Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Wildcat' came from Wyatt

By Kerry Eggers

The Portland Tribune, Dec 9, 2008

Old friend Hugh Wyatt showed up in, of all places, Sports Illustrated last week.

In an article visiting the rebirth of the old single-wing offense with the “Wildcat” formation that has become all the rage, the Camas, Wash., resident and former Portlander rates mention for claiming ownership of the “Wildcat” name.

“And his case is compelling,” Tim Layden writes of Wyatt, 70, the one-time Madison High coach now coaching in Ocean Shores, Wash.

Wyatt “has developed a wide following through clinics and the sale of DVDs explaining his double-wing offense,” Layden writes. “In December 1998, Wyatt wrote an article for Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director magazine, describing a direct-snap, double-wing formation ... in his article, Wyatt suggested to coaches looking for a curveball, ‘You might want to take a look at our Wildcat package,’ and he went on to explain it was nicknamed for the mascot at La Center, Wash., High, where he was employed at the time.”

“It irks me to some degree to hear these guys claim the origination of the Wildcat, when clearly it’s a case of plagiarism,” Wyatt said last weekend, adding with a laugh, “I’m going to set this thing straight once and for all.”

The Wildcat, if you don’t know, features a back – usually a running back – taking the direct snap from center and usually taking off on the run.

“I’m not the person who originated the formation,” Wyatt says. “That was Pop Warner. At La Center, our quarterback was a pretty good runner. We’d put him back there with another back, and either one of those guys could run or pass the ball or hand off to anybody else. It was just a way to stir things up a little bit, essentially a way to get us four guys in the double wing who could handle the ball on any play instead of three. And since our nickname was the Wildcats, I said, ‘Let’s call it the Wildcat.’ "

Wyatt first emerged in Portland as assistant general manager of the Portland Thunder of the World Football League in 1975. His coaching carousel took him to Gaston, Banks, Central Catholic and finally to Madison (offensive coordinator in 2003-04, head coach in '05), along with Southwest Washington stints at Hudson’s Bay, Ridgefield, Washougal, La Center and Ridgefield. He also coached seven summers in Finland.

Last year, Wyatt re-emerged at North Beach High in Ocean Shores (near Aberdeen), where he coached the Hyaks to a 7-3 record, with the three losses by a total of 11 points. He’ll be back for at least another season, and he really doesn’t care if he gets credit for the Wildcat formation.

“It’s not fair to say anybody has copied anything I’ve done, because it’s really stuff I’ve seen from the 1920s,” Wyatt says. “It’s going to be over pretty soon, anyway. Defenses have been caught with their pants down, but (defensive coaches) aren’t stupid. They’re going to figure this thing out.”

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