When the late Jones Ramsey retired as Texas' Sports Information Director, his former boss Darrell Royal made a comment which fit perfectly.
"I have never been misquoted," Darrell said. "I've said some things I wish I hadn't, but I have never been misquoted."
The quote that would live long after Jones that he always wished he hadn't said, was "There are two sports at Texas…football and spring football."
With the immense success of other Longhorn sports, both in the men's and women's programs, clearly there are a bunch of sports at Texas.
But what we know is, the 15 days of football workouts that are scattered mostly over the month of March have the opportunity to create a huge amount of excitement and anticipation. Jones was right in a sense: it is another sport.
At Texas, spring practice is big. And when you are coming of a Rose Bowl victory that arguably has punctuated one of the three most successful season finishes in the last 50 years of Texas football, it is really big.
A year ago, the Longhorn football team entered its spring practice determined to wash away the taste of a disappointing season end. A BCS dream had been dashed by a stunning upset that put Kansas State where Texas was to have gone. The team bravely tried to put on a happy face against Washington State in the Holiday Bowl, but in the end, it didn't want to be there and it showed.
Where a year ago Texas took a negative and turned it into a positive with its approach to spring, this year they have chosen to build on success. They have seen the "promised land," and enjoyed it.
The most misunderstood word in the English language is the word "Ego." Ego is not a bad thing, it is, in fact, a real thing. It is the essence of who you are. In 1941, a fortune teller named Mrs. Hipple came up with the idea of burning Red Candles to instill spirit in a Texas football team trying to rebound from a heart-breaking tie and a loss and snap a long-standing string of losses to Texas A&M at College Station.
She determined that the burning of the candles would melt together all of the principalities of Texas football: the students, the fans, the team, the alumni, etc. Most of all, she saw it as a rallying of support for the self-image of the team.
"The most important person, from the cradle to the grave, is the person that is within you," she told me 40 years later. "That is healthy ego...not diseased conceit."
And right now at Texas, the rites of spring are very healthy.
Just three practices into the spring, the Longhorns' attitude has been excellent. The offseason workouts, at 6 a.m., were with a driven purpose, and a positive confidence.
Success in the season attracts visitors in the spring. Already a number of coaching staffs, including one head coach and offensive staffs from Penn State and Tennessee have paid a visit to Austin to see the offense that coordinator Greg Davis utilized in winning the Rose Bowl. This weekend, more than 500 coaches from almost 200 high schools from Texas (and even including a few from out of state) will gather for the annual Texas Football Spring Clinic.
Most of all, however, the spring is most obvious reflection of a "growing season." It actually began in those 6 a. m. workouts, and will continue with an offseason program that will stretch its way into the early August reporting time when the squad gathers for Fall practice.
From a psychological standpoint, Spring Football is a trip to the well to taste of the water. It is a chance, particularly with three new coaches on the staff, for players to show what they can do. Most of all, it is a chance to learn and to grow.
Juniors who have played roles as underclassmen now assume the mantel of the leader. This now is THEIR team.
At Texas, the coaching staff has chosen to actually split the spring into two separate phases. The first seven practices come before the University's annual spring break, and the final eight, including the end-of-spring game which comes as part of the Spring Jamboree at 7 p. m. on April 2, follow the vacation window.
Finishing spring as early as they do, Brown feels, helps the Longhorns in a lot of ways, including in the classroom. More than a month remains of the semester after the final game, which gives the team a chance to have plenty of preparation time for the rush that accompanies final exams and the end of the academic semester.
Right now, the success on the field is reflected in the classroom. Last semester, while the 'Horns were busy winning the Rose Bowl and finishing No. 4 in the nation, 39 football players achieved a 3.0 or better grade point average. Five of them had a 4.0 GPA. The team GPA is at 2.6, the highest it has been in years.
In the fall, there were only two failing grades among all of the first semester scholarship players.
While building that part of the "student" in student-athlete, this next year's senior class has achieved a remarkable record on the field as well. In the last three seasons, these seniors-to-be have lost only four league football games, three to Oklahoma and one to Texas Tech. Their cumulative record, 32-6, is the best three-year mark since the glory days of Darrell Royal's Wishbone teams more than 35 years ago.
The victory in the Rose Bowl over Michigan ranks with a handful of greatest season-ending wins for the Longhorns. Darrell Royal himself equated it to the final games of 1969, when Texas beat Arkansas to claim the national championship and then solidified it with a win over Notre Dame in the 1970 Cotton Bowl. The 1964 Cotton Bowl victory over Roger Staubach and Navy (that too, was a National Championship season) also fits in that category.
There have been others, such as the Longhorns' win over Joe Namath and Alabama in the 1965 Orange Bowl and some wins in the Dana Bible-Blair Cherry era of the late 1940s and early 1950s, but when it comes to high profile impact, the BCS Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, particularly in the dramatic fashion in which it came, is exceptional.
All of that is what is "right" in the "rites" of spring. It is a time of hopeful anticipation, driven by dreams. After all, the 2006 National Championship Game will be played in Pasadena, in the Rose Bowl.
This time, the Longhorns' "California Dreamin'" comes from a space where they have been there. They know what it takes to do that, and they want to go back.