Like most football coaches, Jack Curtice has been given a new automobile (a Buick Roadmaster by grateful Texans at Texas Western), which he later used to drive out of town to a better job. But unlike most, Jack Curtice seems never to have left a bad feeling behind him when he departed. Even today, his graceful, rambling redwood ranch home hard by the Stanford golf course is frequently visited by Utah alumni vacationing in San Francisco. And they are as welcome as they were in Salt Lake City.
Curtice's wife is the former Margaret Brittingham from Lunenburg County, Virginia. She is the coach's second wife. His first died in a fall from a horse in 1941, and Margaret has raised Jack's son and daughter by his first marriage as well as their 11-year-old son Jimmy. They were married at Norfolk in 1943, when Curtice was stationed in the Navy there.
Being a coach's wife calls for a little play-selecting, too. One of the things not to do, Margaret has found, is select the wrong game for a post-game party. One year at Utah, the Idaho game looked like a nice safe breather. Utah was an overwhelming favorite when Margaret confidently shoved the turkey in the oven before the kickoff. The shocker came when Idaho edged Curtice's team 27-21, and the turkey stayed in the oven till the meat fell off of its own accord.
Curtice seems stimulated by the challenge of West Coast football. Of this fact, Prothro observes: "Most coaches want to win in as big a league as possible to prove themselves." It seems clear that Coach Curtice took the new post at some initial financial sacrifice. His salary probably is somewhere between $16,000 and $20,000, and at Utah, considering his salary, weekly television show and other side income possibilities, it is believed the Curtice take-home pay was higher. But the growth possibilities are present at Stanford.
For one thing there is "the big game." To Stanfordites and their toll-bridge alumni of San Francisco, the "big game" is not the seventh game of the World Series, Notre Dame vs. Army or even a no-limit poker session with Nick the Greek but the four quarters of the annual end-of-November California-Stanford football game. It is a bit of smugness which sometimes irritates football fans from other parts of the state (to say nothing of Harvard and Yale), but a San Franciscan is not at all intending to be funny when he calls a Cal-Stanford game in which the combined records of the two teams may total three victories "the big game." It would be an unforgivable gaffe to laugh. The big game got its name in the days when it was, indeed, just that and the Cal-Stanford tussle pitted two titans of the national football scene against each other.
Under Curtice, Stanford football should swing to the winning (and moneymaking) side of the schizophrenic syndrome, and the big game should get bigger. There is nothing as lurid as the "Vow Boys" or the later "Wow Boys" on the horizon, but Curtice teams, at least in films, look like the most exciting show this side of the pros—a show that may again fill Stanford's 90,000-seat stadium, and incidentally make some money. Nor is Cactus Jack merely out to entertain. "Listen," says wife Margaret sternly, "Jack may not act like it, but he likes to win."
Jack himself grins enigmatically. "Oh, shucks," he says. "Goodness knows, I'm no better and no worse than any other coach. I certainly didn't guarantee anybody I'd win every game. But I do think we'll show up for 'em. And there ain't nobody going to beat us without they stay awake."