By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Munford Assistant Principal Steve McCullough has seen his share of Millington/Munford basketball games.
Over his 38 and half years working in the Tipton County Schools System, McCullough has been up close to the action between the Trojans and his Cougars. In the latest installment of the rivalry both Munford teams picked up victories.
With a full student section in the Munford Gymnasium, the children asked McCullough to lead them in the chant ‘Yo Baby Yo.’ Known around the school as an administrator and discipinarion, McCullough has trademarked the cheer for celebrating Munford athletic accomplishment.
McCullough was happy to lead the chant with time running out as an official member of the school with his retirement date of Dec. 31 quickly approaching.
“The “Yo Baby Yo” cheer came in 1992,” he recalled. “The way we got that, my son was in baseball in Missouri in the World Series at 11 years old. At the tournament they assigned cheerleaders.
“And the cheerleaders did that cheer, ‘Yo Baby Yo Baby Yo Baby Yo. You’ve gots to be a Mustang or You gots to go,’” he continued. “That was his team. I said, ‘That sounds pretty good. We should copy that.’ We’ve been doing it for 20 years. The kids love it.”
Because of his love for the students McCullough enjoys grabbing the microphone and starting the cheer. In his first tenure at Munford from 1974-84, McCullough heard the cheers leading basketball teams.
He coached a team that ranked third in the state and the 1984 team that posted a 21-8 mark. Then McCullough spent eight years at Drummonds Elementary. In 1992 McCullough took the job of assistant principal and athletic director at Munford.
“I’ve been a part of this school out of my 62 years, if you count Kindergarten, like 57 years,” he said. “It’s going to be unusual. It won’t hit me until it takes place. I know I’m going to miss especially the athletics, the comradery with the coaches and all our student/athletes and regular students. It’s a really good school. We’ve been blessed that we have a lot of really good students. It’s been an easy place to work.”
McCullough said the decision to step down at the end of the year was hard, but the timing is ideal.
“I’m in good health,” he noted. “I turned 62 in November. It just seemed like a good time to do it. Education is getting tougher and tougher, more demanding. It’s time for younger people to take over. And we have those people in place.”
Principal Darry Marshall and administrators have kept the academic standards high at MHS. At the same time, in athletics, the baseball, softball, volleyball, golf, tennis, wrestling and football in 1997 have made it to State during McCullough’s tenure as AD.
McCullough said it’s easy to reflect on the star student/athletes like Scarlet Gable, Aaron Fultz or Buck Wakefield who have graced the campus of MHS. But he remembers those students more who paid his office a few visits.
And in one case a Cougar who graduated almost 5 years ago is applying for a job at the school. McCullough encougared him to come back home and contribute.
“When you see them make something out of themselves,” he said, “It makes you feel really good inside when you see someone who is ready to come in and take your place. You’re just glad you’ve got someone who is a former student and they want to come back here.”
McCullough, a native son of South Tipton, has spent his entire professional life giving back to the community that raised him. After graduating from Munford in 1968, he attended then Memphis State University.
When it came time for his professional career to begin, McCullough came back home to Munford. And for more than 38 years he has built lasting relationships.
“My hairdresser, I’m surprised I have a hair left on my head,” he said. “I gave her corpal punishment in study hall for talking. Imagine that, now she works in a beauty shop where major gossiping goes on.
“But I think they respect authority for the most part, to be told what to do and made to do right,” McCullough continued. “There are numerous kids, they know I can cut up with them, but they know I’m going to be firm and consistent. I’m definitely going to be consistent.”
Part of his consistency is being easy-going with the students.
“I have a young lady who is currently in softball named Tara Comer,” he said. “Her initals are TC. Being a Cougar, I call her Top Cat. Just different little nicknames that you have for students. That makes them feel like you’re more human and not robotic, tough all the time. They respect you more.”
The respect flows both ways with McCullough saying he’s going to miss his colleagues and the children. But he’ll still be nearby supporting his school.
“Most definitely (I’m going to miss) the student/athletes and the comradery with the faculty and the staff,” he said. “Attending games and all, I’m still going to attend games. It might be more enjoyable now that I won’t be working. I can just set back and really enjoy. The bad part now I might be ejected. The officials kind of respect you a little bit more and won’t eject you. Now I will be ejected from a game. I’ll have to be careful.”
With his final official day days away, McCullough said he hopes Tipton County and the Cougar Nation remember him for three things.
“I tried to come to work everyday and put in an honest day’s work,” he concluded. “I tried to be firm, fair and consistent. I think that was my biggest contribution to education.”