In the final decade of the 1800s, Hampden-Sydney College was a school flourishing under the leadership of President Richard McIlwaine. The student body was the largest in the history of the College and morale was high. The one area in which the College was clearly lagging behind other, similar institutions was in the area of intercollegiate athletics. Hampden-Sydney could boast only a few "class teams," and according to reports they played only sporadically. What Hampden-Sydney needed was someone to lead the College's athletic teams into the modern era. That leader appeared in 1892 in the form of William Ford "Billy" Bull.
Originally from Norfolk, Bull entered Hampden-Sydney as a freshman in the fall of 1892 and immediately saw the need for organized athletics at the college. He started the first Hampden-Sydney football team that year and the Tigers faced the University of Richmond on Thanksgiving Day in what is considered the first intercollegiate football game of the modern era at Hampden-Sydney. Bull was the team's captain for three years and in 1894 led the team to its first-ever victory, 28-0 over William and Mary. He also served as captain of the baseball team and is considered the "Father of Intercollegiate Athletics at Hampden-Sydney."
After leaving Hampden-Sydney in 1896, Bull served with great distinction as a missionary in Korea for 40 years. He was responsible for the conversion of numerous Koreans to Christianity and was great adored by the people of Korea. Following retirement in 1939, he lived in Norfolk until his death on December 17, 1941.