The University of Texas has long been high on my list of college campuses to visit because of the history and tradition. The last few years, the schedule hasn’t worked for me to get there, so this year, I made Austin, Texas the first stop on my season-long trek across America.
I arrived on campus a few hours before kickoff, and was not disappointed. It was a hot, humid summer day in Austin, and the fans were out in force, tailgating before the early evening game. I was welcomed into many of the tailgate areas, where I enjoyed a fine variety of food and drink. I was surprised by how Texas fans went out of their way to be gracious hosts to visiting BYU Cougars fans. I quickly learned that many Longhorns welcome fans who make the trip to Austin to support their team. Longhorns fans shared their excitement about the future of the program, now under the direction of first-year Head Coach Charlie Strong. They were eager to put a whooping on a BYU team that had beaten them last season in Provo.
TEXAS FOOTBALL BEGINS
The University of Texas fielded its first permanent football team in 1893 managed by Albert Lefevra, the secretary-treasurer of the UT Athletic Association. The team played four games, two in the fall and two more in the spring, winning all four games while shutting out all four opponents. The first was against the Dallas Foot Ball Club that claimed to be the best in the state. Held at the Dallas Fair Grounds, the game attracted a then-record 1,200 onlookers.
In 1894, Texas officially hired its first coach, R.D. Wentworth, for $325 plus expenses. Wentworth shut out the first six opponents, outscoring them 191–0 before losing their last game of the year to Missouri 28–0. There were a number of firsts in Wentworth’s one season as head coach at Texas. The first ever meeting against Texas A&M, which resulted in a 38–0 shutout victory for Texas, and the first ever meeting against Arkansas, which resulted in a 54–0 Texas victory. This set the ground for long rivalries with the Aggies and the Razorbacks.
The Longhorns have had a rich tradition of coaches that have strolled the sidelines. Clyde Littlefield was the first to play for and coach the Longhorns. He was head coach from 1927-36 and led the Longhorns to a 44-18-6 record during his tenure that including two Southwest Conference championships. During the Great Depression, Dana X. Bible was hired to be the coach and athletics director. Bible previously had tremendous success at Nebraska and Texas A&M. It was a bold move by the university and a decision that would lay the foundation for Texas Football.
In 1937, the Bible era debuted with a 25–12 victory over Texas Tech in Austin. Texas would only win one more game in Bible’s first year, a stunning defensive battle over No. 4 Baylor, 9-6. The 1938 season would not be any better as the Longhorns only victory of the season was in the final game of the season, a 7-6 win over Texas A&M in Austin. Fans grew anxious, wanting Texas to dominate the college football scene. The experience that Bible brought to Texas was recruiting good athletes. After two rough seasons where Texas won a total of three games, Bible successfully transformed Texas into a national powerhouse.
It began with the 1939 season, as Texas opened with a shutout win over Florida 12–0, followed by a 17-7 victory at Wisconsin. Then the turning point came in October 1939 when Texas was playing Arkansas in Austin. Down 13–7 with under 30 seconds to play, and fans heading for the exits, Longhorns Fullback R.B. Patrick flipped a short pass to Halfback Jack Crain who ran 67 yards untouched, tying the game at 13. Those same fans that were leaving the stadium came pouring back in and onto the field. After the field was cleared, Crain booted the extra point and Texas defeated Arkansas 14–13. This game became known as the “Renaissance Game” of the Dana X. Bible era, and the win revitalized. The 1939 season was pivotal in providing momentum for the following decade as Texas would again become one of the most successful teams throughout the 1940’s. National Championship talks began as Texas compiled their first All-American’s with Malcolm Kutner, Jack Crain, and Noble Doss. Bible finished his coaching career with a 63-31-3 record. He led the Horns to three Southwest Conference titles. He would later hire Darrell Royal to serve as head coach.
Darrell K. Royal, a native-Oklahoman, coached at Mississippi State and Washington before being hired for the head coaching job at Texas in 1957. Royal would return the Texas football program to national prominence, winning Southwest Conference titles six years in a row, and making six straight Cotton Bowl appearances. During his 20-years at Texas, the Longhorns never had a losing season. He led the Longhorns to three National Championships, 11 Southwest Conference titles, 16 bowl games, and nine top five poll rankings. They would have streaks that included 30 straight victories, and 42 consecutive home wins, a run that lasted 1968–1976. He retired as the most successful coach to coach at the University of Texas, with a record of 167–47–5.
In 1998, Mack Brown was hired away from North Carolina and he quickly became a fan favorite. Brown had a tremendous career in Austin, as he led the team to a 158-48 record. Under his direction, the Longhorns won two Big 12 Conference Championships, a BCS National Championship, and held a 3-1 record in BCS games. He finished his career at Texas as the second winningest coach in school history. He resigned last season setting the stage for Charlie Strong.
A LITTLE LONGHORNS HISTORY
- Texas has the second most wins (875) in NCAA college football with an 875–339–33 all-time win/loss record.
- Texas ranks second in post-season bowl game appearances with 52 appearances and a 27–23–2 record.
- Texas is the only football program to post at least 10 wins every year from 2001–2009 seasons.
- Texas ranks first in the Big 12 Conference for bowl game appearances and victories.
- Since the Big 12 Conference was founded, the Longhorns mark of 140–39 (.782) is the best in the conference.
- Texas holds the Big 12 Conference record for consecutive conference victories with 21 from 2004–2006.
- Texas won the most Southwest Conference Championships with 27.
- Texas won a record six straight Southwest Conference Championships from 1968–1973.
- Texas ranks sixth among NCAA teams with 32 total conference championships.
- The Longhorns were the first college team to implement the famous Wing-T and Wishbone offenses.
- Texas has had 107 winning seasons out of 119 total seasons of football.
- Texas has had nine undefeated seasons, and 26 seasons they finished with only one loss and/or tie.
- The Longhorns have had two Heisman Trophy winners, Ricky Williams 1998 and Earl Campbell in 1977.
- Seventeen Texas players are in the College Football Hall of Fame, and four are in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Tradition is rich here! I was absolutely blown away with all the pre-game and in game fun! Bevo, a Texas longhorn steer, is one of most famous mascots in the country. He first appeared during a 1916 Thanksgiving Day game against Texas A&M. The first Bevo was actually named Bo but came to be called Bevo, after the campus magazine referred to him as Bevo. The school did not have the money to take care of Bevo and he was not tame enough to be allowed to roam the campus. He would be fattened up, and served at the football banquet in 1920. Counting the currently mascot, there have been 14 Bevos and Bevo XIV has served since the 2004 season. Over the years, there have been several great Bevo stories. Bevo II charged a SMU cheerleader, who defended himself with his megaphone. Bevo III escaped from his enclosure and ran amok on the campus — for 2 days. Bevo IV attacked a parked car, and Bevo V broke free and caused the Baylor band to scatter.
The Longhorn Band has two songs that capture the crowd. “Texas Fight” is the official fight song of the university, and it is sung to a fast tempo version of “Taps.” The schools alma-matter is “The Eyes of Texas,” sung to the tune of “I’ve been Working on the Railroad.”
- Hook ‘em Horns – the school hand signal, was introduced at a pep rally in 1955. The hand signal is known throughout the entire country and Sports Illustrated featured the Hook ‘em Horns gesture in front of a Texas pennant on the cover of the September 10, 1973 issue.
- Smokey the Cannon, a replica of a Civil War cannon. It is fired before kickoff and after Texas scores.
- The Sweetheart of the Longhorn Band is actually a drum that measures more than 10-feet high. Big Bertha is considered to be the world’s largest drum (actually second largest) and it is played at halftime and after Texas touchdowns.
Hopes were high for the Longhorns coming off a 38-7 season-opening win over North Texas. Texas fans were seeking revenge for last season’s loss to BYU in Provo, a game in which the Cougars rushed for more than 500 yards. The first half was a defensive struggle, with the Cougars leading 6-0 at the half. BYU then exploded for 28 third quarter points to put the game out of reach. Quarterback Taysom Hill had three TD runs while the Cougars held the Longhorns to 258 total yards. The loss drops Texas to 1-1 on the season.