McKay's corner

Weekly look at coach John McKay

Here's the first of a periodic set of columns on John McKay's thoughts on recruiting.

"Football coaches often worry about the field they're going to play on or the weather conditions they are going to face. But if we had the best players, I wouldn't mind playing you in Nome, Alaska.

And, of course, you get the best players by recruiting. There isn't a coach in America who can win with poor material, but it's his responsibility not to be in that position.

Recruiting is a very difficult job. Except for losing, it's the worst thing about college coaching. For several months it's almost a full-time task, and it gets even tougher at USC when we go to the Rose Bowl regularly. While we're getting ready to play Michigan or Ohio State, the other schools get the jump on us by spending December talking to prospects.

Recruiting is complex, because of all the NCAA rules governing it, and it's frustrating because so many kids today are arrogant and so many of their parents are skeptical. When I'm talking, some of them even imply that I'm a liar. It's vicious, because coaches claim that other coaches cheat, and it's a dogfight, because there's more competition than ever for the best players. But recruiting can also be humorous and very rewarding.

There's so damn much hearsay about recruiting today (ED aside: think the ol' coach would have loved the internet?!?). For example, someone will say to me, "Don't tell us that OJ Simpson didn't get a big car, an apartment, and an education for his wife."

"He didn't," I'll respond.

And they'll wink and say "You wouldn't tell us if he did."

You can't win. Now I'm a cheater and a liar too.

I believe that if it's necessary to cheat in intercollegiate athletics to be successful, they aren't worth having. And I've never believed in the innocence of an 18-year-old-boy who takes something extra. He's heard of the rules, and he knows he's breaking them. I have no patience for the stale rationale people use: it's like cheating on your income tax. Why not do it? Everybody else does.

But I don't find most parents aggressive. Some come in very much in awe, and about half of them are nervous. They want their sons to do well, and they're very concerned.

Occasionally, I find myself in embarrassing situations. Several years ago an assistant and I were out with a family. The mother sang in the church choir. She was very polite as I talked about the benefits of USC. But as time wore on, I could tell she was getting impatient. Suddenly she said:

"I don't understand this bullshit other coaches have been giving me. But, wherever he goes, I hope my son has a better opportunity that my husband here. All he was good for was making love."

Her son tried to interrupt.

"Shut your mouth, boy," she said. "If it wasn't for that, you wouldn't be here."

I guess mom liked me, because her son went to USC.

All above from McKay: A Coach's Story by John McKay & Jim Perry (1974)

Remember the McKay memorial service @ Bovard Auditorium Sept 12.

RIP Coach McKay.

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