Longtime UGA assistant and Auburn football star Jim Pyburn dies (UPDATED)

Jim Pyburn was one of the first "bonus babies" of the 1950s, getting $48,000 up front from the Baltimore Orioles in 1955. (Photo from Auburn Athletics)

Jim Pyburn was one of the first "bonus babies" of the 1950s, getting $48,000 up front from the Baltimore Orioles in 1955. (Photo from Auburn Athletics)

Athens – Most people around Georgia remember Jim Pyburn as the fiery assistant coach who loyally served Vince Dooley for 16 seasons and was defensive coordinator Erk Russell’s right-hand man.

Loran Smith remembers that, too. But he also remembers the young, athletic Jim Pyburn who was one of the most successful two-sport stars in college athletics. Not only was Pyburn an All-America end at Auburn, but he was one of the best professional baseball prospects of his era.

“Jim was one of the first ‘bonus babies’ of the 1950s,” said Smith, resident sports historian for UGA. “He was given a $48,000 bonus when he was 19 years old in 1955. But what they did back then was they made those guys ride the bench with the major-league club for two years. Consequently, a lot of those guys never made it.”

Pyburn played for three years with the Baltimore Orioles. He left baseball as a .190 career average, according to Smith.

“He never could hit big-league pitching,” Smith said. “He should have been in the minor leagues learning how to play, but that’s not how they did it then.”

Pyburn, 78, passed away Saturday night in Jasper, Ala., after a long illness. Smith said Pyburn suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease late in his life.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “He was just such a strong, robust guy. It’s sad to see him go.”

After baseball, Pyburn returned to Auburn to coach, then followed Dooley from Auburn to Georgia. At different times Pyburn coached defensive line, linebackers and secondary with the Bulldogs from 1964-79. He was also the father of former Georgia quarterback Jeff Pyburn (1976-79).

Dooley is out of the country with his wife Barbara and could not be reached for comment.

Born in Fairfield, Ala., Pyburn played football and baseball at Birmingham’s Ensley High School before he became one of the greatest ends in Auburn University history. As a senior was named third team All-American and received more votes on the All-SEC team than any other player. As an Auburn baseball player, Pyburn led the SEC in hitting with a .432 average in 1953 as a third baseman and outfielder. He was inducted into the State of Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.

“Jim was a very, very tough competitor,” Smith said. “He was a little bit of a bull in a china shop. Very rambunctious, very animated and a very effective coach. He coached with all the gusto and enthusiasm you could imagine.”

Dooley was out of the country and could not be reached for comment. Jeff Pyburn is currently a practicing attorney in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Jim Pyburn was one of the greatest two-sport athletes in Auburn history and his passing is a sad day for the Auburn family,” Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Pyburn family during their time of grief.”

The funeral will be held Wednesday in Birmingham at Elmwood Cemetery and Chapel, 600 Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitation begins at 3 p.m. EDT.

28 comments Add your comment


May 23rd, 2011
6:02 pm

God bless the Pyburn family…Good folks.


May 23rd, 2011
6:23 pm

I’m sad to hear this! Good man … And his son Jeff was a pretty good QB too. Whether we admit it or not, Georgia and Auburn folks are a lot like too half brothers in a dysfunctional family given all the connections between the two schools! Anyway my respects to the Pyburn family.


May 23rd, 2011
7:16 pm

Enter your comments here


May 23rd, 2011
7:16 pm

Oops! Anyway…VERY good man.


May 23rd, 2011
7:42 pm

One tough but very nice guy. Personable and outgoing, he has been in poor health for quite a while. My condolences to the Pyburn family.


May 23rd, 2011
7:43 pm



May 23rd, 2011
7:47 pm

God bless Ann and all the Pyburn family. Jim was a fine man, and I was proud to have known him.

AU in B-ham

May 23rd, 2011
8:06 pm

I’m a friend of the family, great guy and great family. He always mentioned the AU/UGA family and how close both schools were…


May 23rd, 2011
8:48 pm

praying for the Pyburn family. In 1988. Ann was my reading teacher at Oakman Elm. Al. we are praying for Ann and the family. Love yall


May 23rd, 2011
9:27 pm

Sincere condolences to the Pyburn family from Tech fan. Good memories. I pulled for the Dawgs during the ‘80 season. God Bless Them!


May 23rd, 2011
9:52 pm

I met Jim back in the 1980’s as a friend of my late father. He was a regular on the antique show circuit. He was always very friendly and outgoing to my family whenever we saw him. My condolences to his family and God Bless!

Sturgis Glickman

May 23rd, 2011
10:03 pm

Whether we admit it or not, Georgia and Auburn folks are a lot like too half brothers in a dysfunctional family given all the connections between the two schools! Forget that! I’ll never forget Aubies turning the water hoses on GA fans after we whupped their nationally ranked team in 86. If Auburn is playing against Iraq, I’m pulling for Iraq.


May 23rd, 2011
10:28 pm

Georgia alum Pat Dye turned the fire hoses on Georgia students and ended up blasting innocent bystanders from both schools. Dye was not a credit to either school. On the other hand, Pyburn was a great player and fine coach. I recall his son as being a pretty good baseball player too. So

Summit Dawg

May 23rd, 2011
10:38 pm

RIP Jim!!! Good Tiger, Great Dawg!!!!

B-town Buzz 61

May 24th, 2011
6:14 am

Interesting tidbit…Pyburn wore jersey #8 for the Orioles. The same number, now retired, worn by Hall Of Famer Cal Ripken.


May 24th, 2011
7:06 am

As time goes on my memory of the hose game softens. Yes I was a bit miffed at the time but listened to my wife and did not charge the field. I got a bit wet but then after the length and intensity of the game, maybe a little shower was just what I needed. I will be glad to have a shower at auburn any time we win, if fact we do not even have to play, just shower us and we declare a victory.
Now to the most important issue, our prayers for the Pyburn family. Love, Cullowheedawy

radly dawg

May 24th, 2011
9:25 am

A fine man and a damn good coach…he, Eaves, Inman, Marvos, and Erk are probably yuking it up pretty good about now!!!!

God, Rest These Dawgs!!!


May 24th, 2011
9:51 am

I went to school with Jim’s son, Jeff. Jeff lead Cedar Shoals to the #1 ranking in football until Lakeside upset us — he was big, strong, and fast. He also was a great baseball player for CSHS and UGA. Though a UGA Alumini, I think he should have gone to Bama who wanted him badly — he would have been great as a wishbone QB. He also had a great sense of humor and was incredibly smart — he must have had two great parents.

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Stinkin' Dog

May 24th, 2011
10:32 am

Safe transitions to Jim. Sending good thoughts for his family.

War Eagle to a fine Auburn Man!


May 24th, 2011
11:44 am

My condolences to the Pyburn family, a great loss to Auburn and UGA…


May 24th, 2011
11:53 am

Another loyal Dawg under the Dooley regime. Thanks, Coach Pyburn


May 24th, 2011
1:08 pm

If you want to know who was responsible for turning the hoses on the Dawgs, go no further than Kermit Perry, a UGA alum, who happened to be employed in the AU Athletic department.


May 24th, 2011
2:07 pm

Waiting for the article on Isner’s 5-set epic match against Nadal. What a battler. Has there ever been a better UGA tennis alum?


May 24th, 2011
4:43 pm

Jim Pyburn was the brother of my Coach Ralph Pyburn, and came to our summer camp while playing at Auburn. He was the fastest and strongest player we had ever seen and made all of us doubt ever playing College ball.Both Pyburn brothers were as good as they come in both playing and Coaching football, and outstanding men.

Class of 93

May 24th, 2011
9:50 pm

My prayers are with their family. At the age of 9 I remember the classless Georgia fans who booed his son Jeff. My dad almost fought a couple of them and I learned a lesson. Never boo Georgia’s players.

Woodlawn H.S. 61' Class

May 25th, 2011
11:59 am

I played under coach Pyburn in high school. He was a tough coach but a fair and decent man. God rest his soul and bless his family

"Good 'Ole Ensley Boy!"

May 26th, 2011
2:06 am

I almost forgot about the Woodlawn connection….Ensley/Woodlawn & Auburn/Georgia…Old rivalries as good as they come and, the ultimate argument..Who was better?…Bo or Hershel?…I would LOVE to have been a “Warbler” …BUT, WE NEVER COULD BEAT THAT SILENT DRILL TEAM!…I could go on and on but, this is for all the Pyburns, Russells, Dooleys, Dyes, Jordans, Eaves, and more who have helped preserve one of the greatest rivalries in college football!….No love lost here for the Tide but, deep down, I love those hairy Dawgs!…And I always thought Vince should have been the next Auburn coach after Shug retired!….Would they all have followed and come back home?….By the way, in case Ralph should read this, Is your fireplace still working?..Condolences to you and your family….Jim