Things don’t always work out the way you want them to.
Friday October 7, 1977
9am Sigma Phi Epsilon house, Austin, Texas
I dropped by the Sig Ep house for a Lone Star donut. I hadn’t been at the house this early in the morning since I had lived there my sophomore year. Now I was a senior and I had perhaps the best job I’ve ever had. I was an advertising sales rep. for The Daily Texan and I’d been on a sales call that morning at 8am at Love Tire on Burnet road. That was a pretty early call time for me but OU weekend had officially begun the night before and I wouldn’t have slept very late that morning anyway. When I first got there I was the only one in the main part of the house. I was eating my donut and was soon joined by Jerry who had clearly not been home the night before. He wasn’t hung over or anything, in fact he looked like the proverbial cat that had swallowed the canary. We were chatting about the big weekend ahead of us, “who you going with, where are you staying …” when Philip “Beaver” or “The Beave” Jordan walked in, back from an 8am class. Philip bore a striking resemblance to Jerry Mathers hence “Beaver.”
“Beave do you have an 8 o’clock class?” I asked.
“Yea I got fucked.” Beaver lamented.
“I got a blow job.” cracked Jerry.
I stopped by The Daily Texan office briefly on my way to the only class I was attending that day, “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” at 11am in the RLM. During class I watched the clock and day dreamed about the impending weekend. I was really exited. I had a date for the entire OU weekend for the first time. That meant Tanya was riding with me to Dallas, going to the Sig Ep party with me in a suite at the Adolphus hotel Friday night, going to the big semi-formal Sig Ep party in the ballroom of a downtown hotel Saturday night and riding back to Austin with me Sunday. Oh yeah and she was going to the game with me. The OU game, Oklahoma ranked #2 and our beloved Longhorns #5. Both teams undefeated. “Holy hoopla and pageantry Batman!”
Some, if not most, Longhorn fans weren’t exactly sanguine about the Horns’ chance of winning. Despite the closeness in ranking Oklahoma was a 13 point favorite to beat Texas for the seventh time in eight years. The previous year Texas had managed to tie the Sooners. Darrel Royal had retired after that season mainly because of his frustration in not being able to compete in recruiting and on the field with Barry Switzer the coach of Oklahoma. I myself, the eternal optimist believed “we” could win. In fact I had lectured a few of the doubters that “we” could finally win this year. We had the best defense in the country and we had Earl.
I get very emotional about Earl. We arrived at the University at the same time, the fall semester of 1974. We lived in the same dorm, Jester, where I encountered him frequently my freshman year. The coke machines were in the basement of Jester. Often there was a long wait for the lone elevator that went to the basement after you scored your Coke, Dr. Pepper or whatever. One night Earl stepped out of the elevator as I was stepping on to go back upstairs. Knowing that he might be in for the long wait Earl asked me if I would hold the elevator for him while he got his drink. Yes, yes of course I told him, I couldn’t believe this was happening. But while I was answering the humble Earl Campbell demurred, “No, no,” he said in his thick rural east Texas accent, “don’t worry about it.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s not a problem.” I answered obsequiously.
“Nah” he said, “go ahead.”
Damn. That would have been great.
Anyway the thing about Earl Campbell is that there has never been anyone who ran with the football the way he did. Of course there have been many running backs with the combination size and speed that Earl possessed. Hershel Walker and Bo Jackson and our own Ricky Williams come to mind and they were certainly great backs. But Earl, my god the way he ran; moving the pile, pile driving would be tacklers, dragging multiple defenders, absorbing a big hit, spinning around and then hurdling another tackler you were sure had him. And the speed, when there was a hole he shot through it faster than anyone ever had before and suddenly there was this big mass barreling down the field and in these instances this huge running back didn’t run over tacklers, he set them up and faked them out of their jocks. Sometimes I think the defenders wanted to be faked out rather than dealing with Earl head on.
1pm, The Delta Gamma sorority house.
Sporting a white Izod and with a styrofoam cooler wedged between the bucket seats of my 76 Mustang I picked up Tanya and we headed north on I35 to big D. Even though we had been dating since the weekend before classes started that fall until I called her from the lobby of the DG house and she answered that she was on her way out, I was worried that the whole thing wouldn’t actually happen. That Tanya would tell me that something had come up and wouldn’t be going with me after all. I had been cancelled on a few times before. Six months earlier a girl I had been out with a few times broke our date to “Round Up” one of the big Sig Ep soirees of the spring semester. Until this moment I considered myself a loser with women.
Tanya was warm, had great smile, laughed easily, she was unpretentious–she drove what had been her father’s five year old Dodge pick up truck, and she left little notes under the windshield wiper of my car when it was parked on campus at The Daily Texan office. Apparently she liked me. And she was really pretty. I had been asked a few times that semester, “Frink, whooo was your date last night?” She was Miss San Antonio 1976. You can look it up. For me, dating Tanya was like moving from the “outhouse” to the “penthouse” in one fell swoop.
The drive was as good as the drive from Austin to Dallas can get. We engaged in non stop conversation and Tanya laughed as I feigned incredulity when she insisted that we listen to Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, by Crystal Gale every time it came on the radio, at least 3 times, on one top 40 station after another as drove from Austin to Temple to Waco and on to Dallas. The usually boring drive had never gone by so quickly.
As we pulled up to Tanya’s brother’s apartment in Dallas she wanted to sit in the car to listen to the end another song on the radio, Midnight Blue by Melissa Manchester…. “And I think we can make it one more time if we try…” Tanya had lost her father to cancer just a few months earlier and this song reminded her of him and the struggles they shared as he battled the disease to his death. I knew about her father but this was the first time she had confided in me about him. She was heart broken. I couldn’t imagine the pain I would feel if one of my parents had died. We sat in the car as she talked about her Dad and she cried a little. I listened. I was totally there and I was moved but I didn’t say much which was just the right thing to say. I liked her a lot. I admit I calculated that maybe she liked me even more than I had suspected after she opened up that part of herself to me.
The Adolphus Hotel, downtown Dallas, 8pm
Accompanied by Tanya and my good friend Rick Mosher, I painstakingly navigated my Mustang through bumper to bumper downtown traffic and hundreds Texas-OU pedestrian revelers to the Adolphus Hotel. At one point while stopped dead, one of the spirited pedestrians came right up to my open window and asked if me we were from Texas or Oklahoma. “SMU,” I cleverly answered hoping to avoid a confrontation. Tanya thought I was funny. Rick, not so much.
Still looking in the window, our new acquaintance said, “That’s a beautiful girl” before he disappeared into the crowd.
Embarrassed, Tanya asked me, “Why did he say that?”
I answered succinctly, “Because you are.”
If ever there was a place to be in a given circumstance — a suite, about 7 stories up in the old Adolphus hotel, in downtown Dallas, the Friday night of Texas-OU weekend with: your fraternity brothers, a really good date and other assorted “beautiful people”– was the place to be. The windows in the suite were thrown wide open and you could lean out and watch the hordes of rowdy Texas-OU revelers parading up and down the street below. It was absolutely sublime. Tanya and I held court while sitting on one of the beds; she sipped white wine, I drank scotch. An interesting thing about dating Tanya was that we often found ourselves unintentionally holding court at parties and gatherings. We were mainly interested in talking with each other but I think my fraternity brothers wanted to figure out how I could possibly be dating Tanya.
Saturday, October 8, 1977
12 noon, The Cotton Bowl
Finally the game. We had great seats, row 35 of the lower section, west side of the stadium on the north 30 yard line. This was the first year the University distributed the student tickets via a lottery instead of on a first come first serve basis. It was the end of the traditional camp out at the ticket office which for a really big OU game would begin on the Monday night before the Wednesday morning draw. For an upperclassman in a fraternity this was a great system because we made the pledges do the camping out and we could force them to get in line really early. I think the University changed the system to eliminate this advantage for the frat rats. I did not get the tickets I applied for through the lottery. Many students didn’t. Crap! What now? As in many times over the previous 3 years that I had been in Austin, one of my brothers came to my rescue. I mean one of my real brothers as in Clayton and David. Clayton had season tickets and had 4 seats on the 30 yard line. For some reason which is totally foreign to me Clayton wasn’t hot to attend the game. The tickets though were quite valuable and I couldn’t afford the market rate. I called Clayton. His wife said he was expecting my call but I needed to call him at some poker game where ever that was. Clayton was willing to part with the 4 tickets that had a face value of $35 for around $250. This was generous, tickets as good as these had a street value of about $150 to $175 each. He must have been winning. I’m kidding of course he has always been willing to give me the shirt off his back. I sold two of the tickets to a couple of Sig Ep fifth year seniors who never had dates, Jim Huey and Don Heckman. They paid me $120 each. Clayton accepted $240 as payment in full leaving me with a total outlay for tickets of… I’ll let you do the arithmetic.
On one of Texas’ first possessions Earl threw a really bad half back pass and it was intercepted at about “our” own 35 yard line. Oklahoma hadn’t been the least bit fooled. Maybe Switzer was still spying on our practices. The defense held Oklahoma to a field goal. On Texas’ next possession starting quarterback Mark McBath broke his ankle on an option keeper. Okay we can deal with this because he was replaced by Jon Aune who we considered not the #2 quarterback but quarterback #1A. Still in the first quarter Aune blows out his ACL. We’re in big trouble. Who the heck is going to play quarterback now? Randy McEachern. At about 5’ 9” he looked like a junior high player as he ran out on to the field. Well at least I liked my date. So I had that going for me–which was nice.
I shouldn’t have sold McEachern short. On his second series early in the second quarter he and Earl got the Horns in to position for Russell Erxleben to attempt, ahem, a 64 yard field goal. It would have been good from 74. To give you a little perspective, college kickers were kicking off tees in those days and the wind was at his back. Still, 64 yards, it was a clutch kick to say the least. So now were tied up 3-3. Did we have a chance? With “our” defense the answer was a definite maybe.
With about 5 minutes remaining in the first half the game still tied 3-3, Randy McEachern and Earl Campbell led Texas on the most important drive in Texas football history from that time going forward not to be surpassed for 28 years and 3 months. It was of the 80 yard variety. McEachern threw darts over the middle to Alfred Jackson. Earl bulled and clawed for 3, 4 and 5 yards gains. Post game film study revealed that of the 124 yards Earl gained that day, 114 came after an initial contact by an OU defender. Again, you can look it up. The touchdown came on a 24 yard run by Earl behind a down field clearing block from second team tight end Steve Hall from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Earl avoided the last defender with one of his classic hurdles with a form that any low hurdler would be proud of. When Earl hurdled his head didn’t bob. Texas fans felt like they had been to the gates of hell and back and now “we” had the halftime lead 10-3. Incredible.
Oklahoma kicked a field goal in the third quarter to bring the score to 10-6. Erxleben hit a “chip shot” 58 yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 13-6. It was the most exciting 13-6 game that you’re ever going to see. Jim Huey one of my SiG-Ep brothers I had sold the tickets to was going crazy, dying a thousand deaths, physically trying to run, block and tackle for the Horns. Oklahoma hadn’t sustained a serious offensive drive the entire day when they got the ball on their own 20 yard line with about 8 minutes left in the game. For the first time in the game they methodically marched the ball down the field mixing in a half back reverse pass with some Thomas Lott passes and the OU offensive line finally opened up a few holes for Billy Simms and company. Oklahoma was good. Oklahoma was clutch. I hate Oklahoma. Now I’m dying along with brother Huey. It all came down to forth and less than a yard from “our” 4 yard line. Thomas Lott takes the snap and starts to his left on the option play. He sees a seam and cuts up field hard between the left tackle and the tight end. The seam is immediately filled by Johnny Johnson who smashes Lott head on. No gain. Johnson had knocked himself unconscious. Ecstasy, Huey and I had moved about 8 rows down the isle as if we could help the Horns by getting closer to the field. Huey and I are jumping around like mad men. I don’t know how we didn’t fall and injure ourselves. McEachern took a knee three times and Erxleben boomed a 69 yard punt to seal the biggest win of my college career. Tanya and I embraced. A lady sitting behind us told Jim Huey that he had played a wonderful game.
After the game I wandered around the fair with Tanya in a euphoric haze for about an hour before we headed to the car.
Now it was time for reunions with close friends and a phone call home to my parents. The first reunion was with one of my best friends, Rick Mosher. I was staying at his house in Richardson. Rick, an RTF major had watched the game from the press box as an assistant producer. His dad had been the PR guy for the Cowboys for years and now was the GM for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When I got to the house Rick was in his room trying to catch a nap before the night’s Sig Ep party downtown. He was lying down but he wasn’t a sleep when I came into his room. We exchanged a warm, vigorous celebratory soul hand shake. There were big smiles but we didn’t say much at first. I think both of us needed a second to collect our emotions. We briefly talked about the game and then I went to make a collect phone call to my parents in Virginia. Again it was hard to say much. My mother was the most effusive, “Billy I’m so happy for you”
I managed to say, “I know”.
The game hadn’t been televised in Virginia and I recounted as best I could the details of the victory to my father. He hung on every word.
I picked up Tanya and we drove downtown to the party. I was standing in a circle of guys talking about the game when I spotted a good friend, John Scott standing at the bar about 30 feet away. We made eye contact and smiled knowingly almost like the Texas victory was ours alone.
You know I had to distribute a few “I told you we could wins” to the biggest doubters. The party of course was big fun. Tanya and I danced, she wore my suit coat over her party dress and we held hands most of the evening. I don’t know what led to her remarking to me at one point late in the evening, “things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.” I heard her but I pretended to myself that I didn’t understand the significance of the comment. Some time after the remark pointed she out to me that I had dropped her hand which I hadn’t been consciously aware of. I grabbed her hand and compartmentalized that brief part of the evening.
I met Tanya and her brother for lunch on Greenville Avenue. I hoped he would offer to pay since I had about $6 on me and no other visible means of support. He paid. After lunch the three of us went downtown to see his new office in a Dallas office tower. His office had a great view. He introduced Tanya and me to a co-worker who was the only other person at the office early Sunday afternoon, “This is my sister and her ‘friend’ Bill from Austin.” Friend ? I sensed trouble on the horizon.
We weren’t far south of Dallas on the drive back to Austin when I asked Tanya to go to a Rusty Weir concert the following weekend. I was sure it was just a pro-forma request. We were dating after all and what else would she be doing on Saturday night other than going out with me. Wrong again. Tanya decided it was time to let me know she didn’t think it was a good idea that we continued dating because of her serious relationship with a guy in San Antonio. I knew about the guy in San Antonio, Craig, a 25 year old officer in the Air Force. In fact Andy Garrod, my roommate who had known Tanya for over a year because his fiancé was in Tanya’s sorority, had warned me from the beginning that there was no long term future for Tanya and me.
For the next two and a half hours I grilled Tanya like a prosecuting attorney along the lines of, there’s no way we are going to have a serious, exclusive, long term relationship?
“There’s no way you’re going to change your mind.”
“But how–but why – but what if,” I pleaded fourteen ways from Sunday.
“No.” and “I’m so sorry”, she replied over and over again.
I was dumfounded but mostly I was heart broken. The drive back to Austin was in stark contrast to the drive to Dallas 48 hours earlier. It wasn’t wonderful.
I dropped her off at the DG house at about 6pm. There was no kiss good bye? I started the drive home. Heading south down Nueces Street I slowed down for some guys who were playing touch football in the street. As I drove by one of the guys flashed the “Hook- Em” sign to me. I burst into tears and sobbed the rest of the 10 minute drive home.
Was it a great weekend? Your dam right it was heart break and all. Bill Montgomery, the great quarterback of the Arkansas team that lost the game for the National Championship to Texas 15-14 in 1969 said that he had great and fond memories of that game. I understand