Jerry Summers: Steve Sloan And The Bradley Central Dynasty

Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The athletic record of the Bradley Bears during the 1959-1961 seasons was phenomenal and the star performer in football, basketball, baseball and golf was Stephen (Steve) Charles Sloan.

Steve was born on August 19, 1944, in Austin, Texas.  He father served in the U.S. Air Force and the family would move around the various Air Force bases before settling down in Cleveland, Tennessee in 1953.

During his high school career at Bradley Central High School he was an honor student and in both 1960 and 1961 he was selected to the All State football and basketball teams as well as being named the Associated Press’s Number one player in the state for both sports.  He was also one of the top prep golfers in the state of Tennessee and Bradley won State Championship honors in the sports of football, basketball, baseball and golf.

He was heavily recruited by the legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and signed with the Crimson Tide following graduation from Bradley Central.

After sitting out his freshman year pursuant to the NCAA policy during that time he became the backup to the talented Joe Namath of Pennsylvania and also played as a defensive back in several games.

The flamboyant Namath got in trouble with Coach Bryant and he was benched for the final game as well as the post season Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Steve led the team to victory in both games including the 12-7 win over Ole Miss in the bowl game.

Injuries to Joe Namath in Steve’s junior year in 1964 gave the former Bradley Bear an opportunity to be the starting quarterback for most of the season and the Tide that year achieved a record of 10-1, won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Title and was named the consensus national champion.

Ironically Steve would get hurt in the 1965 Orange Bowl game against Texas and Namath came off the bench to become the Most Valuable Player in a losing cause 21-17.

When Joe Namath left Bama to sign a professional contract with the New York Jets of the American Football League, Steve during his senior year led the school to another SEC and national championship and a victory over Nebraska 39-28 in the 1966 Orange Bowl.

Because he did not possess the strong throwing arm required of NFL quarterbacks he was not selected by the Atlanta Falcons until the 11th round of the 1966 draft.

After playing sparingly for two seasons as a back-up quarterback, Sloan in 1971 began his coaching career as an offensive coordinator for the Florida State Seminoles.

The next year he would occupy the same coaching position for Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

His first head coaching job was in Nashville with the Vanderbilt Commodores where in his second year the team went to the Peach Bowl against Texas Tech and earned a 6-6 tie in the game which was Vanderbilt’s first bowl game since 1955 and best record in school history.

The following three seasons he coached the Texas Tech Raiders and in 1977 went to Ole Miss as head coach.

Following his tenure with the Rebels he spent four seasons at Duke University before being replaced by All American Steve Spurrier.

His coaching career was over but he served as Athletic Director at Alabama from 1987-1989, the University of Central Florida from 1993-2002 and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga until his retirement in 2006.

He was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and was picked as one of the Top Ten All Time Quarterbacks in the state of Tennessee.  In Sports Illustrated’s December 27, 1999 edition, which listed “The 50 Greatest Sports Figures from Tennessee, Steve was listed as number 32.

Steve is the author of two books: Calling Life’s Signals: The Steve Sloan Story and A Whole New Ballgame.

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Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)

Steve Sloan
Steve Sloan

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