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Beano Cook

Tough guy

Former USC, Bucs coach John McKay dies at 77

Quotable John McKay

John McKay's coaching record

Monday, June 11, 2001
McKay made his name as Trojans' coach
By Beano Cook
Special to

People are talking about John McKay as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first head coach, but McKay made his name in college football before going to the NFL. If McKay had never coached at USC before becoming the Bucs' coach, there would only be one paragraph written about him in his obit.
John McKay
John McKay led USC to four national football championships.

McKay is one of the top 10 college football coaches since World War II, and he is arguably one of the top five. He won four national championships in 16 seasons against tough schedules every year. He coached Heisman Trophy winners O.J. Simpson and Mike Garrett and 40 All-Americans altogether.

USC always had the material, but McKay was a great judge of talent and got the program in order when he took over in 1960. He always believed in playing a difficult schedule, setting up non-conference games with schools like Alabama and Arkansas. He could not schedule games against schools like the ones Florida, Penn State and Alabama play now because no one in Los Angeles would show up.

Until McKay came along, Notre Dame had dominated its series with USC since World War II. Under McKay, the Trojans lost three of their first four games against the Irish, but then McKay's team began dominating Notre Dame. He was 6-3-2 against Ara Parseghian, 8-6-2 overall against Notre Dame, and cost the Irish national titles in 1964, 1970 and 1974.

In the 1974 game, USC was losing to the Irish 24-0 before the Trojans scored before halftime to make it 24-6. USC then scored 35 points in the third quarter and went on to win 55-24. After the game, he had a great quote: "We normally don't score 35 points in the third quarter."

The best word to describe McKay was "acerbic"; he was sarcastic as hell. When schools were trying to out-recruit him for his son, J.K., he said, "I'm sleeping with the kid's mother."

McKay left USC to go to Tampa Bay because the Buccaneers kept throwing money at him. He wasn't making much at USC, and the Buccaneers' job set him for life. He nearly went to Alabama in 1970 because Bear Bryant was considering the Miami Dolphins' job before Don Shula was hired. Bryant said he would only take Miami job if McKay would succeed him at Alabama. But they both decided not to do it.

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