Saturday, October 14, 2017

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 7 - Renewing an Old Rivalry

Anyone that follows the history lessons I give in This Day in UTA Football History knows that I really enjoy the rivalry games. Not that I am in a minority there, since it is a common sports saying that rivalries build sports drama. In fact, that's what I felt was a huge hit to the UTA football program, lack of rivalries.

But that wasn't the case in the later days of Arlington State College as a junior college on until the late 1960's, and both are illustrated in today's game.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 6 - Perseverance

1978 may have been the most deceptive season for the UT Arlington football program. The Mavericks entered this week 0-5, with losses to Drake, West Texas State, North Texas, Louisiana Tech and East Carolina. But, the Movin' Mavs were either one play away or had one play go wrong that contributed in every game. Every loss was by a touchdown or less. On top of it, only one loss was to Southland Conference foe, meaning every hope for an Independence Bowl bid was alive.

The year was also a very big microcosm of the the program in the 1970's save for a very big one. The team always played above its head, or at least at its level or higher. It came from an outdated philosophy from the late 1960's and early 1970's. UTA had to play harder teams to move to the higher level as the way to move up back then was to play half  the schedule against the higher level. When UTA was the first Southland Conference school to move up, the out of conference schedule had to be tougher. But by the mid-1970's, the entire SLC was playing at the highest level, so that philosophy was no longer needed.

The major difference in 1978 was that UTA played two home games in September. That accounted for 40 percent of the true home games played in the entire decade of the 1970's. It also the big reason 1978 was the best attended season in both total attendance and average in the decade. The higher attended games are always earlier in the year. In UTA's case, it also meant that by the time they played in front of the home crowd, they were out of contention or at least playing with a losing record.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Egg on my Face

So in a huge bout of user error, I have failed to post one of my favorite annual features. Today is the fifth installment of This Day in UTA Football History. Unfortunately, the first four installments didn't make it. Rather than skip them, today will be a quintuple doubleheader.

To ease confusion, I put in parenthesis the day the late installments were supposed to be posted.

Apologies to all.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 5 - Rivalry Weekend

Rivalry is the lifeblood of any sport. While there were many reasons for UT Arlington's football decline in the 1970's. There were many. I've covered it extensively here. No need to rehash them here.

I bring it up because there is one that I think gets overlooked. The lack of true rivals. Schools like UTA aren't going to attract attention like the flagship schools. They drive attendance two ways: by attracting big name schools/events or local games that attract interest.

This is evident when you look at UTA's top attended games at College Park Center. UTA has had four games top 6,000. Oklahoma University (big-name school) is number one, Cal St-Bakersfield is two (event-NIT quarterfinals), UTSA is third (event-CPC grand opening), while North Texas is fourth (rival).

Which of those is repeatable? If the Mavericks basketball team gets their wish, they won't be playing in the NIT this year. CPC can only have one grand opening. It's very apparent that big name schools won't schedule a team like UTA. But scheduling regional rivals is very repeatable. I expect this year's North Texas game to also top 6,000 and be in the top five-attended.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 4 - Continuing Excellence

It seems that the fifth volume of In This Day in UTA Football History is working backwards. I started with the 1978 season, went to the 1972 year, then last week's 1967 opener. The 1961 season is the final year that qualifies for the history series.

UT Arlington, or Arlington State College, seemed to have an upward trajectory. After winning two junior college national titles, UTA went to four-year status in 1959. That resulted in a winning 4-3 record. 1960 was even better. The Rebels finished 9-2, tied for the second best record in UTA history. One of the two losses was to a higher level school (ASC was College Division). It seemed that ASC had no limits for the football program.

ASC opened the season on the road against Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles were one of the better non-major teams. They fluttered between the University and College Division in the early 1960's, but there's no question they were a talented team.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 3 - Start of Something Special

Today is the last of three consecutive season openers I cover on This Day in UTA Football History. It came at a much different time than previous installments.

This was the first year for the University's new name. The school had been known as Arlington State College since 1949 when it was a junior college and a part of the Texas A&M system. Frustrated with the attention the "main" campus was receiving by the system. UTA was actually bigger at the time and grew restless. There was a lot behind the scenes maneuvering to get out from under the Aggie shadow. In 1965, the University joined the University of Texas system.

This year, 1967, the University debuted a new name, the University of Texas at Arlington. They were still known as the Rebels, but the newly-named UTA squad was bolstered by the optimism of the time.

UTA FB Vol. 5 Gm. 2 - Brick Wall

In the second installment of this year's UT Arlington football history lesson, we look at the 1972 season. In order to maintain the surprise, I can't relate the significance of this season. What I will do is set the table.

UTA had just made the jump to the University Division from the College Division the previous year, the equivalent of going from Division II to DI today. It is perhaps the most disastrous jump in the history of the NCAA. I have yet to see a case study worse than UTA's.

The final College Division season was winless. They just moved to a baseball stadium off campus. That meant there were very few September home games. There was no improvement in funding. The schedule got tougher while the talent was the same or even less. There was no momentum for the program in any respect. No other sport was competitive. There was zero winning culture in the Athletic Department - UTA won zero conference championships in the 1970's.