said.

Tyler didn’t succeed Vaught, but he succeeded Shira and became the Bulldogs’ head coach in 1973.

It was during 1972 that Tyler was recruiting Joseph, of Vicksburg, for Mississippi State.

“He sold himself. There was a professionalism about him the way he came into our house, the way he presented himself and presented Mississippi State. He was great. He explained how he saw me being able to contribute,” said Joseph, now the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Northwestern (La.) State. He’s coached on more college campuses than Vaught and Tyler combined.

It was during Joseph’s recruitment that rumors swirled that Tyler would soon be elevated to head coach.

That was the first time Joseph needed confirmation from Bob Tyler.

So, the high school student dialed Tyler’s office phone, in the days before layers of protection for SEC football coaches, and got what he needed.

‘All the talk at school’

“It was all the talk at school, and we just didn’t know. I said, ‘I’m going to find out.’ I dialed the number, and he answered it. In his deep voice he said, ‘Norman, there’s a press conference tomorrow to name the head football coach at Mississippi State, and I’ve been invited.’”

Joseph would develop a special bond with Tyler.

“His professionalism, his personal touch … it was unique. Just to sit down and talk with him. He was never in a rush,” Joseph said.

Tyler didn’t rush through his talk with his players as he explained the realities of probation and what that meant for the 1976 season.

Players listened then and as a team voted to continue playing with a certain teammate even though any wins – and there were many – would be forfeited.

“We didn’t care. We were a family. We let the player play. He stayed on the team, and we enjoyed our family. We voted for this plan,” Joseph said.

The Bulldogs finished 9-2. They were ineligible for a bowl game. They were ranked No. 20 by The Associated Press but were unranked by the coaches poll which did not recognize teams on probation.

That was Joseph’s senior team.

“We had a slew of folks that were really, really good players. We had some great teams. Unfortunately, we were on probation and didn’t get to go to a bowl game, but we got to celebrate.”

“And we attributed it all to Coach Tyler.”

About the Author(s)
author profile image

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.