Linda Powers, wife of the Mizzou coach, makes a late-morning goodwill tour of the high-roller parking lot. She is wearing black pants, a gold glitter blouse, a gold fishnet sweater and a pair of oversized pink shades, on one lens of which is stenciled MIZZOU. "Football is the greatest," remarks Mrs. Powers. "Everyone has fun out here on Saturday. The only one who doesn't is Warren."
It is true that Warren Powers, at least during the football season, doesn't give the impression of somebody having the time of his life, but neither does he seem to be an unhappy or harassed man. Heavily preoccupied or lightly zapped would seem more descriptive of his state. He is an articulate man who will respond politely to technical or philosophical questions about either the Mizzou Tigers or football in general, speaking in the vaguely Tennessee-Alabama style that football coaches, no matter what their origins, seem to have made their own. (Powers played at Nebraska and with the Oakland Raiders before coaching at Washington State and Missouri.) His replies are quick and sensible, but there is a feeling that they may have been recorded on an inner answering device whose owner is absent. Powers seems to fade in and out of the present, possibly on account of simple exhaustion. During the season he works 80 to 90 hours a week coaching on the field, meeting with players and assistants, conducting his own TV show, being interviewed on others, appearing before quarterback clubs in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City, recruiting and jollying alumni, big donors and journalists. "It goes with the job," Powers says, "and there's no other job I'd rather have anywhere."
The few hours before the Oklahoma game are very likely the most relaxed ones of the week for Powers. On Friday afternoon, under his direction, the team goes through a light workout and then eats in the athletic dining hall. Then, as they do on the Friday before every home game, the Tigers travel by bus to Jefferson City, the state capital, 35 miles south of Columbia, where they spend the night in a quiet, secure motel. The players watch an early martial-arts movie, which has been approved by the coaches. Afterward there is a review of assignments for the next day, but Powers delivers no dramatic or inspirational pep talk. "It's more important to settle them down than to try to make them any higher than they are," he says.
After the players retire to their rooms some of the younger coaches play a few hands of poker, but Powers only watches. He goes to bed early and doesn't have any difficulty sleeping. "I wasn't confident that we would win," he says of his last thoughts of the day, "but I was confident that we could win."
Wendell Ray, the prayerful defensive end, does have trouble getting to sleep. He is in his room well before the 10:30 bed check and reads the Bible for an hour, but thoughts of the game keep intruding, and finally take over his mind. "Some people think negative, like their offense is going to run over us," he says. "I like to think positive about what we are and I am. I start thinking about Billy Sims. Some of the guys talk about how they're going to make a name off Sims—you know, like showing him up—but I don't think that's right. You make your own name by doing your thing. I'm not saying I got a big name like him, but I got some name. I make it by playing good right along, not by what I do in one game with Sims. I'm getting sleepy and I have like a dream. It's like I see a picture on TV of me hitting him a real shot. His helmet flies off and maybe he loses a few teeth. Somebody gets a picture of it just when I hit him and that picture is on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, both of us doing what we can do."
It is nearly two in the morning when Ray finally gets to sleep. He is up by 7:30 to attend a Mass conducted by a St. Louis-area priest who's also a Tiger supporter. "There are things the Catholics do that is different from what the Methodists do, but that's all right for me," says Ray. "I think of what that priest is saying and how it has to do with football."
Breakfast is a disappointment for Ray. "I'm not saying anything against Coach Powers," he remarks, "but when Coach Onifero [Powers' predecessor] was here we had really good breakfasts on game day. What they have now is a little bowl of cereal and two little round pieces of meat [Canadian bacon] and some cold French toast cut in half. The cereal was the only thing tasted good to me and I filled up on orange juice and vitamins. Then we sit around and I read the Bible some more and then we get into the bus and come back to school to get dressed in the New Facility."
The New Facility, as everyone calls it, is a low, functional-looking building, surrounded by practice fields, a quarter of a mile from the stadium to the west of the VIP parking lots. In a way it's the Tigers' football laboratory, their working headquarters. It cost $742,000. Soliciting funds to pay off the debt incurred in its construction is a major athletic-department enterprise.
Inside the facility there are a large, clean, carpeted, brightly lit, well-ventilated locker room, a whirlpool, weight-exercise equipment and therapy areas. Both Hart and Powers believe that a facility of this sort is essential for the growth and development of Mizzou football.
The working superintendent of the facility is John Daggett, a feisty equipment manager originally from Mississippi. By 10:30 on Saturday morning Daggett's six student assistants have completed laying out the 20 or 30 pieces of equipment that each player will need for the game. Daggett, who says he is the Vince Lombardi of equipment men, throws open one of the lockers to display the gear and its precise arrangement.