Pat Sullivan

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Pat Sullivan
This article is about the football player and coach, for the Catholic priest, see Patrick Sullivan.

Patrick Joseph Sullivan (born January 18, 1950 in Birmingham; died December 1, 2019) was a quarterback and football coach. He won the 1971 Heisman Trophy as quarterback for the Auburn Tigers, and spent five years in the National Football League. He started his coaching career in 1986 at Auburn and was, for six years the head coach at Texas Christian University before returning to Birmingham to work as offensive coordinator at UAB. He accepted the head coaching job at Samford University on November 30, 2006. He retired following the 2014 season.

Pat Sullivan in 1971

Sullivan began his athletic career as a three-sport star at John Carroll Catholic High School. Although a talented baseball and basketball player, he chose to play football for Auburn University where he would become the starting quarterback in 1969 under head coach Shug Jordan. Over the next three seasons Sullivan broke several school and NCAA records for passing while leading the team to a 26-7 record. In 1970, he led the NCAA in total offense with 2,856 yards and set an NCAA record for most yards per play with 8.57. In his career, he was responsible for 71 touchdowns (53 passing/18 rushing) to tie the NCAA record. In his senior season, Sullivan completed 162 passes on 281 attempts for 2012 yards and 20 touchdowns. This performance was enough to edge out Ed Marinaro of Cornell for the 1971 Heisman Trophy. Also an excellent student, Sullivan was named an Academic All-American and graduated with a bachelor's of science in business administration in 1972.

After college, Sullivan had a short professional football career playing first with the Atlanta Falcons from 1972 to 1976 and then the Washington Redskins in 1976 and 1977. He left football to enter private business in Birmingham where he worked in insurance and as a tire company executive. Sullivan also spent five seasons doing color commentary for Auburn football games before joining the staff at Auburn in 1986 as quarterbacks coach under head coach Pat Dye. He worked with AU quarterbacks Jeff Burger, Reggie Slack, and Stan White during his six years at Auburn.

On January 2, 1992, Sullivan became the 27th head football coach of Texas Christian University, inheriting a probation-wracked team. After two losing seasons, he led TCU to a 7-5 mark in 1994 to win a share of the Southwest Conference championship. The next season produced another winning record of 6-5 before TCU joined the Western Athletic Conference in 1996 and fell once again on hard times. Losing seasons in 1997 and 1998 resulted in Sullivan's resignation in November 1998 with an overall record of 24-42-1. He was remembered for recruiting LaDainian Tomlinson to play at TCU.

In January 1999, Sullivan became the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for UAB where helped develop the skills of quarterback Darrell Hackney. Later he was promoted to assistant head coach and running backs coach.

After neck surgery in September 2003, Sullivan was diagnosed with throat cancer and began chemotherapy and radiation treatments in December. In April 2004, doctors told him he was clear of cancer cells but he continues to be monitored for recurrence. Sullivan missed only one game in the 2003 season but lost around 50 pounds over the course of his treatment.

In 2006, Sullivan was awarded the first Legend of Birmingham Award by the organizers of the Birmingham Bowl.

In November 2006 he was offered the head coaching jobs at both UAB and Samford, choosing the Bulldogs over the Blazers. In his first season as head coach, the Bulldogs compiled a 4-7 record with wins over West Alabama, Presbyterian, Southeast Missouri State, and Watson Brown's Tennessee Tech. They finished in 7th place in the Ohio Valley Conference. In 2008, the Bulldogs moved to the Southern Conference. Sullivan retired from coaching following the 2014 season. Samford's field house was named in his honor that same year.

In 2020, UAB launched the Pat and Jean Sullivan Comprehensive Head and Neck Cancer Survivor Care Program to provide patients with a better quality of life during and after treatment for cancer. The program has been designed to provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art survivorship care for head and neck cancer survivors in Alabama, regardless of where they received their primary treatment.

Sullivan died in December 2019. He was survived by his wife, the former Jean Hicks of Birmingham; three children: Kim, Kelly and Patrick Jr; and six grandchildren.

Preceded by:
Bill Gray
Samford Bulldogs head football coach
Succeeded by:

Honors and awards

  • Heisman Trophy, 1971
  • All-American, 1970, 1971 (unanimous)
  • Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, 1970, 1971
  • Gator Bowl Most Valuable Player, 1970
  • Sugar Bowl Most Valuable Player, 1971
  • Senior Bowl Most Valuable Player, 1972
  • College All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, 1972
  • Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
  • National Football Foundation Hall of Fame
  • Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame
  • Gator Bowl Hall of Fame
  • Senior Bowl Hall of Fame
  • College Football Hall of Fame, 1991
  • Southwest Conference Coach of the Year, 1994
  • Legend of Birmingham Award, 2006


  • Irvine, Steve and Mike Perrin (December 1, 2006) "Sullivan scrambles". Birmingham News.
  • "Pat Sullivan (American football)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 30 Nov 2006, 19:57 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 30 Nov 2006 [1].
  • Cordell, Carten (December 2, 2004) Glory Days. The Auburn Plainsman
  • Crenshaw, Solomon Jr (December 2, 2014) "Pat Sullivan steps down as Samford football coach." The Birmingham News
  • Goodman, Joseph (December 1, 2019) "Legacy of football legend Pat Sullivan is unique and unparalleled." The Birmingham News

External links