Competitive Fire Fuels Bulgers’ Achievements
MORGANTOWN, W Va. — It came out of nowhere, really, sort of like Shawn Foreman sneaking behind a Pitt defensive back to latch on to to one of Marc Bulger’s six touchdown passes in a 1998 Backyard Brawl victory at Pitt.
He was living in retirement, his WVU and NFL career behind him, golfing, doing charity work and seemingly enjoying life when he broke the news to his family.
He told them he had made his mind up to try to become an Olympian …. in curling.
Meg Bulger remembers the moment.
“I thought, man, Marc, you must have time on your hands,” she recalled on Tuesday, a couple of days after it was announced that she would be the third member of the Bulger family — following brother Marc in 2010 and sister Kate in 2018 — inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
“I thought it was kind of funny. He’s such a competitive guy that I was wondering how long it would take before he became something like a coach at a higher level. I couldn’t picture him in a retired life,” she said.
Football, curling, basketball … three Hall of Famers … a father who was a quarterback at Notre Dame.
It’s not your every day stuff, but what is driving Marc Bulger to push forward in his new endeavor is what also drove his two sisters to greatness on the basketball court. Three siblings, all having played professionally, all in their school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
Most interestingly, the Bulgers don’t really look upon what they have accomplished as anything really special. That isn’t them.
“It’s one of those things where we really love doing it,” Meg Bulger said, speaking as the latest Hall of Famer in the group. “We know we’re all competitive and want to be the best at what we do. When we sit around we joke with each other, bust each others’ chops a lot, but we are not the type that sit around and give each other hugs and say ‘Oh, you’re so wonderful, look at what you’ve done.’
“Our parents may do that a little bit, but not the point that you think they are sitting there thinking about it much,” she continued. “It’s just something we expected of each other, we’re proud of each other but maybe that’s the Irish in us, we don’t talk about it a lot.
“That’s just kind of how it’s always been. We’re kind of each other’s No. 1 fan, but we don’t talk about it.”
Meg is the youngest, but not playing any longer. Her legacy at WVU was written in being there when coach Mike Carey turned the program around from one that was beaten once by Connecticut, 102-20, to one that is respected across the land.
Sister Kate helped him start it, Meg took the mantle from there. She was a team captain, an honorable mention All-American, an All-Big East honoree and one of the best and most prolific 3-point shooters at WVU.
She had the drive the Bulgers had before here, the competitiveness and moxie that made her tough enough to come back from a serious knee injury to complete a four-year career.
But then, as it does with everyone, it ended and she had to rechannel her competitive feelings.
“I would play in leagues around Pittsburgh … there’s coed leagues and I’d be getting into it with guys. We won a couple of championships,” she said.
She did some color commentary on television to keep her hand in, married and had a daughter, Nola.
“Recently I started coaching 7th and 8th grade girls. It’s wonderful for my daughter, who will be going into the first grade this year,” she said. “Coaching has brought out that feeling I used to have all over again.”
She’s even thinking, maybe she’d like to do some coaching.
“Yeah. I thought about it. For right now, my schedule is great. I do just enough,” she said. “I thought about maybe moving up to the high school level. In time it may come because I enjoy it but I really enjoy the age group I have now.”
She is working with teens at the junior high level.
“This is an important time for them in life in general, especially with the athletics,” she said. “I love helping them in any way I can and to have my daughter hang around with the girls has been wonderful for them.”
She was a stickler for playing the game right and times have changed. What she sees now makes it different.
“Nowadays the biggest difference I see is the lack of fundamentals,” she said. “I think kids watch the NBA and they want to come out and shoot threes with horrible form and they can hardly get it up there, but it’s who cares?
“Some hardly know how to pivot. It’s minor things but it’s the key to being a great basketball player.”
You could say it’s frustrating for her, but she says it might be the other way around.
“I think they are probably more frustrated with me than I am for them because they think we’re doing drills that are way advanced for them. I tell them, no, we’re not, you have to learn this first.
“It’s fulfilling to me when I finally see them do it in a game.”
A lot of her coaching she takes from her former coach, Carey.
“I’m not easy on the girls, that’s for sure,” she admitted. “It’s funny, I would ask Mike for advice. He’d give me plays that I would take and I’d tell him how I found myself saying things he said — not using the words he used because I don’t think I’d last long in a Catholic school doing that.
“I tell him, I push them but when we step outside the lines of the basketball court I’m good friends and we can have fun. It’s a nice balance and I got to see that through Mike Carey all those years.”
Now she is a Hall of Famer coaching these young girls.
“It’s really humbling,”she said. “I just thought I was doing what I needed to do, I got there, I wanted to be the best I could be for West Virginia University and the state. I wanted to be a great role model and representative of that. I worked hard, I wanted to win, I wanted the team to be good.
“You step back and look at it and you think ‘Man, I guess I was doing a lot.’ That was just the way we were raised. It was what is expected of us,” she continued. “But when I went back and read the articles from when I was playing, it was like ‘Who did this? I didn’t do this.’
“I know it will be cool for my daughter to go back and see those things.”
The best part of it all, though, is that Bulgers of Pittsburgh have become West Virginians and it started when Marc arrived on the scene.
“When I first came on campus with Marc, one of the first reflections of what it is to be at WVU and a West Virginian was Coach [Don] Nehlen. When you meet him, he encompasses the greatness and how wonderful everyone is in West Virginia, the loyalty. It was the first we saw of that and it hasn’t let us down,” she said.
“Obviously our love for that has only grown throughout the years. Funny, we definitely think of ourselves as West Virginians and living in Pittsburgh you can get into some arguments with people.”
Nothing like a good argument to keep those competitive juices flowing.