The practice facility, built for the San Diego Chargers of the NFL, is on the campus of the University of California-San Diego, nestled perfectly with the mountains visible in the distance to the east and the sea to the west.
And it is in that space that No. 5 Texas will spend the next week preparing for its Pacific Life Holiday Bowl meeting with No. 15 Washington State.
The rains which greeted the team and staff on their arrival on Tuesday gave way to a perfect San Diego morning Wednesday, and if God's purpose was to show off this city by the sea as one of His great creations, He was on top of His game. Bright sunshine, ideal temperatures, and a gentle breeze that rustled through the hills and canyons turned Christmas Eve, 2003, into a photo-op for picture postcards.
Mack Brown, his staff and their families had arrived with other support folks on a charter from Austin on Tuesday afternoon. The players, who had spent time at their homes in a holiday break, arrived individually.
By 10 p. m., all except B. J. Johnson, who stayed home for the funeral of his grandmother, had gathered at the luxurious Manchester Grand Hyatt, the team's headquarters on the shores of San Diego Bay.
The "red coats," those Holiday Bowl volunteers who spend countless hours making every part of the trip special for the staff and players, officially welcomed the Longhorns Wednesday after practice at a luncheon which included burgers, chicken and steak.
San Diego, with all of its charm, and with the support of the volunteers, have blended together to create one of the finest bowl experiences in America. The match-up of the runners-up in the Pac-10 and the Big 12 has become a favorite of TV viewers. Washington State, making its third bowl appearance in a row after trips to the Sun and the Rose bowls, will prove a worthy opponent.
The attitude of the Longhorn team is excellent. Media questions about any "you didn't get the BCS" hangover seem distant and irrelevant. What is relevant, on the other hand, is what this team has done, and what it still has to play for.
Ranked fifth in the country, the Longhorns are in an obvious position to move up in the polls with a victory. Teams one through four, regardless of which poll or system you subscribe to, will play each other. A win over Washington State logically would vault Texas to No. 3, the highest Longhorn finish since Fred Akers' 1981 team wound up No. 2 after upsetting Alabama in the 1982 Cotton Bowl.
In fact, Texas has finished in the top three only eight times in its 100-plus years of collegiate football.
Central focus on this trip will be the Longhorn seniors, who have a chance to finish their years at Texas with the best string of final rankings since the 1968-70 reign of Darrell Royal, when the 'Horns won two national championships and 30 straight games. Texas ranked No. 5 at the end of the 2001 season, and No. 6 last year.
There is a lot of history in this game for the Texas seniors. In 2000, they were part of a team which made history as the first ever Big 12 South Division rep to play in the game. A year later, they recorded the school's biggest comeback ever, storming from 19 points down to beat Washington in one of the most exciting games in bowl history.
Now, they have a chance to break more ground in UT history. Never in the storied history of the program has a Texas team won three straight bowl games in consecutive years, and considering Texas has played in 42 of the post-season classics, that is an incredible statistic. Texas is playing in its sixth straight bowl, the longest run for a Longhorn team since they went to nine straight bowls from 1977 through 1985.
While this basically young team will gain worlds of experience in this bowl, a lot of responsibility for their success here will lie with the seniors, whose remarkable record is the best of any class since freshmen became eligible. They have won more games than anybody in Texas history. In their four seasons at Texas, they have finished each season incredibly well.
The numbers are astounding. Since mid-October each of the last four years, these guys have posted a record of 29 wins, and only three losses. And the losses came by 5, 2 and 4 points.
In Brown's terminology, there are six days left in the life of this team. Somewhere after 10 o'clock Texas time on Tuesday, its story will be written. And in this space of time, they will practice, play and prepare.