Jones Ramsey spent more than 20 years at Texas and another 10 at Texas A&,M and when he retired two decades ago, he left a legacy of work with the media. Ramsey, Bill Sansing and Wilbur Evans, along with able assistants such as Orland Sims, were the benchmark for those of us who worked with and followed them in the field called "sports information." In fact, until the day he left, Ramsey would answer the phone simply, "sports news."
It was in that capacity Jones walked and talked with the media of the day, which generally focused on a group called "the writers." Electronic media consisted of a few television stations, a radio or so and ABC Television, which did an NCAA Football Game of the Week.
Web sites, talk radio and cable television were only dreams in the minds of those who would eventually create them. "The writers" covered football, paid a little attention to basketball, swarmed to the Texas Relays and covered more football. In the northwest corner of the Villa Capri Hotel, which ironically sat where Frank Denius Fields are today, was Room 2001.
It was there that head coach Darrell Royal would come after a home game to visit with the media and it was there that Ramsey entertained "the writers" with stories. Ramsey's one-liners were famous.
It was probably there that Ramsey uttered his best-known one-liner concerning sports at Texas. Asked by a young reporter about some small bit of trivia concerning a Longhorns athlete in a spring sport, Ramsey replied, "son, there are only two sports at Texas: football and spring football."
History does not record when he said it, but it lives in legend. Ramsey, who first went to college on a basketball scholarship, loves all sports. He was one of the most knowledgeable people in the track & field world (even though he also quipped "the only thing I hate worse than track is field") and he can be seen, even today, sitting in his wheel chair beside his son Paul at Longhorns baseball games.
Since his utterance, basketball and the quest for the trip to the Final Four has become a national happening. Women's sports, with Jody Conradt pioneering basketball's popularity, have opened many doors and gained credibility throughout the country. All sports at Texas have grown and prospered. Men's swimming coach Eddie Reese has won a eight National Championships. Rick Barnes, Augie Garrido, Bubba Thornton, John Fields and Michael Center continue to prove that men's team sports are not only successful but nationally respected.
Eighty percent of the revenue for UT athletics is generated by football. Today, spring football is limited by NCAA regulations to 15 practice days over a 30-day period. Mack Brown has chosen to be the first team in the country to begin spring practice and that's not because Ramsey would have expected no less.
As spring break begins next week, the Longhorns will be almost halfway through their practice sessions. Seven practices have been completed with seven more in addition to the annual spring game on March 30 to go when the team returns on Monday, March 18.
Brown's philosophy is simple. Texas is a demanding academic institution. By conducting spring drills early, it gives the players a chance to concentrate on their classes and finals during the final two months of the semester without the distraction of having to practice. It also allows more time to heal any bumps and bruises and enjoy the Austin spring. In short, it allows student-athletes to be just students.
The Spring Jamboree, which will feature the Orange/White scrimmage on March 30, also will allow time to meet the players and collect autographs. Last year, more that 30,000 fans came and Brown and his staff are hoping for a lot more on this year. The price is right. It's free and a pilgrimage that is becoming more and more popular in Austin.
The value of spring workouts come in the teaching. Those who come to scrimmages expecting to see polish won't. UT is a work in progress and the 15 practice days in the spring are for instruction and learning. So if a pass is intercepted, don't scream at the quarterback. Praise the defender. After all, this is the one time when you can cheer for both sides.
The work will be intense at times because competition can create that. The goals are to grow as individual so that your team will be better.
It is as coach Royal has said, "teams don't quit, players do and if enough players quit, then the team loses. It works the other way, too. Teams win because players win."
On a cold, cloudy day in spring 1963, a giant Longhorn named Scott Appleton stood on the sidelines watching a spring drill. Appleton took exception with an official, who failed to call something the big tackle thought should have been flagged against the offense.
"Come on," Appleton yelled sternly at the ref and his teammates, "Get it right. We're not out here for FUN!"
Games should be fun and that perhaps is why we play. But for this Texas team, the point is clear. The squad that finished ranked No. 5 in the country and ended its season with an 18-year best 11-2 record is looking to win two more football games. It is in the spring that the "second sport at Texas" lays its foundation for the fall. It is there that Brown and his staff see the effort from players who want to play like Appleton.
The record will show that in fall 1963, a few months after he was yelling at those officials as well as his teammates, Appleton received the highest honor available to a lineman when he won the Outland Trophy. It also was that fall when UT won all of its games and claimed the school's first-ever National Championship.
So as this spring continues, cheer for all the Longhorns teams and celebrate their success and tip a Diet Dr Pepper to Jones Ramsey and remember that all games are a lot more fun when you win.