Texas Longhorns: A Link to Football History
The history of University of Texas football almost parallels the history of football itself. The Longhorns fielded their first football team in 1893 and have been a prominent part of the college game ever since. Nine national champions, 32 conference champions and 55 bowl appearances attest to that. While Texas Longhorns football has been graced with plenty of star players, the success of the century-and-a-quarter-old program can be encapsulated in the eras of just a few coaches.
Early Years and Early Success
Texas didn’t even have a coach in their first season, but went about whipping everybody who crossed their cattle path. They went 4-0 that year, good enough to make the school think they could actually make this football thing work. So they hired someone to coach a team. Reginald DeMerritt Wentworth was paid $325 plus expenses to guide the University of Texas team in 1894. That may explain why not many people wanted a job in a sport that had not fully taken hold. Wentworth began a parade of head coaches, all winners, but none lasting too long. And when success came and a growing number of people did start to buy tickets to Texas football games, the pressure was amped up. David Allerdice coached from 1911 through 1915, went 33-7, won a national championship, and left because of the "super critical nature of the Texas fans." The 1915 season was also Texas’ first year in the new Southwest Conference, an association that would last 80 years. Texas had undefeated seasons in 1900, 1914, 1918 and 1920, winning a national title along the way. In 1916 fans demonstrated their willingness to buy tickets when rival Texas A&M rolled into town. More than 15,000 fans packed Clark Field to watch the Longhorns upset the Aggies, 21–7. That day, Texas brought along a mascot they named Bevo, and the good fortune in that game has made the Longhorn bull a sideline companion ever since.
The Dana Bible Years
Over a period of about 20 years into the Depression, the Texas Longhorns won five Southwest Conference titles, but certainly had their struggles. It wasn’t until the 1940s that Coach Dana X. Bible put Longhorns football back on the path to greatness.
Even Bible had struggles, with losing seasons in his first two years, 1937 and ’38. But he gradually built a winner. Their 8-1-1 season in 1941 was good enough for a national championship by most ratings, and by 1942 the Longhorns posted a 9-2 record and claimed the SWC Championship. That got them their first bowl bid, the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns made the best of their appearance by upsetting Georgia Tech, 14-7. Bible would guide the teams to conference championships and Cotton Bowls for two of the next three seasons, winning the bowl game again in 1946, behind the quarterbacking of Bobby Layne. They beat Missouri, 40-27.
Bible left after the next season, but left the program on the right course. The Longhorns would win three more league titles and make four bowl appearances over the next 10 seasons.
Darryl Royal and National Prominence
In 1957 Darryl Royal took over the head coaching job at Texas, beginning the most successful reign in Longhorns history. He got things going by turning the previous 1–9 Longhorns to 6–4–1 in his first year. By the time Royal retired in 1976, he had compiled a 167–47–5 record, won four national championships, 11 SWC titles and made 15 bowl appearances. Texas had a number of star players during the Royal era. Linebacker Tommy Nobis and quarterback Duke Carlisle led the team to a national title in 1963. The 1968 “Worster Bunch,” with All-Americans Steve Worster, James Street, Billy Dale, Chris Gilbert, and Cotton Speyrer, made the vaunted Wishbone offense famous. The Longhorns would have a number of memorable games through the Royal years. But the most notable would be what many people refer to as the “Game of The Century,” in 1969. On Dec. 6, unbeaten Texas went to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on the undefeated Arkansas Razorbacks. Both teams had won national championships in the 1960s and had won or shared the Southwest Conference title in eight of the previous 10 seasons. Texas was ranked No. 1, having won 18 straight games going back to the previous season, while the Razorbacks had won 15 straight and were ranked No. 2. Tickets were scarce. With the Rev. Billy Graham on hand to offer the pregame prayer, President Nixon among the 47,500 fans in attendance, and millions watching ABC TV, the stage was set for one of the biggest events in college football history. Texas got off to a bad start, turning the ball over six times and allowing a touchdown in the first quarter and another in the third. They went into final period with Arkansas up, 14-0. But Street capped off a Longhorns drive by scrambling for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter, and Royal opted for a two-point conversion. Street delivered by diving into the end zone to make it 14-8.
Arkansas mounted a 73-yard drive on the next possession, but was stopped when Danny Lester intercepted Bill Montgomery’s pass in the end zone. Texas got the ball and had two key plays: a successful try on 4th and 3 at the 43; and a 44-yard pass from Street to Randy Peschel that carried the Longhorns to the Arkansas 13. They scored two plays later when Jim Bertelsen carried in. Happy Feller booted the winning extra point with 3:58 left, and Arkansas’ next drive fell short.
With a Cotton Bowl victory over Notre Dame, the Longhorns finished with a perfect 11-0 record that year, and an undisputed national championship.
From Akers to Brown
Royal retired in 1976, and Fred Akers picked up the banner, and carried the Longhorns to an 11-1 season. While Akers teams would win two disputed national titles, two SWC titles, and go to bowls in nine of his 10 seasons, consistent winning would taper off. After a 5-6 season in 1986, Akers was gone. Coaches David McWilliams and John Mackovic would usher the Longhorn program into the Big 12 Conference era, each coach with successful teams. But it wasn’t until Mack Brown took the reins that Texas Longhorns football would return to national prominence. Brown benefitted through the play of a line of quarterbacks from Major Applewhite to Vince Young to Colt McCoy. In his 16 seasons, Brown would compile a 158-48 record at Texas, four Big 12 South Division titles and a conference championship, and 15 bowl appearances. In 2005, Brown’s team was ranked 2nd nationally behind Southern California all season. With Young at the helm, they barely got by No. 4 Ohio State on the road, and dominated their remaining foes, including a 45–12 demolishing of arch-rival Oklahoma. They finished the regular season 12-0 and went up against undefeated Southern Cal in the national championship game. In possibly the best national title showdown ever, Texas won 41–38 in the final 20 seconds, when Young ran for a TD on 4th and 5. The 2009 team went a perfect 13-0 in the regular season, but with McCoy on the sidelines with an injury, they surrendered the national championship game to Alabama. The Longhorns have had struggles since, though Coach Tom Herman did lead the 'Horns to a 10-4 campaign in 2018 and a 28-21 win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
With two straight winning seasons and bowl victories, hope for a nationally prominent program has returned to Austin. Texas Longhorns football tickets are again among the most valuable college football tickets out there.
Longhorns Football Facts
Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium*, Austin, TX - Capacity: 100,119**; Opened: 1924
* - First dedicated as War Memorial Stadium
** - War Memorial Stadium first held 27,000. Expansions and renovations started in 1926; the expansion to current capacity was in 2009.
Players With Major National Awards
Heisman Trophy (Most Outstanding Player)
Earl Campbell – 1977
Ricky Williams – 1998
Maxwell Award (Best Player)
Tommy Nobis – 1965
Ricky Williams – 1998
Vince Young – 2005
Colt McCoy – 2009
Walter Camp Award (Player of the Year)
Ricky Williams – 1998
Colt McCoy – 2008
Colt McCoy – 2009
AP Player of the Year
Ricky Williams - 1998
Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman)
Scott Appleton – 1963
Tommy Nobis – 1965
Brad Shearer – 1977
Nagurski Trophy (Top Defensive Player)
Derrick Johnson – 2004
Brian Orakpo – 2008