Legendary football coach Jim Sypult and father of Methodist University football, died in Cusco, Peru, while on vacation. He was 72.
Sypult grew up in Jordan, a coal-mining village in West Virginia. A star athlete at East Fairmont High, he earned All-State honors in football and basketball. He was also senior class president and editor of the school paper.
For three years, Sypult started for the WVU football program and captained the team in 1966 while earning a bachelor's and master's degree.
Sypult loved football with a passion and relished every minute of his 54 years as a player and coach. He loved his players, and they loved him. He was a father figure, storyteller, motivator, mentor, role model, icon and giant in spirit who turned boys into men.
"Don't b*tch, don't complain, don't lie, cheat, or steal," Sypult said. "And call your mother every day."
He was a great coach but a greater person. He taught invaluable life lessons, respect for self and others, character, and he made football fun.
"His passion for football was equaled only by his love for life. A masterful and funny storyteller, Coach Sy wove his experiences into lessons," said former player Mike McDermott.
Some stories Sypult told every year, epic stories players relished and retold, imitating his voice and gestures: the talk about sex; the one about taking care of your feet; and the wild-horse riders story - grid-iron magic.
Sypult "unequivocally influenced hundreds, maybe thousands, of young men throughout his lifetime," Chris Nuta said. "Every one of them was better for it."
"My life is so much richer because you were in it," said Andy Hunt. "Your spirit will live on not only with your blood family, but also with your football family, the Monarch nation. We'll carry you with us every day."
"What makes this such a great game?" Sypult asked. "Our spirit. Our fire. We can do anything! My heart will be in your heart. My spirit will be in your spirit."
As the head coach at Elkins High from 1968-1970, Sypult turned that losing program into a winner as he did at Liberty High (Virgina) in 1970-1972.
Sypult distinguished himself as a collegiate coach at Fairmont State (1973), Middle Tennessee State (1974-78) and Davidson College (1979-91).
During off-season, Sypult was the head coach of the Bologna Towers, an American football team in Italy (1987 and 1989). He led the Towers, who called him Coach Grande, from a 2-12 season to the Italian Super Bowl Playoffs.
In 1992, Sypult became the head coach of Methodist University (Fayetteville, N.C.) and led the Monarchs to their first national ranking and conference title. In 2000, he was chosen conference coach of the year.
After retiring in 2010, Sypult wrote stories for the Fayetteville Observer and Scribblers, a writing club on Hilton Head Island.
An avid reader and former history teacher, Sypult travelled the world with his high school sweetheart and wife of 53 years. He loved cooking and reading, bicycled the island paths and fished the lagoons, often fighting gators for prize fish.
Survivors include his wife Sharron (Cheri), daughter Jill Marcus of Charlotte, two grandsons and brother Robert of Dallas.
His memorial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 25 on Hilton Head Island.
Published on February 17, 2018