Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle shared an office with Willie at Clemson. "He worked hard," Bustle says. "He could talk your ears off, a great personality for recruiting. He was always on the phone, talking to coaches, selling them the moon."
Anderson left Clemson in 1983 to join Jimmy Johnson's staff at Oklahoma State. There he befriended two other young assistants, Houston Nutt and Kevin Steele, now the coaches at Arkansas and Baylor, respectively. "I've never met a better recruiter," says Nutt, whose walk-ons this season include Derrick, a 6'1", 270-pound defensive lineman. "He started on guys early. If there was a sixth-grader making a blip, Willie would drop him a note. He was on the phone at 7 a.m., talking to kids—'Hey, you were unbelievable last night!' "
The Oklahoma State scandal stemmed from the recruitment in 1985 of Hart Lee Dykes, the high school All-America wide receiver from Bay City, Texas, whose testimony helped put four schools on probation. According to the NCAA, Anderson paid Dykes $5,000 when he signed with Oklahoma State, made several payments of $125 to $200 during Dykes's first two years and arranged for him to get an expensive sports car by putting someone else's name on the title.
Once the NCAA began investigating Oklahoma State, coach Pat Jones, Johnson's successor, fired Anderson. Nutt says, "I remember Pat saying, 'The guy couldn't help it. He just had to cheat.' " Says Willie, "He hired me to coach football and recruit players. That's what I did. I blame no one but me."
In 1989 the NCAA cut off Oklahoma State's scholarships for three years. Terrence, who was eight years old when the Oklahoma State scandal broke, never believed his father was a villain. "All he told me was that he didn't do anything wrong," Terrence says. "[I believe] he didn't do anything he wasn't forced or asked to do with his job at stake. He took the fall."
A decade later Willie is still in football—he is the defensive coordinator at Langston, an NAIA school 30 minutes from his home—and filled with what he calls a "searing desire." It's clear that he still believes in discipline and hard work. As he walks out of his office on a sunny but windy fall morning, he encounters one of his players. Willie says nothing—just stares until the player sheepishly slides a cap off his head.
"Thank you," Willie says.
Gail Anderson is proud of the calm with which her husband has accepted his fate. "He basically left it behind him," she says. "He did what he had to do and he got caught. It's unfortunate, but those things made us stronger. Have you ever seen a storm that didn't pass?"