Longhorns coaches, ADs reflect on Christmas past -- sans Jacob Marley
Men's basketball coach Rick Barnes was in second grade when there was a fire in his home in Hickory, N.C., the night before Christmas.
"I shared a room with my brothers," he began. "When we were getting out of the house, we were told to 'Go get, Daddy.' That was my grandfather. We went running out into the snow to get him."
When the danger had passed, there was concern expressed by one of Rick's brothers because he hadn't seen Rick.
Yet as Rick's brother walked into the house, he spied the Longhorns-coach-to-be scurrying around the Christmas tree, making certain every present with "Ricky" on it was OK.
Then there was rowing coach Carie Graves and her Christmas on the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt.
Graves, who was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that didn't get to compete because of then-President Jimmy Carter's decision to boycott the Games in Moscow, was feeling a little empty.
That's when she learned of a race in Egypt, which at the time only permitted men to participate. Not that it stopped Graves and Peggy McCarthy, her Olympic pair partner.
"We'd sent in a letter of application," Graves began, "And we sent in photographs to the race committee, so there would be no mistake that we were women."
Graves and her Olympic partner received a telegram, reporting that their application had been accepted.
Since Graves and McCarthy were allowed to compete, regatta organizers found a pair of Egyptian women to vie against the Americans.
"These were two young girls," Graves said. "They were 16 and 17 and were really very brave to compete against us. We wanted to beat them, but we didn't want to embarrass them so we got ahead and then let up a bit. We both admired them for racing us."
Graves and McCarthy won both the races in Luxor and Cairo.
The memories of Christmas past among the University of Texas coaches and administrators are as varied and unique as the people themselves.
Football coach Mack Brown said the Christmas party that featured skits by the players during a Holiday Bowl visit is his favorite Christmas memory.
"We're all away from our families," Brown said. "But we're a family as a football team. We played and laughed and enjoyed each other just as we would if our family had been there."
Baseball skipper Augie Garrido says his favorite Christmas was the first for his daughter, Lisa.
"The joy and love that children bring to the holiday season really makes Christmas special," Garrido said. "The looks in their eyes are unforgettable."
Soccer coach Chris Petrucelli recalls a Christmas from three years ago when the family tree fell down -- four times.
"Each time it fell," he began, "I had to prop it back up, restring the lights and put everything back together."
Lesson learned. Petrucelli immediately went out and bought an artificial tree for the next Christmas.
"But to this day," he said. "The whole family still talks about the year the Christmas tree fell."
Women's basketball coach Jody Conradt said she remembers getting her first bike as a child, but as an adult she admits that usually a win or loss around the holiday decides whether it will be cheery or sad.
"We usually play a tough opponent around the holidays," Conradt said. "A loss sticks with you. Because of the holidays, you can't get right back out there and play again."
There was a win against Tennessee during the 2003-04 season, but there also have been a couple of losses -- LSU and Tennessee earlier this decade -- that have had a Grinch-like effect.
Women's Athletic Director Chris Plonsky has a good memory when she was traveling with the women basketball team in 1983.
"I had just gotten to my room in Lawrence, Kan., when there was a message to call home," Plonky said. "My sister, Connie, had just had a baby, Daniel Edward Christian. It was quite a joyous holiday present because it was the first boy, after having grown up in a house with five girls. Hey, even our dog was female."
New women's tennis coach Patty Fendick-McCain has two favorite Christmas memories -- one professional and one personal.
"In 1988 in Australia," she began, "I reached the semifinals in my first huge tournament and I won the doubles. Then I married Scott in 1997. What a great Christmas gift."
Jill Sterkel, co-head coach of women's swimming and diving, remembers the entire family being together at Christmas.
"One year when my sister's son, Jacob, was six, he asked me how he would know if he was on Santa's naughty or nice list," Sterkel said. "I told him that I never had been on the naughty list and couldn't tell him for sure, but he would know in the morning."
Jacob was up at 4 a.m. and found gifts beneath the tree, knowing he was safe.
Men's swimming coach Eddie Reese said each holiday season when his family gathers at the dinner table, each member expresses their feelings.
"It's important to share when everyone is together like that," he said.
John Fields, men's golf coach, said the holidays bring two strong memories.
"The birth of my son, Marshall," he said. "Then the celebration of my first recruiting class as head coach of the Longhorns."
Softball coach Connie Clark, who grew up in Arizona, spent one Christmas as a child with extended family in Wisconsin.
"My first white Christmas," Clark said, "after all of those cactus Christmases."
Men's Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds laughed when asked about his Christmas past.
His most memorable: At age 13 in Riley, Kan.
"I was delivering newspapers on Christmas Eve," Dodds began. "I was on my bike, slipping and sliding all over because of the ice. When the bike would fall, the papers would go all over and there I was trying to gather them all up, so I could get finished.
"That's my memory of Christmas."