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John Harvey McKay (July 5, 1923-June 10, 2001) was a successful football coach at the University of Southern California (USC) and later the first head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, of the National Football League.

McKay was born on July 5, 1923 in Everettsville, in Monongalia County. He grew up in Shinnston and graduated from Shinnston High School in 1941. McKay attended Wake Forest University on a football scholarship.

McKay’s time at Wake Forest was brief. When his widowed mother became ill, he returned home and worked in a coal mine for a year before enlisting 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 enrolled at Purdue University in 1946, but transferred to the University of Oregon in 1947. He played football at both schools.

It was after he graduated from Oregon in 1950 that McKay decided to become a football coach. His first coaching job was as an assistant at Oregon. Following the 1958 season, McKay accepted an assistant coaching job at USC, eventually becoming the Trojans head coach in 1960.

During McKay’s stint at USC from 1960 to 1975, he became a marquee name in coaching. At USC, McKay compiled a record of 127-40-8, while winning nine AAWU/Pac-8 conference titles. His Trojans teams played in eight Rose Bowl games, winning five of them.

He left USC after the 1975 season to become the coach of expansion team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During his coaching career, McKay became famous for his dry wit and sometimes sarcastic comments to sports reporters and others in the media, especially during his time as the coach of the Buccaneers, a new team at the time that rather famously lost its first 26 games. When a reporter asked McKay what he thought of his team’s execution, he replied, “I’m in favor of it.” On the value of emotion on the gridiron, McKay quipped, “Emotion is highly overrated in football. My wife Corky is emotional as hell but can’t play football worth a damn.” On poor tackling: “We didn’t tackle well today, but we made up for it by not blocking.”

The losses soon stopped, however. Tampa Bay went on to the NFL playoffs three times under McKay, including advancing to the 1979 NFC championship game to become the first expansion club to reach a conference title game within its first four seasons.

McKay retired in 1984 at the conclusion of his ninth season in Tampa Bay with a 44-88-1 record. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1991. He also was a member of the 1994 inaugural class of USC’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

McKay died in Tampa.

This Article was written by Ben Calwell

Last Revised on December 02, 2021


Cite This Article

Calwell, Ben "John McKay." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 02 December 2021. Web. 06 October 2022.

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