The good: McKay led USC to four national championships, equaling the total of Howard Jones. The first Trojans national title team, in 1962, was 11-0 and led by the first players he recruited. The third, in 1972, was 12-0 and is considered perhaps the best college team ever. McKay’s 127 wins eclipsed the 120 won by Jones and remain the most in Trojans history.
The bad: McKay was only 52 when he left USC to coach the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL. The winning touch McKay displayed with the Trojans vanished immediately — the Bucs lost their first 26 games. McKay regretted leaving USC but eventually led the Bucs to the playoffs three times.
The aye: McKay learned the “I” formation from a young junior college coach: Don Coryell. Then McKay tweaked the “I,” setting the tailback far enough behind center to get a running start into the hole or around end in the famed Student Body Left (or Right) play.
“If we’re going to run the daylight out of the football, the tailback should see the defense as the QB sees it,” McKay said.
The yarn: The colorful McKay held court several times a week in booth No. 1 at Julie’s, a restaurant near campus. One day the curator of the nearby Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County dropped in and mentioned to McKay that the museum had an exhibit of moon rocks quarantined because of a concern about introducing the unknown objects from outer space. McKay challenged the curator to bring him the moon rocks. Before long they were handling the priceless — and potentially dangerous — moon rocks on the table.
The quotes: McKay’s acerbic wit provided reporters with a steady stream of snappy quotes, often dispensed from booth No. 1.
Following an infamous 51–0 loss to Notre Dame in 1966: “I told my team it doesn’t matter. There are 750 million people in China who don’t even know this game was played. The next day, a guy called me from China and asked, ‘What happened, Coach?’”
On firing up players before a game: “Emotion is highly overrated in football. My wife is emotional as hell but she can’t play football worth a damn.”
The postscript: McKay left USC for Tampa Bay in 1975, the same year owner Julie Kohl closed Julie’s. Kohl had Booth No. 1 shipped to Tampa Bay, where it was installed in his new restaurant hangout. The booth recently was sold at auction to a USC fan.