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Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma State football: Phil Cutchin horror stories not forgotten

by Berry Tramel Modified: July 26, 2013 at 9:36 am •  Published: July 25, 2013
I received an interesting email this week from Jim Metcalf, who was a track all-American at OSU in 1965 and 1966. He was referring to a couple of things I’ve written about Phil Cutchin, who coached OSU football from 1963-68. I wrote a column last September about Cutchin,
which you can read here, and a 2011 column about Jim Click, who played for Cutchin, which you can read here.
I thought I would share the email from Metcalf:
” A couple of years ago, you wrote a feature on Jim Click, who played center at OSU in 1963 when Phil Cutchin arrived.  You touched on how hard Cutchin was, and that he was a Junction survivor under Bear Bryant, but what really happened and the drama that accompanied it is the REAL STORY. Since two-a-day practices are coming up , it is a great time to tell that story.
“I grew up with Jim Click in Altus, and was a year behind him. I was three-time all America on the track team at OSU.  I came in during the fall of 1963, so I was not there for spring practice, but the fall was no different.
“OSU had over 100 players out for spring practice and the photo of the 1963 varsity team has 29 players on it.  That is all that was left.  I lived in the dorm  and ate at the same training table as the football team, so I have some knowledge first hand, and some that is second hand but I think is true.  As Jim Click said in his article you wrote, they barely had enough players to scrimmage.
“Today, Phil Cutchin would be arrested. Their practices were interminable. During the season most teams do not scrimmage much if any during the week.  At OSU, when I went to work out for the track team, the football team was already on the field. After dinner, I would rest awhile and then walk to the library to study and the football team was still practicing under the lights. Scrimmaging. There was little if any water.  Somewhere I heard they had a bucket of salt water and a dipper. Guys had chunks of meat out of their arms and faces — big scabs.
“There were stories of guys crying themselves to sleep.  Stories of, if you were injured and were writhing on the ground, they would put the ball down beside you, line up and  run a play over you. If you were injured and could not practice, no matter what the injury, you were dressed in white with a white jersey with a red cross on front and back.  You had to jog around the practice field for the duration of the practice.  I have personally seen this and have seen a guy who had a severe injury stop and walk in exhaustion,  and Phil Cutchin run across the field  yelling and cussing the guy like a  truly mad man, getting into his face like a Marine drill sergeant  screaming  at him and telling him if he stopped again, he was off the team and off scholarship.
“There was a starting player who quit that fall,  and then decided to come back.  He had to go through a long brutal drill to get back on the team. A drill designed to fail … and (he) could not make it.
“These scrimmages during the weeks of the season were Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and sometimes Thursday, and OSU only won one or two games (1-8 in 1963), and the more they lost the longer and more brutal the scrimmages got. They were punishment.  There was a rumor that the entire team went in and told him they were quitting and he backed off. Don’t know if  it was true, but I seem to recall practices getting somewhat shorter.
“The players were treated like convicts.  They were watched and checked on continuously.  They checked your name off a list at each meal, at study hall and bed checked you at night.  If you missed a class or any check,  you were dead meat. Some of the coaches lived in the dorm with the players.  Your life was a series of check lists.
“Of the 29 players who stayed, not all were on scholarship.  There were some who were not really good enough to play college football but had the guts to stick it out.  They were not on scholarship and never played a down.  Of the 29 players there were probably about 20 who played, and these were the most vicious animals you have ever seen in a football uniform. They tackled by locking their helmets into their shoulder pads and spearing the guy with the ball.  I have personally seen a helmet split from ear hole to ear hole and saw the side of one caved in.  They put a lot of players out of the game.
“Walt Garrison was on that team and he had a badly bruised sternum to the point his roommate had to help him dress for class, but on Saturday, he was a bruiser. One of the greatest games I ever saw was Walt Garrison’s senior year.  They played Nebraska at OSU. That year Nebraska was national champion (actually, Alabama and Michigan State shared the title that season).  Walt Garrison had an incredible game.  OSU was behind by four points on their own 30-yard line. Last play of the game,. Phil Cutchin hated the pass so he ran a draw play to Walt (actually, Garrison reeled off gains of 26 and 18 yards on the final two plays).  Two Nebraska players met Walt at the 5-, and they  halted him at the 2 and the game was over.  Coach Devaney and many of the Nebraska players walked onto the field and shook Walk Garrison’s hand.   I think OSU won three games that year.
“During this era, you could not platoon. These guys could play with anybody in the country for three quarters and then fatigue would do them in.  Kansas, with Gale Sayers, came to OSU and (the Cowboys) were behind 17-0 at the half and lost 45-17 (actually 41-7, 1963).  They always played Arkansas close but lost in the fourth quarter.
“Cutchin was also  a vicious coach on the sideline.  If a player made a mistake and jumped offsides, etc., he would meet them on the field and kick them with his boots. Forearm shiver them as hard as he could, grab them by the facemask and almost twist their heads off. I saw a second string center who went to highs school with me at our 50th reunion a few weeks ago. He was a freshman center at OSU the fall of ’63 and lived through that.  They had a reunion last year that Jim Click organized when OSU played Arizona. Fifty years later, he said that some of the guys had forgiven Cutchin and some still hated him with a passion.  and I am sure there are some who worshipped him.
“There are a lot of rumors because they practiced behind closed doors in secret. I saw them the days they practiced on the football field and I was on the track, so it would be interesting to separate fact from fiction. I saw four years of  the story.”
Metcalf has added to the scholarship. Interesting stuff.
by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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