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I think Maryland is the No. 1 team in the East, Georgia Tech in the Southeast, Rice and Texas in the Southwest and UCLA on the Coast," Football Coach Bud Wilkinson said. "In the Big Ten, Michigan and Ohio State. In the Big Seven, Colorado."
The University of Oklahoma, Wilkinson's own school and champion of the Big Seven Conference for the past seven years, was not mentioned, a deliberate oversight which has prompted 13-year-old Jay Wilkinson to remark, "The trouble with Dad is, he'll never say we'll win. It's always going to be a poor year. He's always predicting we're going to get beat—and one of these years we will."
Bud Wilkinson has been accused frequently of professional pessimism.
"I don't think I overdo it," he said as he sat behind his desk in the Athletic Department of the University of Oklahoma, "but I guess I'm a minority vote. I'd be just as dishonest to say we're going to win, if I didn't believe I , as I would be to say we're going to lose."
Regardless of what he says, the 39-year-old coach's record stands as the best in current football. His teams have been the only ones to place annually in the nation's top 10 in the last seven Associated Press polls. They have scored in 95 consecutive games, a national record, and have given the country 18 All-Americans. Recently Frank Leahy, Notre Dame's famed ex-coach, listed Wilkinson as one of the 10 outstanding football coaches of all time. Twice, Wilkinson has been voted Coach of the Year: in 1949 by the National Football Coaches Association after his team had gone through the season undefeated, and by the Associated Press in 1950, another undefeated year.
"Frankly, I'm not interested in records," Wilkinson said. "The thing I'm proudest of is the type of boy represented at Oklahoma in football. When people say to me, 'Coach, what kind of team will we have this year?' I say, I think we'll have a good college team,' but they aren't concerned about that. All they want to know is 'how many games are we going to win and how many are we going to lose?'
"The average alumnus looks at the scoreboard and sees that one team won and the other lost—so the team that won was smartly coached, well conditioned, ran the proper offense, used the right defenses and had outstanding morale. The other team was stupid. That's about the way most of them look at it."
A MATTER OF MIND
"In reality," Wilkinson continued, "what takes place is that both teams are well conditioned, smartly coached. They're both made up of fine young men. The winning or losing is in that intangible factor of mental toughness. You've got to have that to be a champion...where you get it, I don't know, but you've got to have it.
"If you're going to be a champion, you must be willing to pay a greater price than your opponent will ever pay. Critics of athletics say that's too much of an all-out approach. They want it to be played just for fun, but just going out there and going through the motions defies the purpose of competition. If you're out there just to take up space, you aren't playing the game. It's meant to be played as well as you can play. If you're just joking around you aren't doing credit to yourself or the game. There must be the willingness to compete when the chips are dow. Some people don't want to pay this price—and I've no objections to them—but I don't want them around because we aren't going to win with them.