Royal’s Texas team ran that new offensive scheme, dubbed the wishbone, to 30 straight wins and a pair of national championships.
Assistant coach Barry Switzer installed the wishbone at Oklahoma in 1970 and continued to run the offense from the time he became head coach in 1973 until he left college coaching in 1989. Switzer’s Sooner teams posted an .844 winning percentage and won three national titles.
After back-to-back lackluster seasons and with many fans and influential alumni griping that the game had passed him by, Alabama head coach Bear Bryant unveiled the wishbone in 1971. The Tide rebounded from a 6-5 campaign to post an 11-1 mark. Bryant rode the wishbone to 123 wins and three national titles.
Ironically Auburn head coach Pat Dye turned to the wishbone when he took the Auburn reins and he used the formation to break Alabama’s nine-game winning streak over the Tigers and return Auburn to national prominence.
“Don’t misunderstand. Formations don’t win football games, people do,” Bryant observed in his autobiography, ‘Bear, The Hard Life and Good Times of Alabama’s Coach Bryant.’ “But they can give you an edge, and that’s what coaches look for.”
When Bryant rolled out the wishbone looking for a competitive edge in 1971 did coaches who preferred a more traditional attack cry foul? Did Bo Schembechler or Woody Hayes or any of the old school coaches go running to the NCAA, tears in their eyes, begging that something be done to stop the Tide, Sooners and Longhorns from confusing their defenses with the triple-pronged assault?
They hunkered down and figured out ways to stop it. Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian and Irish defensive coordinator Phil Dawson solved the riddle. The Irish stopped Texas in the Cotton Bowl in 1971 and then broke Alabama’s bone in the Sugar Bowl 1973 and the Orange Bowl in 1974. Notre Dame’s 1973 win forced a split championship (and changed the way titles were awarded). The 1974 win denied Alabama a crown.
Over the years the wishbone fell out of favor as more and more defenses found ways to neutralize it. The last time a wishbone-powered offense won a national title was 1986.
Today’s crop of crybaby coaches isn’t willing to put in the work to try to solve the riddle of the fast-paced multi-pronged attack of the no-huddle, read option offenses that are growing in popularity.
It’s not hard to see why.
With Gus Malzahn at the controls of the Auburn offense Alabama head coach Nick Saban is just 2-2 against his cross-state rivals. One of those wins required late fourth quarter heroics to pull the iron out of the fire. Against what many termed the best Tide defense in decades, Auburn rolled up nearly 400 yards in 2013.
Saban is 1-1 against Texas A&M, another offense that uses variations of the no huddle. The Aggies piled up 1059 total yards against Alabama in the last two meetings.
Oklahoma demolished the Tide defense in the 2014 Sugar Bowl using a fast paced attack.
Saban doesn’t like the fast paced offense. Wonder why?
Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema, who transferred in from the plodding Big10 last year, doesn’t like it either. He had trouble keeping pace with the league in his dinosaur-era offensive sets and was zero-for-SEC in his inaugural Hog campaign.
Saban and Bielema voiced their displeasure with having to prepare for and defend against fast paced offenses prior to the 2013 season hiding behind the farce of “safety issues.” Most considered their whining asinine and/or a joke. But they weren’t done. After getting punched around by fast paced offenses all season, the not-so-dynamic duo stepped up their efforts.
Last week the two sniveling brats took their whining to the NCAA meetings. Both were in the room when potential new rules were considered. In a move NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding said was “not routine” Saban asked and was allowed to address the committee.
Voila! The rules committee proposed a new regulation designed to slow down the offenses that rely on the faster pace citing “safety concerns.”
Safety concerns? Hogwash.
Saban’s documented difficulty in stopping the fast paced offense and his intimate relationship with NCAA head Mark Emmert are surely no factors. (If you believe that, we’ve got some prime beachfront real estate in Enid Oklahoma to sell you)
Coaches around the nation were incensed that this fraud of a rule change would even be considered.
“It’s a joke. It’s ridiculous,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. “And what’s most ridiculous is did you see what the penalty is going to be called? Delay of game! How is that a delay of game? That’s the ultimate rules committee decision. Make the game slower and call it delay of game.
“Where’s all the data that proves this is a player safety issue? I don’t buy it,” Rodriguez said. “What about making it so you can’t blitz seven guys? That’s a dangerous thing for a quarterback.”
“If anything, you may be making it more dangerous for the offensive line because they’re going to face 12 five-star defensive linemen from Alabama rotating every three plays,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said.
Arizona’s Rodriguez took it a step further and hinted at a hidden agenda, noting that the issue was not even discussed at the AFCA coaches meetings and that the announcement of the proposed rule was a surprise to most.
Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M was pointed in his criticism of Saban and Bielema.
All the evidence points to a meeting yesterday where one coach got in front of the committee to plead his case. The two coaches that were on the committee, along with Bret Bielema, who represents the AFCA obviously had their side of the story they wanted to present. There’s a couple of problems.
Even the typically clueless media was quick to see through the transparent safety sham to the real issue: Saban, Bielema and others who side with them are afraid. Afraid of change, frightened of having to figure out a way to compete in a changing landscape.
Can you flag a coach for targeting? If so, someone should throw a yellow hanky at Nick Saban, Bret Bielema and every other old-school coach who hasn’t been able to stop the likes of Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and other new-age thinkers by conventional methods.
– Kevin Scarbinsky, Birmingham News
Not surprised. Nick advancing his agenda. And he knows fewer injuries not the real issue. Trust me.
– ESPN’s Chris Fowler via Twitter
Advancing an agenda under false pretenses rather than putting in the work.
Don’t you know Bear Bryant is spinning in his grave in embarrassment? If he were alive and coaching today don’t you imagine that he and his coaches would burn the midnight oil trying to find a way to stop today’s fast paced offenses — or install a version of it himself as he did with the wishbone in 1971?
Bryant built his legacy by re-configuring his offense, embracing the future and adapting. He deserves his place among the pantheon of great coaches because he was an innovator.
When the landscape changed, Bryant changed with it. He didn’t go whining to the NCAA like a spoiled little girl.