John McKay
John McKay.jpg
John McKay in the 1980s
Date of birth (1923-07-05)July 5, 1923
Place of birth Everettville, West Virginia
Date of death June 10, 2001(2001-06-10) (aged 77)
Place of death Tampa, Florida, U.S.
No. N/A
Position Back / Head Coach
College Purdue
Career highlights
Awards 2x AFCA Coach of the Year (1962, 1972)
2x Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year 1962, 1972)
Sporting News College Football COY (1972)
Coaching Record / Statistics
4 National (1962, 1967, 1972, 1974)
9 AAWU/Pac-8 (1962, 1964, 1966–1969, 1972–1974)
Coaching stats Pro Football Reference
Coaching stats College Football Database Warehouse
Career player statistics (if any)
Overall record (NCAA)     127–40–8 (college)
Overall pro coaching record     44–88–1 (NFL)
College Bowl Record / Win pct. (%)     6–3 (.667)
Team(s) as a player (if any)
Team(s) as a coach/administrator (if any)
Oregon (assistant)
USC (assistant)
(athletic director)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL head coadh/GM)
College Football Hall of Fame


John Harvey McKay (July 5, 1923 – June 10, 2001) was an American football player and coach. He was served as the head coach at the University of Southern California from 1960 to 1975 and of the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976 to 1984. In 16 seasons with the USC Trojans, McKay compiled a record of 127–40–8 and won nine AAWU/Pacific-8 Conference titles. His teams made eight appearances in the Rose Bowl, winning five times. Four of his squads captured national titles (1962, 1967, 1972, 1974).

McKay moved to the NFL in 1976 to become the first head coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1976 and 1977, Tampa Bay lost the first 26 games they played. McKay's team improved by the end of the 1970s, making the playoffs three times including an appearance in the NFC Championship Game in 1979. McKay was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1988.

Early life, military service, and playing career[edit | edit source]

McKay was born in the now-defunct town of Everettville in Monongalia County, West Virginia. He was the third of five children born to Scots-Irish parents John and Gertrude McKay. John was the son of a coal mine superintendent who died when John was only 13 years old. He grew up in Shinnston, West Virginia, and after graduating from Shinnston High School in 1941, he was offered a football scholarship by Wake Forest. He was there enrolling when his mother became ill. He returned home and worked as a coal mine electrician's assistant for a year before he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force, in 1942. McKay served as a tailgunner aboard B-29s and saw action in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. After the war he entered college at the age of 23, and attended Purdue University but then transferred to University of Oregon in 1947. He played football at both schools. At Oregon, he was a running back behind quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. When Van Brocklin graduated, McKay took over running the offense and called the audibles from his two-point stance as a running back.

Coaching career[edit | edit source]

USC Trojans[edit | edit source]

After college, McKay decided to become a coach. He was an assistant coach at Oregon for nine years before moving to the University of Southern California in 1959, being hired as the USC Trojans' head coach the following year.

In his first two seasons, McKay's teams enjoyed little success, going 4–6 in 1960, and 4–5–1 in 1961. The Trojans had been on probation and thus could not recruit very well. McKay stated that these two teams were the slowest he had ever been around and had very little team speed. Heading into the 1962 season, McKay felt he might be fired by University President Norman Topping. Alumni were pressuring Topping to fire McKay, but Topping resisted. He decided to give McKay one more year so he could field a team with players he had recruited. Topping believed that McKay had recruited well and that the team would be successful.[1] Topping proved to be correct. In 1962, McKay guided USC to an 11–0 record including a Rose Bowl victory over #2-ranked Wisconsin, 42–37, and a national championship. USC won four national championships (1962, 1967, 1972 and 1974) during McKay's tenure as head coach. His 1972 squad is regarded as one of the best teams in college football history.[2] That team went 12–0, defeated five teams ranked 18th or higher by an average of 22 points. They never trailed in the second half of any game and their closest game was a nine-point win over Stanford. Players from that team included Mike Rae, Pat Haden, Sam Cunningham, Anthony Davis, Lynn Swann, Charle Young, Gary Jeter, Richard Wood and Charles Phillips. Two of his players, Mike Garrett (1965) and O.J. Simpson (1968), won the Heisman Trophy. McKay popularized the I formation, and emphasized a power running game with such plays as Student Body Left and Student Body Right. He is still the winningest coach in school history.

On November 26, 1966, Notre Dame crushed USC 51-0 for the worst defeat in the program's history. Reportedly, after the game McKay vowed to never lose a game to the Fighting Irish again. He denied saying it, however, and in an interview shortly before his death, he clarified that he actually said, "they'll never beat us 51-0 again." [3] After that loss, McKay was 6–1–2 vs. Notre Dame, losing only during the Irish' national championship season of 1973.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers[edit | edit source]

After turning down several offers from NFL teams, including the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, in 1976 McKay was lured to Tampa Bay to become the Buccaneers' first head coach.[4] Motivating his decision was the combined fivefold salary increase (totaling $2 million per year) and the prospect of building a franchise from the ground up.[4] The Buccaneers lost all 14 games in 1976 and the first 12 games of 1977 before finally winning a game (against the New Orleans Saints). They would also win the last game of the 1977 season.

After winning five games in 1978, the Buccaneers doubled that the following year, posting their first winning season. They clinched the 1979 NFC Central title in the final week by beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 3–0, in a driving Tampa rainstorm. They then defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 24–17, in a divisional playoff game to advance to the NFC Championship where, in a defensive battle, they lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 9–0. The Buccaneers made two more playoff appearances in 1981 and 1982.

After the 1982 season, McKay strongly supported star quarterback Doug Williams' bid for a better contract; at the time he was making less than 12 backups. However, owner Hugh Culverhouse was unwilling to budge from his initial offer. Williams bolted to the USFL for the 1983 season. Without Williams, McKay's offense appeared to be completely rudderless. The Buccaneers suffered through a two-win season in 1983, and although they rebounded to win six in 1984, it would be McKay's last. Thoroughly disillusioned, he stepped down as head coach. In the end, despite the Bucs' brief success in the early 1980s, McKay forever regretted his decision to leave the Trojans. His son noted that he knew "within the first week he got to Tampa that he'd made a mistake."[4] McKay later said that, despite the team's rapid ascendance to the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Area fans never forgave him for the franchise's 0–26 start.[5] On December 5, 2010, McKay was inducted into Tampa Bay's "Ring of Honor".[6]

Family and death[edit | edit source]

McKay was the father of former Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay, the current president of the Atlanta Falcons. Another son, John K. McKay, played wide receiver under him twice: first for the Trojans from 1972–75 and then later in the NFL for the Buccaneers from 1976–1979. McKay and his wife, Corky, had two daughters, Michele McKay Breese and Terri McKay Florio.

McKay died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Florida from complications due to diabetes on June 10, 2001.[7] His ashes were spread on the field of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.[8] For his contribution to sports in Los Angeles, he was honored with a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum "Court of Honor" plaque by the Coliseum commissioners.

Quips[edit | edit source]

McKay became famous for many of his humorous answers during press conferences, for which Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil called him "Dial-a-Quote".[9] His notable quips:

  • Following the 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?'"
  • Following a game in 1967 in which O.J. Simpson received over 30 hand offs, McKay was asked "Why are you giving the ball to Simpson so often?" He replied, "Why not? It's not heavy, and he doesn't belong to a union."
  • On recruiting his son, J.K., to play football at USC: "I had a rather distinct advantage. I slept with his mother."
  • After a series of questionable calls helped Notre Dame tie top-ranked USC in 1968, McKay was asked about the officiating. He answered "I'm not surprised. The referee is a fine Catholic fellow by the name of Patrick Murphy."
  • After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first unofficial game, he responded to a question, "Well, we didn't block, but we made up for it by not tackling."
  • When asked his opinion of the NFL, he said "I've seen what they do in the professional ranks and it's not anything different than what we do here." McKay also did not understand the huge amounts of drama the league built around games, stating "What's so different between losing in the NFL and losing in college? You win, you put a check mark next to the game on the schedule list, and when you lose, you put an X next to it."
  • Following a Tampa Bay Buccaneer loss, McKay was asked, "What's it like in the professional ranks, coach? Anything special?" He replied, "No I was beat 51–0 in the college ranks. It's the same thing."
  • Standing on the sidelines during a game, McKay said, "Can't stop a pass, or a run...otherwise we're in great shape."
  • During a team meeting, McKay told his players that games are won and lost in "the trenches." He then spotted Howard Fest sleeping in the back. McKay yelled, "FEST FEST, where are games won and lost?" Fest replied, "Right here with the Buccaneers coach."
  • Following a Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss in their early seasons, McKay was asked what he thought of his team's "execution." He replied, "I'm all for it."
  • "Capece is kaput," referring to Buccaneers kicker Bill Capece after he missed game-winning field goals in the final game of the 1983 season.
  • After the Buccaneers won their first regular season game against the New Orleans Saints during the 1977 season 33–14, McKay mused, "Three or four plane crashes and we're in the playoffs."

Head coaching record[edit | edit source]

College[edit | edit source]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
USC Trojans (Pacific-8 Conference) (1960–1975)
1960 USC 4–6 3–1 2nd
1961 USC 4–5–1 2–1–1 T–2nd
1962 USC 11–0 4–0 1st W Rose 1 1
1963 USC 7–3 3–1 2nd 16
1964 USC 7–3 3–1 T–1st 10 10
1965 USC 7–2–1 4–1 2nd 9 10
1966 USC 7–4 4–1 T–1st L Rose 18
1967 USC 10–1 6–1 1st W Rose 1 1
1968 USC 9–1–1 6–0 1st L Rose 2 4
1969 USC 10–0–1 6–0 1st W Rose 4 3
1970 USC 6–4–1 3–4 T–6th 19 15
1971 USC 6–4–1 3–2–1 3rd 20
1972 USC 12–0 7–0 1st W Rose 1 1
1973 USC 9–2–1 7–0 1st L Rose 7 8
1974 USC 10–1–1 6–0–1 1st W Rose 1 2
1975 USC 8–4 3–4 5th W Liberty 19 17
USC: 127–40–8 70–17–3
Total: 127–40–8
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
#Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

NFL[edit | edit source]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
TB 1976 0 14 0 .000 5th in AFC West - - - -
TB 1977 2 12 0 .143 5th in NFC Central - - - -
TB 1978 5 11 0 .312 5th in NFC Central - - - -
TB 1979 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to Los Angeles Rams in NFC Championship Game.
TB 1980 5 10 1 .333 4th in NFC Central - - - -
TB 1981 9 7 0 .563 1st in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Dallas Cowboys in NFC Divisional Game.
TB 1982 5 4 0 .556 2nd in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Dallas Cowboys in NFC 1st Round Game
TB 1983 2 14 0 .125 5th in NFC Central - - - -
TB 1984 6 10 0 .375 3rd in NFC Central - - - -
Total[10] 44 88 1 .333 1 3 .250

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The History of USC Football Volume Two 1960-1986 McClenahan-Kelly Productions Copyright 1987 University of Southern California and Trojans Video Partners
  3. John McKay "In My Own Words" Fox Sports Net
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Sam Farmer, He took the money and ran -- to Tampa, Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2007, Accessed January 12, 2007.
  5. Zier, Patrick. "McKay's style never accepted in Tampa". The Lakeland Ledger. 24 Dec 1988
  6. Late John McKay inducted into Buc Ring of Honor. Associated Press. Sports Illustrated (December 5, 2010). Retrieved on December 6, 2010.
  8. Stewart, Larry. "McKay Had a Way With Exercising His Power", The Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2005. 
  9. Hornack, Ken. "Relaxed and Relieved - But McKay Remains the King of Quip". The Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 18 Dec 1984
  10. John McKay Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks -

Additional sources[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


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