Archive for the ‘2012’ Category

Remembering Darrell Royal

One Degree of Separation

I made my decision to go to The University of Texas when I was in the fifth grade. Unlike my earlier goals of becoming an astronaut and a United States Senator destined for the presidency, this ambition was realized.  At the first fraternity party I went to a few days before my first classes at U.T.,I was asked several times, why I came all the way from Reston, Virginia to attend The University of Texas.  My answer: because they have a good football team. I thought it was a pretty good line and people laughed that night every time I said it. It wasn’t a joke. It was the truth and Texas wouldn’t have had a good football team if not for Darrell Royal. To be totally honest the fact that my two older brothers had graduated from U.T. and lived in Austin also had a lot to do with my choice of a college.

During that fall semester in 1974 I watched the Texas-Texas Tech game, that some of us reminisced about last week, with my older brother David and his roommate Robert at their Riverside apartment. Robert was a graduate assistant football coach and former U.T. reserve quarterback.  During the first half of the game, Texas’ quarterback, Mike Presley, scrambled around on one play far behind the line of scrimmage and without purpose.  Eventually he was tackled for a big loss and Texas had to punt.  Robert told us that Presley would not be going back in the game after that because Coach Royal didn’t tolerate screwing around and making dumb plays the way Presley just had.  David and I were surprised to hear that Presley would be yanked for that one bad play and thought Robert’s prediction was a little hasty. Well what did we know?  Presley didn’t play again that day and lost his starting job for the rest of the season after that game.  Royal was demanding of his players and had little tolerance for sloppy play and mental errors.  Royal was a hard ass.

Over the next three and a half years I had the quiet thrill to meet and become acquainted with a handful of Texas Football Players who were fraternity brothers of mine.  A couple of them were starting linebackers. One of them was All Southwest Conference.  I would describe their feelings about Darrell Royal as somewhere between fear and loathing.  I never heard the term “nice guy” when they talked about Royal.  I don’t know this for a fact but I didn’t get the feeling that my football player fraternity brothers considered Royal a father figure. Nor do I believe that Royal told their parents that he would take care of them and treat them like family. I never got the sense that the program under Royal had a family atmosphere.

After my mother died and my father moved to assisted living my brothers and I sorted through and divided up furniture and their personal belongings.  Among the items that I kept was a treasure trove of letters that my brothers and I wrote my parents while we were in college.  Many of the letters included news about the football team.  One of the letters, from my brother David in November of 1971, mentioned that all the players hated Royal.

In the middle eighties I was in the convenience store business and my banker was a former Texas defensive back who was a starter in 1967 and 68.  Naturally we talked a fair amount about football. At the time the Texas Coach, Fred Akers, was under heavy fire for an 8-4 record in 1985.  In the context of one conversation about Akers and coaches my banker said, “Royal can kiss my ass. The only time he ever spoke to me was when I had a bad ankle and he asked me before a game if I was going to play.”  Remember he was a two year starter and not some bitter reserve player.

As I listened to former U.T greats Bill Bradley, Tommy Nobis and Ed Small talk about Royal this week on sports talk radio I heard them express genuine feelings of admiration and love for Darrell Royal.  They told great stories about playing for Royal. Some of the stories were funny and the funny ones usually had something to do with Royal’s reaction to a misstep or mistake on the field that they had made.  The bottom line was these guys never made the same mistake twice because they were afraid to face Royal if they did.  As players Royal was not their friend. They became friends after their playing days were over.

I’m not trying to tear the cover off the Darrell Royal that is being mourned and celebrated this week. Darrell Royal is probably my favorite of all Longhorns coaches and players alike.  The Darrell Royal that I learned about from the people that I knew who knew him and played for him is a man that I respected and admired.  It was fascinating to hear first-hand accounts about how one of the all-time great College Football Coaches led and motivated.  Royal’s style and methodology probably wouldn’t work in today’s world and to me that’s a shame.

Royal’s retirement from coaching at an early age was something else about him that I came to admire.   My father may not have been the first one to say it but he told me somewhere around 1975 that he thought perhaps Royal found it difficult to be hard on his players after his daughter was killed in an auto accident in 1973. I think what many people now admire about Royal is his growth into the person he became after football which was something much larger than just being a great football coach.

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I must bore you with a personal anecdote as it relates to Darrell Royal.  In the 1973 Cotton Bowl Texas defeated heavily favored #4 Alabama.  It was a thrilling win which wasn’t decided until Texas stopped Alabama on a dramatic fourth and one very late in the game.  The Frinks of Vestal, New York were jubilant.  A few days after the game my father and I couldn’t help but to continue to talk about our team’s great win. My father thought it was perhaps Royal’s finest coaching performance and admitted, that rightly or wrongly in the grand scheme of things, how much he appreciated the joy the win had given us.  I suggested we write Darrell Royal a Thank You note.  So together we sat down at the dining room table and collaborated on the letter that my father wrote out on a legal pad. If memory serves the letter ended up being two complete pages and part of a third.  In addition to talking about the team’s performance we introduced our family telling Coach Royal that David was a student,  Clayton was a U.T. graduate and that we were former neighbors and good friends with Dan and Corey Adams whose son Dan was a Texas player.

About 10 days later we got a short but warm reply from Darrell Royal.  That letter is another is another treasure that I inherited from my parents.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

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Post-Game Texas Tech

High Plains Redemption

It would be cliché to report that our lives have been changed by the digital age and the instant access to information and ability to be “connected.” In addition to all the pluses and minuses of this instant access and connectivity it also, in my opinion, has caused the desire of many of us to, want, make and accept instant declarations, pronouncements and predictions about the future. Some recent dandies: Robert Griffin is the best player in the NFL, Penn State will be lucky to win more than two games in 2012; Tiger Woods will never win another major. One of my favorites closer to home from a few years back was the wide spread judgment, a few games into his freshman season, that Colt McCoy was not the “guy” to lead Texas back to the upper echelon. If social scientists conducted a study comparing the accuracy of predictions about the future in the recent digital age versus the pre-digital age—whenever exactly that was—I predict their findings would show no higher degree of accuracy in the digital versus the non-digital age. Also they probably would find that the prediction business has proliferated on a per capita basis during the digital age.

As for our Longhorns, the consensus of pronouncements about their 2012 future prior to the Texas Tech game were premature, at least by one week. You don’t need to read this to know how superbly David Ash, Mike Davis, Jonathan Gray and Carrington Byndom played. Or how, finally, the offensive and defensive lines performed up to expectations. For the first time this season Texas was fun to watch. What happened?

The over whelming observation I take away from this game is that for the first time in a long time Mack Brown and his staff out coached their counter parts on the opposing sideline. Texas’ game plan put the aforementioned players in position to play up to their potential. Texas throwing passes, long ones at that, on first down out of running formations. Who would have ever expected that?  Obviously not the Texas Tech coaches or players.  I’m not an expert but Brown and Diaz seemed to have simplified the defense.

Texas did a lot less shifting around and play to play substituting than in previous games. This seemed to have given the defense a better sense of mission and confidence than in previous games. It appeared to me for the first time this year that Texas went after the win rather than just expecting one, or in the case of the Oklahoma game, hoping for one.

I will not make any predictions or pronouncements about the rest of Texas’ season based on their performance against Texas Tech.  My hunch, though, is that if the coaches and players plan and prepare for the remaining games like they did for the Tech game they will have a high degree of success. If they get back to Austin and lapse into their old habits, their future may fall back into line with the pre-Texas Tech game consensus.

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Have you ever seen Mack Brown so gleeful after a game?  I was very pleased that Brown didn’t gloat or call out his critics after the game. I think it’s a good sign.

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It will be hard for me to root against Alabama after seeing A.J. McCarron’s emotional reaction to their dramatic win over LSU.  In the words of Tom T. Hall, I love winners when they cry.  It was very humanizing for Alabama.

Over/Under Results

It was another week of tough going in the Texas Tech Over/Under with an average of 5.2 correct answers from a total of 14 players. It was made tougher by the flawed question written by moi, which team would have more turnovers. That easily could have been trouble if both teams had the same number. Interestingly it was flawed because neither team had a single turnover. You don’t see that very often.

Anyway, there was a four way tie for second place with Mark Adams, Tom Yoxall, David Frink and Mark Stephan scoring six correct answers.  At the end of regulation Art Zeitz and Helen Frink were tied for the win with seven correct answers. Both Art and Helen picked Oregon over USC, but Helen correctly picked Alabama over LSU to beat out Art who picked LSU. It was Helen’s second career  victory in Over/Under both coming down to the tie breaker.  I must note that Helen resisted the urge of picking LSU just for the sake of picking against Alabama whom she dislikes very much.

HooK eM,

W.E.

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Pre-Game Texas Tech

Are Reports of the Longhorns’ Demise Greatly Exaggerated?

 

If you knew before the season started that the Longhorns would be 6-2 going into the Texas Tech game I’m thinking you would have been mildly disappointed but not—to use a Mack Brown favorite—negative about the team.  That 6-2 includes the four game stretch we were talking about in pre-season of Oklahoma State on the road, West Virginia at home, Oklahoma and Baylor at home. We expected all of those games to be very competitive including the Baylor game.  I think we would have been very satisfied with a 3-1 record during that stretch. Texas, at 6-2, is only one game behind a pace that we would have been very happy with.

So why is the difference between 7-1 and 6-2 so stark in the eyes of most Longhorn fans, bloggers and commentators?  It’s because the last 3 games: the Oklahoma blow out, the yielding of 50 points even in a win against Baylor and the close call against Kansas seems more like a three game losing streak that two wins and a loss.  It appears that Mack Brown may have lost control of the quality of his team’s performance on game day.  The consensus of what I’ve heard and read this week from all quarters is that Texas will finish the season 8-4 at best but more likely 7-5.

I’m thinking 9-3 with an outside chance that Texas runs the table and ends up 10-2. My thinking is that the Kansas game brought Mack Brown and Harsin face to face with the reality of what kind of offense they need to run if they hope to salvage the season. If I’m right that means Texas will score somewhere in the 40s against Tech, Iowa St. and TCU. That should be enough to beat Iowa St. and TCU.  Texas Tech doesn’t run the ball very well. It’s possible, just possible that we’ve seen the worst of Texas’ run defense. So if they force Tech to throw lots of short passes resulting in time consuming drives they won’t have enough time to score 40 points themselves.  So now I’ve got Texas to 9 wins.

The conventional wisdom is that Texas doesn’t have a chance to beat Kansas St. on December 1, in Manhattan, Kansas.  I’m not a big fan of conventional wisdom.  Where did conventional wisdom ever get anyone?  What if Collin Klein gets injured and is out for the Texas game?  What if Kansas St. turns it over five times?  What if the Texas offense is hitting on all cylinders and scores in the 40s? What if the Texas players decide it’s time to win one for Mack and play the game of their lives?  I could go on but all the possible scenarios that lead to a Texas victory aren’t as important to me as my lack of belief that Kansa St. will finish the season undefeated.  There’s something out of phase for me in the idea that Kansas St. is Alabama 2.0.  Of course there is a first time for everything.

Okay so there you have it. Texas will go at least of 9-3 with a puncher’s chance of achieving 10-2.  You won’t hear or read this anywhere else but I think it’s worth bringing up the possibility.

Going out on a limb again

I had so much fun in being right about Notre Dame beating Oklahoma I thought I’d try it again this week. Texas Tech will choke on their big opportunity to beat Texas for the first time in 4 years. Texas 45, Tech 27.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under

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Post Game Kansas

My Homework Assignment

Dear Mr. Dodds,

It was a pleasure meeting with you on Wednesday regarding the newly created position of Associate Athletic Director for Positive Spin. Below please find the writing sample you requested as part of my application for the position.

As Johnny Mercer wrote and Tony Bennett sang so well, the falling leaves drift by my window….and soon I’ll hear old winter’s song, and when that happens wins on the road in the Big 12 are as a precious and hard to come as a vacant porta-potty at a Rolling Stones concert in Central Park.  Well the Longhorns came away with one of those precious victories yesterday in Lawrence, Kansas on the strength of a stingy defense and pluck of back up quarterback Case McCoy. Oh sure, you can talk about Kansas’ 1-6 record and how they had lost 16 straight Big 12 games coming in but the records go out the window this time of year in conference rivalries such as Texas-Kansas.

This was a huge win for Mack Brown’s Longhorns and one they can build on coming down the stretch especially knowing that they now have two experienced and clutch performers at quarterback they can count on.  In addition, freshman running back Jonathan Grey had his most prolific day as a Longhorn with 106 yards on 18 carries. On the defensive side of the ball, Texas had its best showing in conference play limiting Kansas to 273 total yards and 3 points in the second half.

At 6-2 on the season the Longhorns are in good company with the likes of Texas A&M, Texas Tech, USC, Stanford and Nebraska who are also 6-2. And don’t look now but previously vanquished foes Oklahoma State and Ole Miss are a collective 6-2 since they fell to the Horns.

Next up for the Longhorns is another road test against Texas Tech. Victories are tough to come by in Lubbock as the 2008 Longhorns and Blake Gideon can attest. But if the Longhorns bring their usual road warrior intensity and resolve to the Hub City we’ll be in for a great game.  And again as Tony Bennett sang, I love things that are great!

But Seriously Folks

After the last two and a half seasons with all the broken vows to fix this and to fix that how can you trust Mack Brown and his staff to have this team ready to play on any given Saturday?  Unless this season turns out much differently than most of us expect it to, it’s going to be hard to stay excited about Texas Football without some serious changes in the off-season.  I don’t know what those changes should be. Right now it’s hard to imagine Texas Football without Mack Brown.  It’s equally as hard to imagine Texas Football going on much longer the way it’s going now.

Over/Under Results

It was a grueling over/under contest this week and at the finish blood and body parts were strewn all over the field as the average number of correct answers was 3.66.  Homer Mark and a contestant known only as Paul tied in regulation scoring high above the average with 6 correct answers. Homer Mark survived the tiebreaker as Paul picked Texas Tech and Oklahoma as winners. Homer correctly predicted that Kansas State would beat the Red Raiders and wins for the first time in two seasons.

HooK eM,

W.E.

P.S. Not one to blow my own horn, spike the football and dance I reserved bragging about my Notre Dame pick for this rare post script.  I told you Notre Dame would win.

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Pre-Game Kansas

What’s a Petard?

My son Robert, aka Bod Frank, was a very verbose little boy. When he was two, before he had a large vocabulary and a whole lot of opinions, often he would just suddenly blurt out advertising and branding messages such as, “TA Tires!” or “Your news on the hour and half hour from KLBJ-AM.” When he got to be five or six years old, he had a large vocabulary and lots of opinions for a kid that age.  He talked a lot. So much that Helen nicknamed him “The Pontiff.”  A neighbor drew a comparison to Cliff Clavin.

Anyway, one weekend when Bob was seven or eight we were in Dallas visiting Helen’s parents Midge and Pat.  One of their best friends, a guy named Bill Kay, is what you would call a “hail fellow well met.”  He’s a nice guy who loves to talk to say the least.  Bill stopped by Midge and Pat’s for cocktail hour that Saturday and he asked young Bobby how he was doing.  Big mistake.  Bobby cornered Bill for a long conversation about who knows what. It might have been the Space Shuttle one of Bobby’s areas of expertise.  I glanced at my father in-law Pat who was obviously as amused as I was at the irony of Bill being cornered in conversation by Bobby.  Then Pat said something that I’d never heard before.  Referring to Bill Kay he said, “He’s being hoisted with his own petard.”  I love the expression which is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and basically it means to be blown up with your own bomb. As my father told me, “everything is from Shakespeare or the bible.”

Why am I telling you all this?  Because when I heard that Mack Brown had complained about the time commitment required for his three shows a week on the Longhorn Network and that LHN was aiding opposing coaches’ preparation for games with Texas: I thought, He’s being hoisted with his own petard. After all, every time over the past 10 years or so anytime anyone has criticized Mack Brown, his biggest fans were sure to talk about all the money Brown had made for Texas and how great he has been for the brand. So isn’t the Longhorn Network Brown’s $300 million Pièce de résistance? Funny too how LHN didn’t become a problem until Texas lost two games in a row.  Honestly I thought the idea of the Longhorn Network was stupid from the get go. Who wants to watch football players lifting weights and sitting around in baby pools filled with ice water let alone 20 hours a week of women’s soccer?  Is there any wonder it’s been so hard to get deals with cable operators to carry it? I suppose if Texas loses a couple of more games this year LHN could gain the appeal of reality television or that of a Maury or Jerry Springer.  We’ve also heard that Mack  instructed trainers to tape both ankles of injured players so the opposing coaches watching LHN wouldn’t know which ankle was hurt. Isn’t that like Jimmy Carter controlling the reservations for the White House tennis courts?  Is it me or is Mack losing his marbles? Oh well, I guess it takes one to know one and I’m pretty sure that I’m losing mine.

Three Season Slump

Following a National Championship in 1963 and a 10-1 record with victory over #1 Alabama in the Orange Bowl in the 1964 season Darrell Royal’s Longhorns went 6-4 in ’65, 7-4 in ’66 and 6-4 in ’67. In 1968 Texas began the season with a tie and a loss before starting a 30 game winning streak stretching over the next three seasons that brought them two National Championships.  The 1968 season also was the first of six straight Southwest Conference Championships for Texas.

If 2012 turns out to be the third year of a slump we can be comforted by the precedent of Darrell Royal’s three season slump in 1965-67. Maybe, but I’ll point out at least one big difference. In 1968 Darrell Royal was 44. In 2013 Mack Brown will be 62.  I better be careful drawing that comparison. I could be hoisting myself on my own petard.

 Going Out On a Limb

Oklahoma is favored by 10 points at home over Notre Dame on Saturday night. I think Notre Dame will win outright.  This is based solely on my intuition about this game and my belief that Notre Dame is luckier than average. Also I think Oklahoma is good but not great and if they’re not playing Texas they seem to be losing all their big games the last few years.  Let me reiterate that I’m a career loser in betting on football and I retired from  betting in 1980 when I lost $100 because the kicker for the New York Giants missed an extra point at the end of a game.  That gave me one of those rare moments of clarity.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under

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