John McKay USC

On November 26th, 1966 the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beat their rivals, the USC Trojans 51-0. Supposedly, USC football coach John McKay was extremely upset as any body would be in that situation. Legend has it that John McKay said, through clenched teeth, that he would never lose to Notre Dame again.

He almost didn’t.

The USC was 6-1-2 against the Irish the remainder of McKay’s coaching days for the Trojans. The

Notre Dame fighting Irish won the national championship in 1973 and they beat the Trojans, or he never would have lost to them again.

The only problem is, he probably never said that. He later denied making that bold statement.

Even if he didn’t, he sure said a lot of other things. Some of his comments were really funny.

Once, he gave the ball to OJ Simpson over 30 times in one game and was asked about it by reporters. He replied with “it’s not heavy”.

He recruited his son J.K. McKay to play for the Trojans. He replied about that, “I have a rather distinct advantage. I slept with his mother”.

John McKay was a clever and witty guy. He was also a great football coach.

In 16 seasons as the head coach of the University of Southern California Trojans, McKay posted a record of 127-40-8. He took the Trojans to 8 Rose Bowls and they won 4 national championships.

He took over a USC program that was apparently in shambles in the late 1950’s. His first season was a disaster with the Trojans going 4-6. The next season was no better with a 4-5-1 record.

But, in 1962, the Trojans finished 11-0 to win the national title.

Their next national championship came in 1967 with the great OJ Simpson at Running Back.

His 1972 USC squad is considered by some to be one of the best college football teams of all time when they finished 12-0 and crowned national champs.

His last title is controversial and mostly in the eye of the beholder because everyone knows that Oklahoma had the best team in 1974. But, they were on probation and the 10-1-1 Trojans were given the national title.

The only reason his name rarely comes up when discussing top  college football coaches is because he left the college game after the 1975 season to take over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In 1976, the NFL brought in two new franchises, the Seattle Seahawks and the Buccaneers. It was not an ideal situation for a brand new NFL coach.

But, in 9 seasons, John McKay took the Buccaneers to the playoffs 3 times starting in his 4th year as boss. His days at Tampa Bay were not considered a success when he posted a 44-88 record.


If McKay had chosen to stay at USC and in the college game, it’s hard to believe that he would not be considered one of the top coaches of all time.

Still, 4 national titles in 16 years is something to be proud of.


McKay passed away in 2001 from complications due to Diabetes.

Of all the things he is remembered for, maybe the most famous was ‘student body left, student body right’. The student body left or right plays were just a sweep where the Quarterback pitches the ball to the Tailback who is going either left or right depending on the play call and everybody is a lead blocker for him in that direction.

John McKay’s teams were the ones that started that and they were the best at it.

Thanks for the memories, John McKay.

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