Bill Little commentary: Memories, milestones, hopes, dreams
Sept. 25, 2008
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
In so many ways, Saturday's Texas-Arkansas meeting is a classic example of everything that college football should be about. And in its own way, it is rare, because it brings the excitement of the present together with a proper recognition of history that is steeped in tradition.
On the one had, No. 7 Texas carries the flag of the Big 12 Conference into a match-up with old foe Arkansas, which now resides in the vaunted Southeastern Conference. The Longhorns are trying to finish their non-conference schedule with a perfect 4-0 record, and Arkansas is trying to see to it that they don't.
That is all about the present.Mack Brown's Longhorns trying to play to a national standard, and new coach Bobby Petrino's Razorbacks building their identity.
All of that is on the line Saturday in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Then, there are the various salutes to history.
First, former all-American offensive tackle Jerry Sisemore will officially receive his on-campus salute for his induction several years ago into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame.
The weekend's activities also will include a unique reunion of two vintage eras of Texas and Arkansas football. Planned by former UT quarterback James Street and his good friend and former team manager Bill Hall, the reunion weekend includes a salute to former coaches Frank Broyles of Arkansas and Darrell Royal of Texas, and the teams which played in the 1964 and 1969 games matching the two teams.
Because this year's game had to be rescheduled in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the gathering has lost some of its folks who had conflicting plans when the two-week postponement came. But a dinner on Friday night will include members of the four teams, as well as Broyles and Royal. The two coaches are also expected to take part in the pre-game coin flip for the regionally televised (ABC-TV) game.
There is reason for celebration for both schools concerning those two seasons. Texas, of course, won the 1969 National Championship in the 100th year of college football in what was known as the "Game of the Century" in a 15-14 battle in Arkansas.
In 1964, things had gone in a different direction. Texas was No. 1 in the country when No. 8 Arkansas won, 14-13, snapping a 15-game Longhorn winning streak, and knocking the Longhorns out of a second straight National Championship. The Razorbacks would later be the beneficiary of the Longhorns' work, however.
When Arkansas beat Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl game on the afternoon of January 1, the Razorbacks finished the season unbeaten. That evening in the Orange Bowl, in the first-ever night bowl game, Texas knocked off Alabama, 21-17. The Crimson Tide had already won the accepted National Championships awarded by The Associated Press and the Coaches Poll for United Press International, but the Longhorn win opened the door for Arkansas to grasp a small piece of the 1964 title, winning the awards given by the Football Writers of America and the Helms Foundation.
It remains the only national football title won by the Razorbacks.
While Royal and Broyles were great friends and held a unique place in college football in the Southwest, the Longhorns under Royal dominated the series. Royal's Texas teams won 15 of the 20 games between the two during his career at UT from 1957 through 1976.
To complete the circle of history, the 1964 team will be featured Saturday when one of its finest players, linebacker Tommy Nobis, will be honored with the retirement of his No. 60 jersey.
Nobis, who won the Maxwell Award as the nation's best football player following his senior season of 1965, is widely thought to be the best defensive Longhorn player of his era, and perhaps in Texas history.
Now an executive with the Atlanta Falcons, where he played professionally after leaving Texas, Nobis will be on hand and will be joined on the field by Alan Layne, the son of the late former Longhorn quarterback Bobby Layne, whose No. 22 jersey will also be retired.
The retirement of the jerseys of the two vintage Longhorns completes the current agenda for football jersey retirements under a plan announced this fall. Earlier, Vince Young's No. 10 jersey was retired at the Longhorns' season opener.
Later, basketball greats Slater Martin and Kevin Durant and baseball players Burt Hooton, Greg Swindell, Scott Bryant and Brooks Kieschnick will be honored.
In the midst of all of this, Texas and Arkansas will play the 77th game in a series which the Longhorns lead, 55-21. Originally scheduled as a home and home with a return trip next year to Fayetteville, the game was taken off the books by the Razorbacks, and is on hold for the foreseeable future.
With that, a series that dates all the way back to 1894 now goes dormant. With Arkansas beginning an annual series with Texas A&M in the Metroplex, both schools will likely look carefully at their non-conference schedules in the coming years before rebooking this one.
And so, as two young teams with hopes for the present and the future meet, it is particularly important to take a minute to salute the history of the games of the past, and those who played in them.
Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles are both in their 80s, and it is fitting that one more time, the two walk together on the green grass that is Joe Jamail Field at the stadium which shares Coach Royal's name.
So too, is the overdue recognition of Sisemore's induction into the College Hall of Fame.
But as we salute the late Bobby Layne and celebrate Tommy Nobis, eras of Texas football past are honored in a very special way. To be sure, you can make a case of other Longhorn greats whose numbers might one day join the three who this year were united with Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams in a special place of honor.
In his time, during the mid 1940s as a Longhorn, and carrying into the 1950s and 60s as a pro who was once recognized as "the toughest quarterback ever," Bobby Layne carried the Texas banner to new heights in the years after World War II.
And Tommy Nobis had no peer as the best defender of his era from 1963 through 1965.
Memories and milestones of the past, hopes and dreams for today and tomorrow.
Collectively, they are all a huge part of college football.
And there will be no greater showcase of that than Saturday in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.