Legends and landmarks: Theo Bellmont
June 29, 2010
Jordan Christian, Texas Media Relations
Saturdays on the Forty Acres during the fall resemble a holiday, but in Texas it's simply known as game day. Most fans tailgate and then stream inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to watch their beloved Longhorns. This tradition, and so many others, started with one man -- Theo Bellmont, whose dedication, heart and persistence created the intercollegiate athletics program that we take part in today.
Born in New York and educated at the University of Tennessee, Bellmont (1881-1967) at a young age tackled a job that sparked his remarkable career. In 1908, Bellmont became the secretary for the Houston YMCA. Youth athletics became his mission in life, and he was hired in 1913 as the first athletics director at The University of Texas.
One of his largest accomplishments while at UT came early, in 1915, with the development of the Southwest Conference. This was a large and welcome change from the Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association that was previously in place, which lacked rules and structure.
In 1916, Bellmont shifted his focus to the overall student body and hired Berry Whitaker from Austin High School, and together they tackled the challenge of setting up an intramural athletics program, which became the first of its kind.
Bellmont established a prepayment plan for athletics, and this gave Intercollegiate Athletics a guaranteed yearly income and the ability to generate revenue. Bellmont took charge of an athletics program in debt and had the program turning a profit within three years of his hiring.
Continuing his efforts to create a profit-generating program, Bellmont was chairman of the Board of the University Co-op and through his work transformed it into a profit sharing business.
One of Bellmont's most memorable leaps of faith was when he convinced The University to build Memorial Stadium. Bellmont executed his master plan by designing and implementing the funding program for the stadium. Memorial Stadium was built in 1924, and Bellmont is to thank for the sanctuary that holds the granddaddy of all traditions -- Texas Football.
Bellmont's vision was to make UT Athletics the premier program in the country, and he wanted to play the best to build that reputation. He scheduled powerhouses like Notre Dame, and also established the rivalry clash we all know as the "Red River Rivalry" with Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl.
The Texas Relays, one of the largest sporting events that takes place every spring on UT's campus, was co-founded by Bellmont and Clyde Littlefield. Bellmont created a lasting legacy at UT, not only with his dedication to building the athletic programs, but also with his personal involvement in making the Longhorns stand supreme. He served as the men's basketball coach during the seasons of 1914-15 and 1921-22.
He ended his time as athletic director in 1929, but remained at The University as a professor and contributor to the physical education program until he retired in 1957.
Bellmont Hall on The University of Texas campus was built in 1972 within the support structure of the football stadium's west side upper deck, and was named in his honor. Today it houses athletic offices along with university classrooms, and stands as a testament to the dedication and spirit of its namesake.