Archive for category College Football
This column runs in the Winter 2020/2021 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
As I write this column, the first week of the College Football Playoff rankings are on TV. The committee convenes weekly through mid-December in Grapevine, Texas to chose the top 25 football teams and also assign those teams to the major bowl events including four teams who duke it out for the National Championship in January. I smiled as I thought about the bowl games I have attended.
It was New Year’s Eve Day in 1969. I was a sophomore at the University of Houston. I worked part-time as a desk clerk and switchboard operator at the Holiday Inn on the Gulf Freeway at Wayside Drive. The hotel was booked full of Auburn fans as well as their cheerleaders who were in town to attend the Bluebonnet Bowl at the Astrodome. Now this wasn’t just any bowl game; it was my #17 Houston Cougars playing #12 Auburn.
While checking in one group, one guy inquired, “Do you allow pets?” I assumed he meant a dog so I replied, “As long as we know they are in there and as long as you clean up after your pet.” While I retrieved a dog marker for the room card, another guy said, “Thanks for letting us have War Eagle in the room. Would you like a free ticket to the game?” It turned out that I had just checked in the Auburn mascot! Yes, I had just checked in an eagle – a real, live eagle!! And, more importantly, I was getting to go to the Bluebonnet Bowl – free!
My seat was on the 50-yard line on the mezzanine level. There I was, decked out in my scarlet red and white, amidst a sea of orange and blue clothed fans screaming their battle cry, “War Eagle!!” Houston, which was an Independent, was considered very much the underdog to the SEC opponent. Because my dorm was across the street from Baldwin House which housed the athletes and through classes, I had friends on the team – Gary Mullins, Robert Newhouse, Elmo Wright, Earl Thomas, Riley Odoms, Leroy Fisher and Butch Brezina. That night, the Houston Cougars shocked the nay-sayers and upset the Auburn Tigers 36 – 7! It was thrilling to see Coach Bill Yeoman carried off the field by Butch and Ken Bailey as Cougar faithful sang the fight song!
Ten years later, a friend who taught ROTC at the University of Houston gave me his tickets to the Cotton Bowl where the #9 Cougars, that season’s Southwest Conference Champions, were playing #10 Notre Dame. At the time, I was still on reserve as a flight attendant for Delta and after finding it impossible to get New Year’s Day off, I gave the tickets to my brother. I was called by IAH operations for a 1:40 AM sign-in New Year’s morning. It was a turnaround to Atlanta and back. I was elated! I would be back in time to at least watch the game. It turned out to be a blessing that I didn’t get to go. Dallas had an ice storm on December 31st and my brother ended up watching the game from his hotel room. At the game, temperatures were in the mid-twenties! Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana was sick with the flu. Despite this, he rallied Notre Dame in the final minutes and they beat Houston 35 – 34.
There would be two other bowl games for me. In 2012, we drove to Dallas to watch the Cougars face Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl. That day was cold and saw me adding my long underwear after we parked the car. We saw Case Keenam explode with 532 passing yards and lead Houston to a 30 – 14 win.
The other game was sheer torture to be at and it wasn’t because of weather. In 2018, Army routed the Cougars 70 – 14 at the Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth. Each time Army scored; the cadets would do pushups in the end zone near us. Needless to say, we saw a lot of calisthenics!
This column appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
Heisman winner Kyler Murray has decided – he has chosen the National Football League over Major League Baseball. I can’t help admire the kid – he’s very talented when it comes to throwing passes and crushing home runs. In high school, as the starting quarterback, he led North Texas’s Allen HS to three straight state championships and won 43 games in a row. He also played baseball – shortstop/second base – and was a top prospect for the 2015 MLB draft. He was the first player to ever be selected for both the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game and Under Armour All-America Football Game!
Instead of entering the baseball draft, he chose to attend Texas A &M his freshman year. Just a few months into the football season, he transferred to Oklahoma when it became apparent he would be battling against another high recruit, Kyle Allen, for a starting nod. With NCAA transfer rules, he had to sit out in 2016. In 2017, he hit the ground running as Baker Mayfield’s backup and even had playing time in a couple of games. Come spring, he switched hats and had a sluggish start playing Sooners baseball, but did so well the following year; he again caught the attention of Major League Baseball. The Oakland As took him as the 9th pick overall in the 2018 MLB Draft last June and presented him with a high dollar contract including a lucrative signing bonus. In return, he would play in the fall one more season of college football, then report to spring training in 2019.
Things got complicated when Murray led the Sooners to the semi-finals of the College Football National Championship collecting a slew of hardware along the way. He won the Davey O’Brien Award, AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, First-team All-American, First-team All-Big 12 and the big daddy of them all, the Heisman Trophy. He finished out last year with an estimated net-worth of three billion dollars! Meanwhile, the Oakland As quietly waited in the wings for his report to spring training. Now, it is possible to play in both the NFL and MLB at the same time – about seventy have accomplished it – only a small handful since 1987 including Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. Seahawks Russell Wilson played in minor league ball a few years and currently has a contract with the Yankees.
In January 2019, Murray teased the sports world with hints he would not be splitting time with the two sports. The A’s and MLB met with Murray, deviating from the norm, and offered him a major league contract. A decision had to be made soon since spring training was on the horizon. The suspense was over Monday, February 11th. Kyler committed to professional football citing “football had been his love and passion his entire life.” Murray would not get to keep his entire $4.66 million signing bonus with the As. Brace yourselves — He already has in hand 1.5 million, but only has to repay $1.29 million of that! He hasn’t even picked up a bat! The A’s will retain his baseball rights going forward and he will be placed on the minor-league restricted list indefinitely. Should Murray ever decide to return to baseball, he would have to return to the Oakland organization.
Did the Phenom do the right thing? Will he be a part of the Heisman Curse? Will he ever see a batting circle? Will hard hits from his bat ever replace hard hits from a Defense? Check back with me in five years.
This column appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
I love this time of the year — Holidays and College Football! All the craziness of the fall games come to an end with the Playoff Committee sorting out records, justifying the upsets and strength of schedules to build the college bowl schedules and the National Championship semi-final games. Oh what fun it has been getting to this point! Every Saturday I have been known to camp out at our TV starting at 8AM for College Game Day and remaining into the wee hours of Sunday morning watching the west coast teams play.
This fall, I actually got to experience College Game Day when my husband’s Ohio State Buckeyes were in Ft. Worth playing TCU. What I didn’t realize when I first hatched the brainstorm of attending, was what a crowd the Saturday live show would attract and how early one had to be there for the show’s early start. Rumor has it college kids always sleep in on the weekends when there are no classes, but not when College Game Day is in town!
When we arrived at the TCU campus a little after 7AM, we found the last parking place right across from the Campus Commons where it was being held. Before the car came to a complete stop, my seatbelt was whizzing into the holder and my hand on the door handle. “Hang on Harriet!” my husband advised, but quickly changed his tune after he spotted the cheerleaders of both TCU and Ohio State at the Commons entrance. Over the crosswalk we both flew. Rick, who hates posing for pictures, made an exception when the Buckeyes mascot Brutus clamped his hand around Rick’s.
Next was clearing security. Men never carry anything so my husband was waved through. I, however, had my pom-poms and purse. After having my pom-poms shaken and my purse (the size of a postage stamp) severely scrutinized, it was time to proceed through the portal into the Commons area. By then, we could see the sea of people already gathered and the ESPN stage way down the Commons. The bands were playing – time to make our entrance. There are times it pays to be shorter than the majority and I played that trump card, getting us second row, second section back from the stage. We could see the backs of Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Rece Davis. My life was complete – we were the backdrop of College Game Day!
Thirty minutes later, the director came out and reviewed the rules for the show as well as his signal for noise. This group already had the noise part down. Eight o’clock finally came and the roar was deafening especially when the TV camera mounted on a cable above us zoomed by. It turned out to be a fun morning mingling with fans not only of TCU and Ohio State, but colleges all over the country. I had DVR’d the show and even found us – a speck in the foreground – good thing for those red pom- poms!
Click here for pictures of the day! https://lottasports.com/2018/09/15/lotta-sports-college-game-day/