"Bud Wilkinson told me what to expect before we played Nebraska, and I mean this as a compliment to Bob Devaney. We were talking about who we wanted to play, about this team and that one, and Bud said, 'I'm going to tell you, Nebraska has more great athletes than have ever been on one team.' And after what happened to us I agree with him."
So football is less a coach's game?
"It's still a coach's game. You start at the top. If you don't have a good one at the top, you don't have a Chinaman's chance. If you do, the rest falls into place. Don't make me sound stupid, but that's right. You gotta have good assistants, you gotta have a lot of things, but first you got to have the chairman of the board. Never forget it.
"All else being equal, the same things still win. You just got a different set of excuses nowadays. You're still going to win with preparation and dedication and plain old desire. If you're properly prepared, the physical part is taken care of. If you don't have a genuine desire, you won't be dedicated enough to prepare properly. It's a coach's job to get those things across.
"It doesn't take genius for that. The best coaches, most coaches I've known, weren't Phi Beta Kappa in the classroom. I better watch what I say, though. We were having our meetings in Dallas one time, and playing golf, and I said, 'Show me a coach who shoots good golf and I'll show you a lousy coach.' About that time somebody came running in hollering, 'Hey, Bud Wilkinson just shot a 71 and Paul Dietzel a 72.' Unh-unh. Well, for me it's still true. I was out at Lubbock for the All-Star game this year and playing golf with Chuck Fairbanks [of Oklahoma] and every day he was shooting par and just loving it. I had to think, if I was his age, I'd be out recruiting and figuring out some way to beat somebody. I couldn't do it any other way. But at my age, what difference did it make, playing golf?"
What does your way require in terms of time expended? "Back at Kentucky and at Texas A&M, and those first few years at Alabama, I would say every hour other than about three a day."
What about once you're on the field, the game itself? How do you characterize your approach?
"The sure way. That means, first of all, to win physically. You put two guys in this room and lock the door and if one beats the other physically, he'll win. If you got 11 on a field, and they beat the other 11 physically, they'll win. They'll start forcing mistakes. They'll win in the fourth quarter. I don't think any coach has a monopoly on how to win; there are coaches who do just the opposite of what we do and win games, but that's our approach."