Wilkinson's preparation for any game is meticulous to the point of being finicky. It begins on Sunday morning when the assistant who has scouted the team coming up reports to the Oklahoma field house and dictates his report to a stenographer. Sunday afternoon the whole coaching staff gets together to study the report, and late Sunday afternoon the team hears it. At 6:30 Monday morning the staff meets again, and each coach diagrams the offense he feels will work against the upcoming opponent.
"If we agree pretty substantially, that's it. Otherwise, we kick it around until we do agree," Wilkinson said. Tuesday morning the coaches go through the same cycle with the defense. Once offense and defense are set, the plans are typed up and each player given his assignments on a separate sheet. They get this on Wednesday at lunch and are expected to digest the information by practice time which begins at 4:15. More detailed instruction sheets are made up for offensive and defensive quarterbacks. The habits of opposing players are charted to develop patterns of play and often Oklahoma goes into a game knowing as much about the opposing team's style as its own coach.
"If we have a weakness, maybe it is that we don't adjust too well during a game," Wilkinson said. "We know how we want to play a game and we play it that way. We feel that any adjustments you might make to an unfamiliar offense or defense would cost you more in efficient execution than you would gain. We also try to scout ourselves, so we don't develop any bad habits as a team. I've got three or four boys as graduate assistants who played here, and they will look at films of our games and scout Oklahoma. When you're too close to the team, you tend to lose objectivity."
He leaned back in his chair.
"You know," he said, "we ask these boys to give their best and a little more. If the coaches don't do the same, then they have no tenable relationship with the team."
Wilkinson, who is known as one of football's hardest-working coaches, has certainly given his best to football, and football, in return, has been extremely kind to Wilkinson. Before the University of Texas hired Darrell Royal—a Wilkinson-trained coach—exuberant, well-heeled Texas alumni cast longing eyes toward Wilkinson. "We knew he would come high," one of them said the other day. "We had a guy who found out his income for us, and then we gave up on him. We had it from a good, believable source that he paid income tax on $102,000 in 1954." A good deal of his income came from a 39-program television sports series Wilkinson had made, since his salary is only a fraction of this sum.
Wilkinson still spends four hours on Sunday afternoon preparing and presenting a TV show for Kerr-MaGee Oil Co. on an Oklahoma City station. Then he must hurry back to Norman, where he arrives at the Oklahoma field house just in time for the Sunday afternoon meeting with his assistants which begins another long week of meticulous preparation and hard work.
He is an impressive man as he strides up the steps to the field house, tall and strong-looking. He looks exactly the part of a man whose best and a little more has returned dignity and pride to a whole state.