Woodson is sometimes called an ornery old moss-backed so-and-so, even by his friends. His enemies prefer not to discuss him at all. He has been accused of running up scores to horrifying heights, of refusing to shake hands with a defeated opponent, of stealing good-looking freshman halfbacks right off someone else's campus. He has little use for alumni who fail to help him build up a football team and no use at all for alumni who try to tell him how to do it.
Yet no one ever accused Warren Woodson of turning out either a poor football team or an uninteresting one. His quarterbacks have firm instructions to pass at least 20 times a game, at least seven times in the first quarter. He will try almost anything once—and will try it again if it succeeds. Despite his horny handedness, Woodson's players respect him for his honesty and knowledge and skill and never-ending search for perfection.
After New Mexico State pounded Wichita 40-8 a week ago, Wichita Coach Hank Folberg warned Woodson that his ball club was going to get even next year. "Why, of course, Henry," said Woodson. "Of course. That's what football is all about."
Woodson fits no one's conception of a coach. Now 57, he is a man of average height and weight; his brown hair is thinning and turning gray at the temples; he speaks in a soft, high-pitched, drawling voice; he wears glasses and dresses in neat, conservative clothes. He does not drink or smoke or use profanity ("I don't know how a man can sound that mean without cussin'," one of his players once said), and he resembles a moderately successful insurance salesman on the verge of retirement.
In the years since he graduated from Baylor in 1924, Woodson has coached at a lot of places, high school, junior college, college, and he has had only four losing teams. He has won 195 college football games and in six bowl appearances he has yet to lose.
Woodson has been offered jobs at big universities but, for one reason or another, he has always turned them down. "Sometimes I didn't like the setup," he says, and adds forthrightly, "sometimes they didn't like me." Primarily he remained at small schools because there he could run things the way he wanted to. He came to New Mexico State only when assured that he would be head coach, athletic director, the man in full charge. Today Woodson is happy he went to New Mexico and New Mexico is deliriously happy to have him.
New Mexico State University ranks high among the "Who's That?" of American colleges. Hardly anyone outside west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona has any idea where it is or what it is or even why. "The most difficult recruiting problem we had when we first came here," says Woodson, "was convincing a prospective football player in California or Pennsylvania that there really was such a place."
Las Cruces, State's home town, is located 40 miles north of El Paso, a few miles west of the White Sands Proving Ground and 15 blocks from where Billy the Kid made his last jail break. On the outskirts of Las Cruces, with the unusual spires of the Organ Mountains as a backdrop, stand the yellow stucco buildings with the red tile roofs that make up the university. The campus is dotted with Chinese elms and a number of blades of grass. It is a Southwest school with a Southwest heritage, and everyone is very friendly, almost as if this were one of the entrance requirements. A land grant college, for years State was known as New Mexico A&M, but the name was changed in 1958, and almost immediately the proportion of female students to male students shot up from 1 in 7 to 1 in 3. "Girls don't like for people to think they are agricultural students," says Dr. Corbett.
There is still a good agricultural course, but New Mexico State is now better known for its emphasis on the physical sciences. Its physics department brings in students from all over the country and outside the country as well; there are large sums of money to carry oh an anti-missile applied research program and there is a new basic research center. Awarding Ph.D.s in physics, mathematics and engineering, the school has grown to 3,600 and it is expected to reach 10,000 in the course of the next 15 years.