That hidden fact is what gives this game the most meaning. Today's entry is the last season opener for Coach Elliott. He was entering the season in the last year of his final contract. After winning the SLC crown in 1981, he was given a two-year extension, pretty standard for UTA at the time. But it wasn't a unanimous decision. He had two winning seasons out of eight and there was some acrimony over whether he had the ability to lead the program to further heights.
There was going to be increased expectations after 1981. UTA had recently been forced to drop to the now six-year old Division 1-AA (called FCS today) for the 1982 season. The drop was both a blessing and a curse. UTA as a department was in over its head at that point in its final year at the highest level. In chasing the dream to stay in Division 1-A (FBS), UTA had to do a lot, most of it just beyond its grasp.
At the time, the NCAA required team in 1-A to do one of two things.
The first was to average 17,000 in football attendance. UTA had never had an attendance average in the five figures. It's highest attended year was 9,200 in 1967, followed by 9,190 in 1968. The 1970's were much worse, with as little as 2,987 in 1974 and a high of 6,676 in 1979.
The second NCAA rule was the way around averaging 17,000 - sponsor at least 12 different sports. "So what," you say. "They sponsor 14 sports now with 15 on the horizon next year," you say. Well, back then, womens sports were not part of the NCAA, but rather under the AIAW umbrella. So figure the seven mens sports the University sponsors now, plus five more, plus the womens sports, and it was clear that UTA, a school that had to be frugal to begin with, was stretched financially.
Dropping to I-AA meant the sponsorship requirement was gone. UTA added weightlifting, men's volleyball, tennis, pistol shooting and fencing (remember that 1981 Southland Conference championship, I'm sure). Only tennis stuck around after the requirement was no longer needed.
That is crucial to the football program because it meant those resources would go back to them. UTA would finally be able to offer as many scholarships as its conference peers. The recruiting budget would be expanded as well.
I think that may have been one of the biggest factors in Coach Elliott's dismissal. The expectations had grown, perhaps unrealistically. An injury-plagued year in 1982 was the prime reason for a 3-8 record. The 1983 team obviously didn't perform (you'll see that as the series progresses). But the 1984 team went 7-4, primarily with Coach Elliott's players. I've detailed the sloppy game-play during his tenure before, so I'm not going to say the dismissal was unjust. But maybe he could have built a winner at the 1-AA level with more resources. Or maybe he could recruit and not call a game. Maybe he could, but couldn't adequately game plan. Maybe his UTA luck was just bad. He was 68-49-2 at Eastern New Mexico, his last coaching gig, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Part of Coach Elliott's issue was he started seasons poor. He was 2-7 in season openers prior to this one. Much like UTA's time at Arlington Stadium, the Coach Elliott had a poor record in September, owning a UTA record of 9-27. The 1979 squad was the only one of his ten UTA teams to have a .500 or better record in the ninth month of the year. He was 37-37 in all other months.
In essence, September was why he was fired, in more than one way. Had he maintained a .500 record over that month, he would have had several more winning seasons. For example, the 1978 squad was 5-6 overall, but 0-5 in September.
The second reason September did him in was the lose of hope among a shrinking fan base. One of the reasons the Athletic Council and Athletic Director Bill Reeves gave was the loss of support. "But just as important [as the win-loss record] was that the majority of the community had lost confidence in our program," Reeves said, following news of Elliott's dismissal. Hard to get behind a team that is constantly losing to start a season.
With that note, on this Day in UTA Football History, Coach Harold "Bud" Elliott begins the 1983 season by hosting Western Michigan at Maverick Stadium.
W. Michigan wins, 21-14, as UTA's late rally failsBy Jan Hubbard
Staff Writer of the News
Entertainment was in short supply Saturday night at Maverick Stadium - at least during the first half. The biggest thrill during the first 30 minutes was listening to a local public figure, whose voice boomed from the speakers.
In the second half, however, the focus shifted from U.S. congressman Tom Vandergriff - the announcer on the public address system - to the field.
Unfortunately for the Mavericks of the University of Texas at Arlington and the home crowd of 7,023, the more exciting second half brought a 21-14 victory for the Western Michigan Broncos.
On fourth down and 20 from the Broncos 38-yard line with 47 seconds left in the game, UTA quarterback Ned Frederick and center Mark Cannon misfired on a quick snap, resulting in a fumble that was recovered by Western Michigan's Jack Giarmo. The Broncos ran out the clock and escaped with a victory in the season opener for both teams.
The Mavericks had driven 34 yards and had a first down on the Broncos' 28-yard line in their last series. But three plays - a sack, a 3-yard running gain and a 7-yard loss on a screen pass - left UTA with a difficult situation that ended in failure.
"I was trying to get it off quick," said Frederick. "We were going on 'one' and I was going to make a quick drop. I guess I goosed him (Cannon) a little bit and he thought I wanted the ball. It was miscommunication. We both looked at each other kind of funny."
Those may have been the only funny looks of the night. UTA head coach Bud Elliott was furious after the-game, and he wasted few words in his postgame speech. He was so upset and so loud that his voice could be heard outside the dressing room.
"I think it's pretty obvious I was not pleased at all with our offense," said Elliott, who used three quarterbacks in an effort to get the Mav offense moving. "Our defense gave us all kinds of opportunities in the first half and we didn't do anything about it. I thought we got some answers defensively and I think we'll be a pretty good defensive football team. And we'll be better offensively before the season is over."
The Mavs did little right in the first half, but neither did Western Michigan. UTA got interceptions from George Holmes and David Patterson, but, as Elliott said, the offense could do nothing.
Neither team moved past midfield in the first quarter and a scoreless tie seemed a likely halftime result.
But on a fourth down from the Western Michigan 45, freshman redshirt punter Andy McCarter shanked a punt which went for a 2-yard loss, putting the Broncos at their own 47.
"It was just a lack of concentration," said McCarter. "I just hit it off the side of my foot. That's never happened in my life. I guess it was just fate tonight."
The Broncos took advantage of the opportunity and drove 53 yards for the first touchdown of the night. Shawn Faulkner got the score from the one with 18 seconds left in the half.
The Mavericks woke up at the beginning of the second half, however. On the first play from scrimmage, Scotty Caldwell circled left end for 54 yards to put the Mavericks at the Broncos' 26. They scored three plays later on a 21-yard run by Frederick.
The score stayed at 7-7 until the fourth quarter. The highlight to that point had been the rushing match between Faulkner, who ended the game with 170 yards on 38 carries, and Caldwell, who finished with 142 yards on 14 carries.
Western Michigan scored two touchdowns in the final period, however, on a 6-yard run by Faulkner and a 5-yard pass from Steve Hoffman to Kelly Spielmaker, offsetting a 63-yard TD run by UTA's Caldwell.
"We lost the ball game in the first half," said Elliott, "not the second half. That's a pretty good football team. It's no disgrace to lose to them. But at the same time, we've got to please ourselves."
And Elliott and the Mavericks obviously were not pleased Saturday night.
W. Michigan ... 0 7 14 6 - 21
UTA ............... 0 0 7 7 - 14
WMich-Shawn Faulkner 1 run (Mike Prindle kick)
UTA-Ned Frederick 21 run (Scott Tennison kick)
WMich-Kelly Spielmaker five pass from Steve Hoffman (Prindle kick)
WMich-Faulkner 6 run (Prindle kick)
UTA-Scotty Caldwell 63 run (Tennison kick)
First downs........................16 9
Passing yards.....................82 33
Return yards.......................10 39
Penalties-yards 12-105 4-40
Time of Possession 35:27 24.33
RUSHING - WMichigan: Shawn Faulkner 38-181, Cliff Reed 5-18, Chris Conklin 2-1, Kirk Barterian 7-26, Steve Hoffman 5-2; UT-Arlington: Scotty Caldwell 14-142, Ned Frederick 9-43, Robert Brodner 5-23, Kraig Hopkins, 6-0, Willie Meredith 1-2, Robert Johnson 5-9, Danny Jackson 1-0.
PASSING - W Michigan: Steve Hoffman 8-13-3-76 1 TD, Chris Conklin 1-2-0-6; UT-Arlington: Ned Frederick 3-4-1-24, Kraig Hopkins 0-4-1-0, Danny Jackson 1-2-0-9.
RECEIVING - WMichigan: Todd Fleck 2-9, Kurt Barterian 2-37, Steve Moore 2-20, Kelly Spielmaker 3-16; UT-Arlington; Jon Dyer 1-20, Scotty Caldwell 3-13;