It's interesting to contemplate what they accomplished and to contemplate further if they, or anyone else, can do so well in the next 10 years when athletes can hardly be expected to dedicate themselves so blindly.
From a won-lost standpoint the three coaches who enjoyed the most success were Bryant, Royal and Devaney. Each man had six teams that won at least nine games in a season, counting bowls. Bryant got pieces of three national titles, and Royal won two unanimously. Devaney got none, but Nebraska reached a status it had never known before.
In a recent poll of national writers and broadcasters conducted by ABC-TV, Royal was voted the Coach of the Decade. Possibly Royal won on the basis of his elaborate success in bowl games—-Texas won the glittering biggies over Navy and Staubach, over Alabama and Namath and over Notre Dame. And this was quite aside from Royal's two No. 1s, his five Southwest Conference titles and the fact that he concluded both the decade and first 100 years by ushering in a new attack, the Wishbone, that will set the pace for the early '70s.
There was a good case to be made for John McKay as the leading coach. It was McKay, after all, who broke open the era of passing and high scoring with his variations on the I formation. He, too, won a couple of No. Is, went to five Rose Bowls (including a record four in succession, this could make five) and he had the added pleasure of coaching two Heisman Trophy winners in Garrett and O.J.
For all of the repetitious winning of the usual powers—USC, Texas and Alabama—the decade will be remembered as the one that saw a climb to power of new giants like Arkansas and Nebraska, as well as the restored glory that came to Notre Dame, Tennessee, Georgia, UCLA and Michigan. Even some traditional have-nots like Kansas (1968), Indiana (1967), SMU (1966) and Purdue (Griese, Keyes and Phipps) had their fleeting moments of boisterousness.
Nearly every major college coach agrees that it would be a shame for the NCAA to order a cutback on scholarships, as is silently being discussed, or for the rulesmakers to boot the game backward to the one-platoon style in an effort to achieve a balance of power.
"The haves have generally been the haves and the have-nots have generally been the have-nots," says one coach, "regardless of the rules."
It's very true. Under any style of play the top coaches and the top teams will endure if not prosper. A place like Texas under Royal or USC under McKay can just as easily pick off the best 20 recruits as it can pick off the best 40. No effort to bring down the big teams has ever succeeded when smart coaches worked at big schools with winning attitudes and winning traditions.
The answer has always been for the have-nots to drag themselves up as, say, a Purdue, a Houston, a Florida State or an SMU has done. How? In some cases clean house. In others more vigorous recruiting, especially in the area of the blacks.
"Football has to make money," says Oklahoma's Chuck Fairbanks. "It has to support the spring sports. I can show you how to have a heck of a wrestling team. Let me recruit the guys who'll get us on top in football and we'll have good everything."