As a kid in the 1960s, Mack Brown grew up watching college football on TV with his Dad and Granddad.
So it was in that spirit and tradition that he urged the scheduling of this current two-game series between Texas and Arkansas. In the 1960s, there were no two greater figures in college football that Darrell Royal of Texas and Frank Broyles of Arkansas.
The two were the dominant figures in coaching in this part of the country, and despite their battles on the field, they were, and remain, close friends. So Saturday morning, for the first time since they both retired here in Austin in 1976, the two will appear on the field in the stadium which now shares Royal's name.
As they walk to mid-field with their respective game captains, a flood of memories will accompany them.
In a home-and-home series this season and next, Texas and Arkansas will play again during the regular season. The last Razorback appearance in Austin came in 1990, when David McWilliams' Longhorns crushed Arkansas, 49-17. It was an all-too-familiar finish for a proud program which rose to great heights under Broyles, but always seemed foiled by Royal's Longhorns in the 20 years in which his teams competed against them. In fact, in the 20 meetings between Royal and Broyles, Texas won 15 and Arkansas five.
This will be the 75th meeting between the two schools in a series that began in 1894. And over the years, Texas has dominated, 54-20. That is one strong reason the rivalry in Arkansas is a whole lot more heated than it is in Texas. Of those 20, three of them came in the window in the middle of the 1960s, when Broyles' teams denied Texas a national championship in 1964, and posted back-to-back wins in 1965 and 1966. Broyles' teams won in 1960 in Austin and in 1971 in Little Rock. Otherwise, Royal's teams prevailed.
The world remembers, and it if didn't it will be thoroughly reminded this week, the famed "Game of the Century," the Longhorns' 15-14 victory in Fayetteville in 1969. That was known as "The Big Shootout," matching the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final game of the year in what was the Centennial Year of college football. A year later, the game billed as "Shootout Two," resulted in a Razorback misfire, as Texas claimed its 30th straight win and second National Championship with a 42-7 victory in Austin. But the staunch historians of Texas football, while acknowledging with the rest of the world that the James Street to Randy Peschel pass in 1969 is the most famous play in the series, would maintain it is not the most important.
For had it not been for a young sophomore named Jack Crain 30 years before, Street's heroics likely would never have been a position to happen.
In his various definitions of the word "renaissance," our friend Webster uses the words "rebirth," and "revival."
And that is what happened in 1939, when Jack Crain touched the ball in the final minute of play against Arkansas.
D.X. Bible had been hired in 1937, at the unheard of salary of $15,000, to rekindle the flame of Texas football. It had been flickering for a decade, and not long after Jack Chevigny's team beat Notre Dame, 7-6, in 1934, it had gone out. Following seasons of 4-6 in 1935 and 2-6-1 in 1936, Chevigny was fired.
Bible, who had tremendous success at Texas A&M and Nebraska, was heralded as the savior.
But after a 2-6-1 season in 1937 and a 1-8 year in 1938, fans, who were none too pleased with his salary in the wake of the Great Depression, started calling him "Ali Bible and the Forty Sieves," a reference to what they obviously considered a leak in Bible's defensive construction.
And so it was that Texas came to the 1939 Arkansas game in Austin, having just lost to Oklahoma, 24-12, and with little hope for a change.
"Things had been down for so long," says Bill Sansing, who watched the game as a student and later became the Longhorns' first Sports Information Director. "There was a loser mentality. We were losing again, 13-7, with a minute to play. No one could have expected what was about to happen."
Many in the so-so crowd of 17,000 who had come to see if the Longhorns could win their first conference opener since 1933 were headed to the exits. Only 30 seconds remained. In the huddle, quarterback Johnny Gill gathered his teammates and changed a play, and therefore the face of Texas football.
Gill directed Crain, the halfback, to switch positions with him. He told Crain to brush block the end and drift out into the flat for a screen pass. Fullback R. B. Patrick took the ball, and he threw.
To that point, Texas had just five first downs and 78 yards of offense. Only an 82 yard quick kick return for a touchdown by Crain had put the 'Horns on the scoreboard.
Cowboy Jack Crain would become a Texas legend, and go on to serve in the Texas Legislature, but nothing he would ever do would have an impact on something as much as his weaving run for 67 yards and a touchdown. Only seconds remained when he crossed the south goal line, tying the score at 13, and it took several minutes to clear the fans from the field so Crain could kick what turned out to be the game winning extra point.
Years after his Hall of Fame coaching career was over, Bible recalled the significance. "That play and that victory changed our outlook--mine, the players', the student body's, and the ex-students'," said Bible. "Things had been going pretty badly up until that game. The way was still long, but we had tasted the fruits of victory and we were on our way."
The Longhorns finished 5-4 that year, posting their first winning season in six years, but the foundation was in place. Over the next seasons, Bible would field some of the greatest teams in Texas and Southwest Conference history, and he would end his career at Texas as athletics director, a post from which he hired Darrell Royal as the Longhorns coach in December of 1956. When Royal was so supportive of the hiring of Mack Brown in 1997, 60 years of Longhorn legacy had come full circle.
Sansing, the wordsmith, said it best, and he didn't even have to look the word up in Webster.
"It was the renaissance of Texas football," he said. "Before that, everything was down. After that, everything was on the way up."