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Bethune-Cookman coach builds football winner by not being satisfied

Ex-Wildcat player Alvin Wyatt is the winningest Bethune-Cookman football coach at 85-47.

Ex-Wildcat player Alvin Wyatt is the winningest Bethune-Cookman football coach at 85-47.

Alvin Wyatt could have been a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.

In his 12th season, the Bethune-Cookman coach has mastered the art of letting anyone within earshot know about his football program's constant plight. His intent is to arm himself with more bait in the hunt for recruits, the lifeblood of any program.

Wyatt speaks constantly of a desperate need to upgrade the school's football facilities and improve his coaching staff. The football offices recently were moved from trailers to a new building, and the Wildcats finally landed a full-time strength coach.

Wyatt also has mastered the art of coaching.

He played to the media again this week, stating a case for B-CU to earn consideration for a playoff berth after an 8-2 start entering Saturday's Florida Classic against rival Florida A&M (8-3). Wyatt spoke of a similar scenario the Wildcats faced in 2003 heading into this rivalry game, when they reached the playoffs with an 8-2 record despite not winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

"No one thought we would get there, and we got there after beating Florida A&M in the Florida Classic," Wyatt said. "I think this game is the same way."

The argument carries more clout now that Wyatt has surpassed Rudolph "Bunky" Matthews to become B-CU's all-time winningest coach with a career record of 85-47, two wins better than Matthews. Winning usually appeals to the masses.

"I can tell you, it was a heck of a guy that I took first place from," Wyatt said. "He was my professor. He spoke at my high school commencement exercises. He was the guy that really cared about me and molded me into the man I am today. I'm very appreciative of it, and I know up in heaven he's glad I was able to accomplish what I accomplished."

Wyatt, who played for the Wildcats from 1966 to 1969 and was an All-American, swears he only knew of the potential milestone a few games before he got there. He absorbed his 84th victory like a set of Michelins taking on a speed bump.

"Everything remained the same," Wyatt said. "There was no celebration or anything because you're right back to work trying to win another football game. …And I'm not looking for anything special to be done. Records are made to be broken."

Wyatt noted how proud he was to get there so quickly. It took Matthews 15 seasons to win 83 games. Wyatt has done it in 12, averaging seven wins per season.

The Wildcats use his famous "Wyattbone" offense, a rushing attack that forces defenses to account for gaps created by blocks on misdirection plays.

That offense has helped the Wildcats, picked in the preseason to finish seventh in the MEAC, sit at second with a shot at the playoffs. B-CU's rushing offense is ranked 12th in Division I-AA with an average of 214.8 yards per game.

"He's committed to running what he runs," Rattlers coach Joe Taylor said. "… He likes those speed guys that can change direction. Just looking at the film, they do what they do. They don't care if it's nontraditional or whatever. He's done a good job of getting people to run what he wants to run."

Wyatt has coped with some key injuries and relied on a youthful roster this season.

"I am a little bit shocked and surprised with where we are today," Wyatt said. "We thought it would take a little more time for us to get to where we are. We're here now. … A lot of people in America wish they had eight wins."

Wyatt was asked when he might consider calling it a career, and with a passionate rise in his voice he pointed to Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, 79, and Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 81, as role models.

At 60, Wyatt still has plenty of steam.

"I don't even think about it," Wyatt said of retirement. "… I want to keep working as long as I can work, walk and go up and down to that practice field. …This is my life. … There's nothing else for me."

Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@me.com or (727) 580-5315.

Fast Facts

Florida Classic

Bethune-Cookman (8-2) vs. Florida A&M (8-3), 2 p.m. Saturday; Citrus Bowl, Orlando. TV: ESPN Classic

Bethune-Cookman coach builds football winner by not being satisfied 11/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 20, 2008 5:14pm]
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