PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

October 21, 2013

Mid-County Madness adding 'Bum' dimension

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     Only Bum Phillips could add an extra dimension to the week-long spectacle of Mid-County Madness that leads up to the annual football grudge battle between arch rivals Nederland and Port Neches-Groves. The recently deceased coaching legend will  start doing exactly that next year when the 91st meeting becomes “The Bum Phillips Bowl,” with the Port Arthur News presenting a cowboy hat trophy to the winning school.

    The idea was suggested by Dawn Fournier, Business Development Officer at Neches Federal Credit Union, quickly embraced by Port Arthur News publisher Rich Macke, given a stamp of approval by Nederland coach/AD Larry Neumann and his PN-G counterpart Brandon Faircloth and blessed up by Bum’s widow Debbie and his son Wade.

    Fournier, who met Phillips for the first time when he came back for the 2011 version of Mid-County Madness, said the gem of an idea came during a dinner date with her fiancee Brian Frederick. Her employer, Neches FCU, was a sponsor of the 2011 game and she got to met Phillips during the Nederland portion of the street-naming of Bum Phillips Way.

    “When I learned of Coach Phillips death, I thought why not name the game after him and present a cowboy trophy hat to the winner,” said Fournier.

    The trophy, at the suggestion of Debbie Phillips, will be designed after the “cowboy hat over a football” that serves as the logo for Bum Phillips Charities. It will be presented to the winning team at the conclusion of the Bulldog-Indian game each year. That team’s school will keep the trophy until the following year’s game.

    “This is such a fantastic idea,” said Debbie Phillips. “What a great way to preserve Bum’s memory at those two schools. As humble as he was, he’d have gone ‘Aw, shucks, they don’t need to do that.’ But deep down he would have loved it.”

    “You just made my day,” said Wade Phillips, who is taking Bum’s death extremely hard. “Daddy would be so proud of that. You know, it’s eerie. I was listening to the broadcast of the game on my computer Friday night. Only seconds after PN-G tied the score, 7-7, I got word that daddy had passed. Thinking back, that was perfect. That’s the way he would wanted it —  having his two favorite schools tied when he took his last breath.”

    Nederland’s Neumann, who is dealing with the death of his father-in-law, said the idea of a Bum Phillips Bowl is something he can embrace, after being approached many times over the years by well-meaning groups of people with ideas about commercializing the game.

    “I’ve always been against anything that simply wasn’t Nederland against Port Neches-Groves,” he said. “But I couldn’t be more supportive of this. Bum’s name will just add to an already special week. I’m all in on it.”

    So was PN-G’s Faircloth, whose Indians put up a valiant struggle Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.

    “I think it’s a great idea,” said the PN-G coach. “I’m all for it. Bum Phillips means so much to former players at both schools and to so many people in this area. Playing for the Bum Phillips trophy is going to be big deal for players on both teams.”

    Private services for Phillips are scheduled later this week at his ranch in Goliad, with only family members attending. Public memorial services are planned for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Goliad and for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Lakewood Church in Houston.

    The reason for the services at Lakewood Church, whose pastor is Joel Osteen, is that it’s the only facility large enough to accommodate the masses expected to want to pay tribute to Phillips. The building where the church is located used to be known as The Summit and was home to the Houston Rockets. Seating capacity is in the 10,000 range.

    Leon Fuller, one of Phillips’ former Nederland players who later went into coaching, will speak at the Goliad services, as will at least two of Bum’s daughters. Former Oiler tight end Mike Barber is lining up a list of speakers expected to be loaded with other ex Oilers for the Houston services.