Had college coaches been able to cast ballots for the man or pick the place to begin a stand against the forces that beset them, it is not likely that they would have chosen Dee Andros or Oregon State. To be sure, Andros had been a football star at Oklahoma under Bud Wilkinson and a Marine war hero (winning the Bronze Star at Iwo Jima), and he had, in four years, become as popular a figure as ever set foot in Corvallis. Moreover, his teams never lost more than they won and they earned a reputation for slaying giants (when the Beavers beat USC in 1967, the Trojans were ranked No. 1; when they beat Purdue, the Boilermakers were No. 2).
But Corvallis—face it—is no metropolis, and Dee Andros is a great jelly roll of a man whose style is not so much Homeric as Peanutsean. He is 250 pounds on a 170-pound frame. He does not seem to wear his clothes as much as he seems to be wrapped in them. Conversationally, he tends to make fun of himself. He says, for example, that being a war hero was secondary to his more pressing duties as company cook. His is an endearing image, not typical of a crusader.
The creation of Dee Andros as the comic book character West Coast football fans know and love as The Great Pumpkin is mostly his own doing. He pronounces it "Punkin," in the country-boy idiom, and he refers to his exploits as if the character were a separate—albeit lovable—person. "The Great Punkin had himself a time that day," Andros might say. His game wardrobe (from Sizes Unlimited) is all orange and black—pants, jackets, socks, shoes, ties—and he drives an orange and black Oldsmobile. "I bet there isn't another car in the country like it," he says.
Andros always runs onto the field ahead of his team, full speed, an orange ball of fire. When a rival coach suggested that the way to beautify the Oregon State team was to forget about beards on the players and make Andros shave off 60 pounds, The Great Pumpkin just laughed and laughed and said, "Hell, I can't do that. I'd spoil my image."
But Andros is not as uncomplicated as he appears, and he is by no means a patsy. When his "coaching prerogative," as he calls it, was threatened, he chose the battleground, and the clang that was heard was when his enemies pierced the suet and ran into the steel.
One afternoon last February, The Great Pumpkin was rolling across the campus when he came face to hairy face with Fred Milton, a linebacker of exceptional promise who had sat out the 1968 season because of an injury. Milton had added a mustache and a Vandyke to his particular image.
"It wasn't as if I ran around looking for Milton," says Andros. "But I saw him and I couldn't let it pass."
Andros has very few hard rules. His athletes don't have to live in a dormitory, and there is no curfew. Most discipline is hung on a catchall: "I will not tolerate a player who will embarrass me or the university." According to those who know the Corvallis scene, Andros is a flaming liberal compared to Tommy Prothro, who preceded him at Oregon State. Under Prothro, football players virtually marched two by two onto airplanes. "Tommy didn't believe a player should be allowed to smile on Friday," says Andros. "I have no objection to that. Just don't let me catch him smiling on Saturday."
But Andros did have a rule about hair: no hair over the ears or collar, sideburns no longer than mid-ear, no facial hair. He was consistent. It applied to everybody. He is now obsessed with it. Sitting behind his desk, behind the paperweight that identifies him as "Head Hard Rock" and underneath the orange football on the brass base that identifies him as "The Big Jock of OSU," Andros talking about sideburns and beards and sandals without socks ("dirty, smelly, unappetizing") is a stump preacher. "It ain't neat," he says. "It ain't athletic."
Hair is an obsession shared by a great many coaches, although their positions differ.