||Thursday, December 20
Updated: December 26, 12:09 PM ET
'No Place Else But Texas'
By Richard Billingsley
Special to ESPN.com
A very curious thing happens when you talk to people from Texas. There is an immediate sense of loyalty to the state. They would rather weather the West Texas sand storms, fight the Gulf Coast Hurricanes, suffer through unbearable scorching heat and dig ditches.... as long as it's in Texas soil. Ask a Texan where he would like to live, any where in the world, you'll ALWAYS get the same answer, "No place else but Texas." Outsiders call it arrogance, but it's more like good old fashioned pride.
But just as the Great Divide separates the Plains from the rich fertile California Valleys, Texas has its dividing line as well -- the vast number of college football teams found in this great state. A Texan's loyalty on the football field may lie with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs, SMU Mustangs, North Texas Eagles, UTEP Miners, Houston Cougars, Rice Owls, Texas A&M Aggies ... or Texas Longhorns. Whew, what a list of Division I-A football programs, but remember, EVERYTHING is big in Texas! And a reminder to all you visitors, don't ever talk football in Texas unless you're ready for a fight. The Horned Frogs don't like the Mustangs. The Cougars don't like the Owls. The Red Raiders don't like the Aggies ... and no one likes the Longhorns, except the Longhorns! Blame it on the perceived arrogance, or call it jealousy, it doesn't matter, they ALL want to beat Texas. Why? Because the University of Texas dominated them all. Of all the football programs in the Southwest, no one shines like Texas, and with some of college football's greatest traditions, the University of Texas has taken its place among the elite programs in the nation.
In 109 seasons of football, only Michigan (813), Notre Dame (781), and Nebraska (764), have won more games than Texas' 754. Only Alabama (50), and Tennessee (41) have played in more bowl games than the Longhorns' 40, and only a handful of programs can better the Longhorns' three national championships. Founded in 1883 in Austin, Texas, the "Varsity", as the team was called in the early years, played its first football game 10 years later. Texas beat Dallas U. in a real squeaker 18-16, on November 30th 1893. The Varsity was undefeated in its first ever season with a 4-0-0 record, certainly an omen of things to come. It didn't take long for Texas to establish a fierce rivalry with Texas A&M, just a short distance from Austin to the east in College Station. In fact, that's what was so great about the old Southwest Conference, every conference game, save Texas Tech and Arkansas were within a few hours drive from one another. I-35, I-45, and Hwy 290 formed the great "Triangle" with connecting roads to Dallas, Forth Worth, College Station, Waco, Austin, and Houston. They were well traveled roads for SWC fans for decades.
When the Longhorn was introduced as the mascot at the A&M game in Austin on November 30th 1916, 15,000 fans jammed old Clark Field and watched Texas whip A&M 21-7. Texas totally dominated the early series with Texas A&M winning the first seven games. In fact, Texas outscored A&M during that period 157-0. It only served to make the rivalry more intense, and A&M's fortunes turned a little in 1909 when the Aggies put together a streak and won four out of five contests from 1909-1915. And, believe it or not, Texas A&M is responsible for helping to create one of college football's greatest traditions, that of "Bevo", the name of the mascot for Texas. The Longhorn was a natural as a mascot for the "Varsity". A native breed of cattle to Northern Mexico, as well as South and West Texas, the Longhorn became a favorite among the great cattle drives to Colorado and Kansas because of their ability to persevere through radical changes in climate including drought and harsh winters. Texas lore has it that the Aggies were so inflamed by the loss in 1916 that they "kidnaped" the Longhorn and branded the steer with the score from the 1915 game won by A&M, 13-0. When the Longhorn was returned to the Austin campus with the 13-0 brand, students ingeniously re-branded the steer, changing the 13 to a "B", the dash "-" to an "E", inserting a "V", and leaving the "O". The name spelled "BEVO", which was a popular non-alcoholic drink and a favorite of the students during that period. Thus "BEVO" became the name of the world famous mascot.
Texas tradition also possesses two of the most recognizable school songs in the nation which were both instituted during this period. The Alma Mater -- "The Eyes Of Texas" -- is sung before and after every game. It was introduced in 1903 by John Lang Sinclair and was joined by the fight song, "Texas Fight", written by Walter S. Hunnicutt in 1923. "Texas Fight" is one of the nation's most respected fight songs right along side those from Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Southern California and Oklahoma.
Over the years Oklahoma has competed with Texas in lot more than fight songs. The Sooners are, in some circles, considered to be the Longhorns' greatest rival, although A&M would likley tally just as many votes for that honor. Titled the "Red River Rivalry" since the river by the same name separates the two states, the UT/OU game has become a national pastime. Since 1948 the contest has been televised 51 times. Played in Dallas during the Texas State fair every year since 1929, and at the Cotton Bowl Stadium since 1937, the stadium is equally split at the 50 yard line creating a "sea of Red , and a sea of Orange" on each end of the field. Texas' Memorial Stadium was built in 1924 with a capacity of 35,000. Five expansion projects have brought seating capacity to 80,082, the 15th largest on-campus stadium in the nation. The official school colors of "Burnt Orange and White" were instituted in 1928, leaving behind a brighter Orange that was originally used. The switch was made because the bright Orange jersey's faded so badly in washing that the opponents started to call the Longhorns "yellowbellies." Burnt Orange was worn until a shortage of dye during World War II forced the return to Bright Orange. Darrell Royal brought the Burnt Orange back for good in 1962.
Another great tradition at Texas is the "Tower" -- a 27-story on-campus structure that is visible over the city of Austin. It is bathed in Orange after each Longhorn win to show the victory to the residents of the city.
Texas never had a losing season until 40 years into its program, when in his seventh season Clyde Littlefield's 1933 squad went 4-5-2. That was also Littlefield's last season, although he possessed an amazing 44-18-6 record. Three years later, Texas hired legendary coach Dana X. Bible away from Nebraska for an unheard of sum of $15,000 per year, twice the amount made by then President of the University H. Y. Benedict. Bible had previously coaches at the Longhorns archrival Texas A&M from 1919-1928 where he complied a 72-19-9 record including four wins over Texas. Competing in the Southwest Conference since its inception in 1915, and winning four conference championships in 22 years was not enough for the hungry Horns. Texas was counting on Bible as a Savior, to take Texas to a national level, and that he did. In 1942 Texas finished 9-2-0 with it's first ever National Ranking in the AP Poll. Texas finished No. 11 after defeating Georgia Tech in the Cotton Bowl 14-7. Coach Bible went on to win two more SWC titles in 1943 and 1945 and three more national rankings, No. 14 in 1943, No. 10 in 1945 and a No. 20 ranking in 1946. Coach Bible retired after the 1946 season with a 63-31-3 record.
Blair Cherry took right up where Dana Bible left off, winning games, achieving national rankings, and taking the 'Horns to bowl games in three of his four years at the helm. Coach Cherry came oh so close to two national championships, losing a heartbreaker at No. 18 SMU, 14-13 in 1947, 14-13 to eventual national champion Oklahoma in 1950.
Ed Price took the reigns in 1951 and after an initial winning record in the first three years -- including a 9-2 record and a Cotton Bowl victory over No. 8 Tennessee in 1952 -- the Texas fans began to get restless. Price recorded three straight non-winning seasons in 1954, 1955, and a school worst 1-9-0 in 1956. Price couldn't survive the wrath of the 1956 season. It was during his reign however, that two more of the Longhorns greatest traditions were born. Head cheerleader Harley Clark created the nationally known "Hook 'em Horns" sign, and the Texas band introduced "Big Bertha" -- the world's largest bass drum in the world measuring 54 inches and weighing 500 pounds. Both came during the 1955 season.
The year 1957 was a history making one for Texas. It wasn't in terms of wins and losses, although there was success on the field with a 6-4-1 record including a trip to the Sugar Bowl, but in terms of what was to come. It was Darrell Royal's first year, and it was a match made in heaven between the fans and a coach. Royal began in 1957 what would become one of the most successful coaching stints at any school in college football history. Before Coach Royal retired in 1976, he complied a 167-47-5 record which included 16 bowl games, 11 conference championships, and three national titles. Coach Royal was not unknown to the Longhorn faithful. He had been the QB at Oklahoma from 1946-1949, and had led the Sooners to an undefeated 11-0-0 season as a senior.
After four straight bowl games in 1959, 1960, 1961, and 1962, which included three conference titles, Royal added the final piece of the long awaited puzzle in 1963 -- a national championship. The undefeated 11-0-0 season included a big win over No. 1 Oklahoma 28-7, a hard fought 17-13 win in Little Rock over Arkansas, and a whipping of No. 2 Navy 28-6 in the Cotton Bowl.
The Longhorn faithful did not have to wait long for another national title. After three consecutive four-loss seasons in 1965, 1966, and 1967, Royal started looking for ways to improve the offensive performance. Assistant coach Emory Bellard was studying variations of the Veer developed by legendary offensive genius Homer Rice that was being used successfully by Bill Yoemen at Houston. Royal was intrigued, but wanted a lead blocker in the backfield. Bellard went to work and created the "Wishbone", the most prolific rushing offense in the history of college football. Royal approved the transition and instituted the Wishbone in the opening game of the 1968 season against Houston, tying the Cougars 20-20. Texas traveled to Lubbock the next week and was surprised by the Red Raiders 31-22. But Royal was convinced it was the right formation for the talent on the Texas team. Oklahoma State came calling the next week and Texas won 31-3. The rest is history. The Longhorns ran off 30 consecutive wins and two national championships before Notre Dame stopped them in the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1971.
Coach Royal was committed to academics. He was convinced that his duty went beyond athletics and it was his responsibility to make sure the players were prepared for life after football. Consequently, one of his first goals achieved at Texas was the institution of the nation's first academic counselor's position to the University. Later, he set aside a fund for a special "T-Ring," which he personally awarded to all graduating lettermen. Four out of every five players who lettered for Royal went on to graduate. The tradition of the "T-Ring" goes on to this day.
It's darned near impossible to follow a legend, and Fred Akers found that out first hand. Akers, who was at Texas for 10 years and won 86 games (73 percent), left after two conference titles, no national championships and a losing record in 1986, his last season. The Longhorns came very close to two national championships under Akers, but lost both in Cotton Bowls, first in 1977 to Notre Dame 38-10 and then 1983 to Georgia 10-9. One of the brightest spots in Texas history however was under Akers' tenure as Earl Campbell won the Heisman Trophy in 1977. David McWilliams and John Mackovic led the Horns from 1987-1997 with moderate success, but both came under the same criticism as Akers, no national titles. It's hard for the fans to accept anything less, once they've grown accustomed to it. Mack Brown came to Texas in 1998 fresh from huge success at North Carolina where he took the Heels to a 11-1 record in 1997. Will Mack Brown bring a championship to Texas? In four years the coach has kept the critics at bay. He's a solid coach, personable, a master recruiter, and everything seems to be in place for a run at the national championship. Will 2002 be the year of the Horns? Only time will tell.
Richard Billingsley is a BCS computer pollster and his website is www.cfrc.com.
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