If it seemed that Bud Wilkinson had poured all of his knowledge into this one game, that was because Oklahoma had been struggling to regain a position so lofty it may never again be attained by any team or coach. When Wilkinson's teams collapsed in 1960 (3-6-1) and again in 1961 (5-5), the crash was loud. Wilkinson had won three national championships, 13 straight conference championships, had produced 26 different All-America players, had won 47 straight games and had fielded five perfect-record (10-0) teams. He had brought to his profession a new image of a coach, an organization man, a diplomat. He had reversed the trend from size to speed. Tactically, he gave the modern game the 5-4 Oklahoma defense, varied split T line spacing, the simple checkoff play, the hip handoff, the fullback off-tackle series and many other refinements. And he smiled an awful lot.
Last week in the hours preceding the USC game, Wilkinson, 47 and white-haired, was still smiling, still a diplomat and, as he would later prove, still quite a football coach. When the Oklahoma squad arrived on Thursday in record 109� heat, Wilkinson quickly canceled a scheduled workout in the Rose Bowl. He further decided against a night workout, though USC was working at night. "It's better to let them romp around on the hotel lawn and not break our routine with a night workout," Wilkinson said. "I want them to eat when they're accustomed to eating."
Nor would Oklahoma's eating schedule be broken the second day. The temperature was one degree cooler, 108�, when Wilkinson took his team to the Coliseum for a first look and an absurdly short 7-minute drill. But Oklahoma's spare time was not wasted. Wilkinson sat on a sofa at Pasadena's Huntington-Sheraton Hotel and moved toy players around on a table for his quarterbacks. Line Coach Gomer Jones met repeatedly with his linebackers. Other assistants showed films of OU players running the USC offense, while Oklahoma's players sat attentively and shouted, "I've got him," "Direction," "East," "Cover," "West, West."
Said Wilkinson, "We know them pretty well, I think. We both know each other. It should come down to the players' talents and the breaks. I only know that we're going to have a lot of people where they plan to be."
Oklahomans have been worried that Wilkinson will not be at OU much longer. The oldest rumors in the state concern his interest in politics. Sidestepping all questions with the aplomb of his halfback, Joe Don Looney, Wilkinson would only say, "I'm not tired of coaching. Unfortunately," he added, "if you want to keep coaching, you have to win and the pressure is much greater when you're winning. Losing is not enjoyable, but it's easy. Most of the time there is nothing you can do about it. You are generally outmaterialed. I'm very surprised that we won as long as we did. There were three reasons for our decline. First, there was a down cycle of Oklahoma high school talent. Our athletes are pretty local. They nearly always come from a 300-mile radius of the campus, and Oklahoma has only 185 high schools, compared to Texas' 936. And since most of our best athletes have been Oklahoma boys (18 of 26 All-Americas), the down cycle hurt. We went into Texas and got more boys than usual for a while there, but, with few exceptions, we don't get the most-wanted Texas boys. Second, I believe there was an erosion of dedication—a boredom with winning, perhaps—on the part of all of us. The players, the fans—the summer jobs sort of fell off—and maybe we didn't coach as well, either. Finally, the conference grew stronger at the bottom.
"Today, we're in the process of rebuilding. We've got some fine young players, and, potentially, two or three of them can be as good at their positions as any we've ever had. Next year we'll have almost everyone back (only six of the best 33 are seniors). I believe we're coming back." Wilkinson, a nifty political dodger, seems to have a point there.