Perhaps most of all, Allen wants to prove that he can still get the job done on the field. He wants—needs—to show that he can give life to yet another moribund football operation. To this end, he would like to demonstrate that as wedded as he is to his spectacular past, he is also a coach for the '90s, just as he was a coach for the '60s and '70s.
Speaking to the Long Beach Rotary Club before the season started, Allen conceded that life on campus has changed since he last coached in college 34 years ago. "I'm not used to players wearing earrings," he told his audience. "I'm not used to players with ponytails. And I'm not used to women trainers. I've gotten rid of the first two."
Allen intends to do things his way, but docs his approach make sense in the '90s? His athletes seem to think so. The team's best player, linebacker Pepper Jenkins, says, "Before Coach Allen got here, football wasn't just off in a corner. We were in the back room with the door shut."
Says wide receiver Jeff Exum, " Coach Allen's reputation is so good that even we can't hurt it."
Indeed, when Allen—who looks 50 and who runs three to five miles every day-stands to address his players, the room immediately becomes silent. Even McCray says, "One is inclined to defer to his judgment." That's why no one complained when Allen chartered a plane to Clemson for $60,000 instead of flying commercially for $50,000. "Besides," said Allen, "that will enable us to get out of there quick."
Allen has lots of good ideas. The other day, he did 101 sit-ups on the practice field, followed by 31 push-ups. "I always like to do one more of everything than I promise myself I will," he says.
Says quarterback Todd Studer, "There's a message in everything Coach Allen says and docs."
Allen got the bug to return to college coaching in the summer of '89, when Morningside College wanted him to come back, for old times' sake, and ride in a parade. Instead, Allen showed up for two weeks in August, coaching two-a-days, fund-raising, working his brains out for free in the sweltering heat. The Chiefs won their opener, snapping a 15-game losing streak. Allen discovered he still had the touch. Wouldn't it be fun to do it again?
Allen's celebrity alone, however, will not carry the day. After the Clemson debacle, Utah State defeated the 49ers 27-13, and then last Saturday, San Diego State beat them 38-20. Says Allen, "We have to get better players."
And that is reality.