Saturday, October 22, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4, Gm. 8 - Late Conference Start

College football in 1966 is not like we know it today, in so many ways. Conferences are much, much bigger today than just about anything back in the mid-1960's. Therefore it's not uncommon to see conference games early in the season, and in many instances, it can be the first game up. The common thinking back then was to use the non-conference schedule to prepare for conference play.

As the Arlington State Rebels moved to the later stages of October, they had not played their first Southland Conference team. But, seeing as how the SLC only had four other competitors to fill a 10-game schedule, that wasn't surprising, but rather the norm.

The Trinity Tigers were the first opponent on UTA's schedule. Trinity is an interesting note in the SLC's history. They were the first University to leave the union. Most schools in the SLC had designs of becoming higher in the NCAA food chain. Trinity, however, did not. As the SLC schools made a push to go to the University Division, later Division I, Trinity would actually drop to Division III, or non-scholarship.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 7 - The Truest of True Rivals

In this week's entry into the UTA football history series, I may not give as much backstory as I usually do. Simply, I just don't need to with this one.

When I introduce East Texas State, or Texas A&M-Commerce as they are known now, the average fan, the younger fan, and even people my age or older may not know why or even that there was a rivalry. The schools are in different NCAA divisions, don't play anymore and just don't really have anything in common now like they did then.

All that's needed for today's entry is to fill in small gaps and set the stage because today's opponent is just as much a rival then as now; the University of North Texas, or North Texas State University as they were known in 1977.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 6 - Looking in the Mirror

When we last left the 1983 season, one with gigantic expectations as a huge amount of talent was returning (more on that later in the series), they had just dropped their season opener to Western Michigan, the eighth time in ten openers for a Coach Harold "Bud" Elliott team at UT Arlington. Things weren't looking good for UTA.

The Mavericks dropped their next game to Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) at Maverick Stadium, 16-10. It was a game where the UTA offense was just outmatched by the Indians' (now Warhawks) defense.

The first win of the year came on the road against the West Texas State (now A&M) Buffaloes, 31-13. That was followed with a 34-0 drubbing at the hands of the SMU Mustangs, ranked 13th at the time. After that game, Coach Elliott said the Mavericks may not lose another game the rest of the season.

Looking at Coach Elliott's performance, one of the things that stick out is just how bad his teams performed at Maverick Stadium. Coach Elliott was at the helm when Maverick Stadium opened and he went 1-5 the first year. Prior to this game, he was 7-11 overall at home. He'd finish his career 10-12 at Maverick Stadium. I think that played a large part in his dismissal from the team. Lack of community support was a primary reason for Elliott's dismissal. Hard to get that support when you can't win in front of them.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 5 - Talent and Youth

Today's entry in the UTA football history series has way more meaning than just with opponent, site, outcome, etc., though it has a lot of that. So today, we'll look back at the 1966 season and go to Memorial Stadium as Arlington State College plays their home opener.

Today's opponent is East Texas State University, the first genuine rival ASC had since leaving the junior college ranks. The schools are roughly an hour's drive apart and the game's were relatively close. UTA dropped the first two games of the series, 9-14 and 8-17 but rebounded in 1965 for a 20-6 win.

I've mentioned before about how this was one of the higher attended games of the year for the host team. Of the six games that have hit five figures  or more on UTA's campus, two came from East Texas State. And that's out of three total games in Arlington.

1966 was really an interesting year, but not for some of the reasons initially thought. Sophomore quarterback Carl Williams led the team in passing as a freshman with 902 yards. There were many who thought he had the making to be an all-time great. But for reasons I have never been able to find, he quit the team mid-season. That left the door open for Mike Baylor, who would become that all-time great, holding most career passing records and a few single-season ones that still stand.

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016/17 Men's Basketball Schedule

Unquestionably, the 2016/17 men's basketball season is the most anticipated at UT Arlington ever, at least by me since I became a student in 2000. You may have to go all the way back to the very early 1980's to find some similar anticipation. Back then, the Southland Conference was one of the best non-major conferences, repeatedly sending teams into later rounds of the NCAA tournament. From 1979-1985, an SLC team won at least one game in the end-of-year tourney except in 1982.

Once the SLC split after UTA dropped their football program, losing Lamar and Louisiana Tech primarily, the conference's basketball stature dropped tremendously. In that seven-year time frame above, SLC teams won eight NCAA tournament games. In the 28 years since, the conference won a total five games. Two have been from Stephen F. Austin St in the last three years and two were the 16-seed vs. 16-seed for the righ to be slaughtered by a 1 seed.

So UTA started winning games in the SLC, but I'm still not convinced it has everything to do with the dropping of football and the allocation of more resources for the basketball team. That certainly is a factor, but the decline in the level of talent from the conference as a whole has at least just as much a say if not more.

I've been convinced the 1980/1981 UTA team that received an at-large berth into the National Invitational Tournament has been the most talented team UTA has ever fielded, beating the 1990-91 team that went 20-9, the NCAA tournament team of 2007-08 that went 21-12 and even the 2011-12 team that won a school record 24 games en route to their first outright SLC championship.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

UTA FB History: Vol. 4 Gm. 4 - Starting Four-Year Strong

We introduce our last season of the year today as the 1960 Arlington State Rebels make the first appearance in this series.

Coming off a 4-3 record in 1959, the first as a four-year school (or three-year if you asked Coach "Chena" Gilstrap), 1960 was supposed to be a successful year for many reasons.

The most unique was the fact that just about everyone was back. It's a very rare situation, one that happens so infrequently that is practically unheard of in common circles, but when a school goes from the junior college ranks to a four-year school, they are virtually no seniors. Most juco players qualify as a freshman or sophomore, so at most they would have been seniors in 1960. What few seniors were on the team in 1959 were likely transfer walk-ons with little impact on the team's performance. That doesn't mean they aren't competitive players, but they are generally considered bonuses when they perform well and don't factor into recruiting plans if your coach is a good recruiter. By all accounts, coach Gilstrap was.

Another thing that is unique for Juco-to-Uni move-ups is the fact that the talent should be increasing just by regular recruiting. Case in point was quarterback Amos North, who was the primary signal caller in 1959. He would share duties with freshman QB Doug Wilson and Wilson would actually finish as the teams leading passer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 Sun Belt Volleyball Conference Predictions

The Sun Belt Conference begins the 2016 conference portion of the schedule this Friday. Consistent followers of this blog know I like to give my predictions for the conference finish after the normal non-conference schedule has concluded and prior to the start of conference play.

We've got a new format this year as the addition of Coastal Carolina allows the SBC to split into divisional play. Only problems I have with that are the unbalanced home vs. road games in a 16-match schedule and how do you adequately determine the true champion? UTA will play four cross-divisional road matches but play only two home matches. Playing uneven road and home matches also can effect the division standings as a team that hosts a preseason favorite will have a slight advantage over a team that plays them on the road.

Anyway, before I get into the breakdown, here's how the coaches foresaw the end result of 2016.