The spirit of Duffy Daugherty is alive and well at Michigan State.
Who else but Duffy would claim that he had picked out a site for his Rose Bowl team to stay because it had a nice place where his 80-year-old mother could go shopping?
Well, George Perles could.
"Mother will be 80 next Tuesday and she doesn't get around like she used to, so I thought Newport Beach would be a good place to stay," the Michigan State coach said. "There are plenty of places for her and my wife to spend their money."
It could have been something right out of Daugherty's quotebook.
Daugherty died last Sept. 25 at 72 in Santa Barbara, and Perles' team will play USC Friday in the 74th Rose Bowl game--a combination of circumstances that saddens Perles.
"That's the one thing that keeps this from being the end of a perfect season, the fact that Duffy couldn't be around to enjoy it," Perles said. "He would have been right in his element, giving interviews, filling writers' notebooks full of Duffyisms and making us all feel a little better."
Daugherty coached for 19 years at Michigan State, guiding the Spartans to two Big Ten championships and two Rose Bowl games between 1954 and 1972, when he retired. He also coached an obscure defensive tackle from Detroit named George Perles.
"I owe the fact that I'm here as coach of Michigan State to Duffy," Perles said. "I'm really not Duffy's son, but he took care of me like a son. I loved the guy. He had a great influence on my life as well as my career."
Perles was recruited by Daugherty and had become the No. 2 tackle in his sophomore year when he injured his knee in the Wisconsin game, ending his playing career.
"Duffy talked me into staying with the program and working with him as a student assistant, coaching the freshmen."
Perles stayed long enough to not only get his bachelor's degree in physical education but also a master's degree, a wife, Sally, and a son and daughter. He left MSU in 1961.
"With a family to support, I needed a good job and Duffy got me one as an assistant coach at St. Rita High in Chicago," Perles said. "And the next year, he got me what I considered the best high school coaching job in Detroit, at St. Ambrose."
After three years, during which St. Ambrose won two city championships, Daugherty was on the phone again.
"He told me that John McVay had an assistant's job open at Dayton, and I could have it if I wanted," Perles said. "I went over there for a couple of years and then Duffy brought me back to East Lansing as his assistant for five years. Those were five great years I had with him.
"In all, I spent 10 years with Duffy, either as a player, student coach or an assistant. We even went on vacations together. I left in 1971 to go to the Steelers as an assistant to Chuck Noll. That was the year before Duffy left."
Daugherty remained at Michigan State as a special assistant to the vice president for two years after retiring as football coach. He and his family moved to Santa Barbara in 1975.
When Daugherty brought his first Michigan State team to the Rose Bowl in 1956, it was like a breath of fresh spring air to Southern California writers.
Ray Eliot of Illinois had set the standard for secretiveness and noncooperation by Big Ten coaches when he ordered Southland writers out of the Brookside Park practice field in Pasadena in December 1946, the first year of the Rose Bowl pact with the old Pacific Coast Conference.
Woody Hayes and Ohio State were here for the 1955 game, and he allowed no writers to talk to any of his players. It wasn't very healthy to try to talk with him, either.
The volatile Hayes made that clear when he punched out a press photographer on the sidelines before the New Year's Day game.
Then came Duffy, introducing his players to everyone, letting them talk, opening up practice to the press and shocking his coaching colleagues with statements such as: "Secrets? There are no secrets in this day of scouting and motion pictures. I know what (UCLA Coach) Red Sanders is going to use against us and he knows what we will use, so you guys might as well come in and look around."
It has been 22 years since Duffy brought the last Michigan State team here in 1966, so the openness of Perles this year is as refreshing as it was when Daugherty opened things up.
"I'm here to have fun, to have fun with the team," Perles said Monday as he prepared to leave for the Spartans' tour of Disneyland. "That's something I learned from Duffy, to have fun. You couldn't be around Duffy as long as I was without some of him rubbing off on you.
"I'm looking forward to going to Disneyland. I've never been there, never had any reason to go. I've never been to a zoo, either. Of course, we've raised four children."