Celebrating Black History Month February 2019

A tribute to Retha Swindell by Rodney Page.

Retha Swindell

Retha Swindell

“Retha Swindell - A Personal Tribute”

by Rodney Page


“The game starts on the defensive end.”  That was my belief and philosophy throughout my basketball coaching career.  That mindset guided me in recruiting Retha Swindell for the UT Women’s basketball team.  I first saw her play in the 1974 State Tournament in the intimate confines of Gregory Gym on the UT campus.  In many respects, she was poetry in motion with gazelle-like, fluid movements, light on her feet, with explosive quickness in acceleration and leaping.  And, she only played on the defensive end of the floor as Texas girls’ basketball was still playing half-court with 3 offensive players on one end and 3 defensive players on the other end with neither crossing center court.  Those were the times.  She was an All-Tourney selection as a junior in 1974.

 What I saw in Retha was a Bill Russell type player who potentially could greatly impact the college game with her defensive and rebounding skills, as well as her ability her to run the floor due to her track experience.  Speed, quickness, height, and wingspan were her gifts that I was certain would translate into basketball success at the collegiate level.

 A short time later I observed her at the 1974 Girls’ State Track and Field Meet at Memorial Stadium during which she set both the National and State record in the Triple Jump at 39 feet.

2 3/4 inches.  Truly, an impressive accomplishment for a gifted athlete and a special young lady.  Are you feeling what I saw?  It was more poetry in motion to watch as she made her approach down the runway to the triple jump pit with her fluid, gazelle-like stride and the explosive, well-coordinated take-off.  Can you see it? 

 Needless to say, I was excited about Retha’s performances in both the state basketball tournament and track meet.  In my mind’s eye, I was able to quickly transfer her immense track talent to the basketball court.  I envisioned her as a defensive anchor in whatever defense we played, man-man (player-player), zone, or full-court press in which she could be a basket protector as well as point the press on occasion.  And yes, we played them all.  I also knew that she could run the floor and would be a perfect fit in our preferred up-tempo style.

 Because of her innate natural talent, I assumed that she would be a force on the defensive end

of the court, and of course rebounding.   I anticipated that she would probably average around 8-10 points per game just being around the basket.  Remember, I had never seen her play offensive basketball.  Retha’s per/game averages for her 1975-76 freshman season, the only season she played for me, were as follows: 15.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 5.6 steals, and 2.8 blocks. 


An amazing, dominant performance for a player who had never played the full-court game.  Obviously, I underestimated her offensive skills — a monumental understatement.  What I have learned is that Retha’s offensive skills were developed and polished through competition with her brothers and cousins who were outstanding high school and collegiate athletes. For Retha’s freshman season, she was recognized as a Co-MVP award winner along with Cathy Steinle (Self-Morgan).   She was truly a gifted athlete with the intellect and intelligence to match.  She possessed an extremely high basketball IQ, with a knack and feel for the game which contradicted her full-court playing experience.  A few other traits stood out about Retha.  She was quiet, somewhat shy, yet extremely discerning, insightful,          intuitive, and a quick learner with a witty, dry sense of humor. 😀



The Recruiting Process

 I think you can see why I was excited about recruiting Retha to UT.  Her talent and potential were enormous, so apparent, and so obvious to those who understood the game, and had “eyes to see.”  Not only would she be an anchor, but a cornerstone as well for a quickly improving and developing program.  That was my vision and thinking at the time.

 My first contact was with her high school basketball and track coach, Dorothy Williams, in the Spring of 1974.  I shared several phone conversations and letters with Coach Williams.  I first met Retha in person at the 1974 UIL Track and Field Meet.

 Let me back up a little.  There was no recruiting budget at the time.  Letters and long-distance phone calls to Coach Williams were the primary means of communication.  There was no long-distance phone line for Women’s basketball at the time.  Leon Black, UT Men’s Basketball Coach, was gracious in offering and sharing his office phone as well as other equipment, supplies, and facilities.  The women’s budget was slim, to very limited, at the time.  I was on the hustle to elevate the program to a successful, respectable status.

Retha Swindell 2.jpeg.jpg

With Retha at Center HS Awards Ceremony, Spring 1975.

Coach Williams and I quickly developed a professional relationship based on truth and trust.  She was very much in favor of Retha attending UT.  She was aware of the overall racial significance of Retha attending UT and knew that Retha had both the academic and athletic gifts to excel at UT.  I’ve been told that Coach Williams shielded Retha from other coaches and recruiters in deference to my recruiting pursuit of her for UT Women’s basketball.  “TRUST.”  In essence, I not only recruited Retha, but also Coach Williams, and Retha’s family as well.  Considering the times, and what we were embarking upon, it was absolutely essential.  I understood the life language, in addition, I was uniquely qualified and able to address Retha’s aspirations, as well as fears and concerns that she, or her family and others, may have had.  The path of a pioneer or trailblazer is never easy, yet it is filled with significant meaning and fulfillment.  It is not for everyone.  I know the path well!  Retha Swindell had the internal strength and many other unique qualities that allowed her to successfully break a long-standing color barrier in becoming the first African-American Woman Basketball Player at UT.  It took great courage to “walk that walk” with the spirit of a pioneer and trailblazer.  She was “called” for that purpose in her life.

 Retha was also blessed with a solid support system which included a strong, positive family dynamic, caring and protective coaches, and Helen and Judy Bowers (the Bowers sisters) two Center HS teachers who served as caring mentors and advocates for Retha.  If memory serves me correctly, they were UT graduates and very much wanted Retha to attend UT. 

 In the spring of 1975, I made a recruiting visit to Center, TX (at my expense) to attend an awards ceremony at which Retha received scholarship recognition.  It was a special opportunity to meet and visit with her family, other coaches and teachers, and the Bowers sisters.  It was important and crucial for me to journey to Center, TX, Retha’s hometown and turf, to visit her family and support system.  Retha had a large family that included 10 siblings with triplet sisters in the mix.  I remember walking into Retha’s home with many of her family gathered around.  Her mother’s eyes connected with mine, with a message which seemed to say, “will you take care of and look out for my daughter?”  “TRUST”

 Another important recruiting connection was that I knew Retha’s older brother, Earl Swindell, who owned a Gulf Service Station in Houston’s Third Ward at the corner of Scott St. and


Celebration of a Great Life Coach

MacGregor Parkway.  I lived in the Third Ward while completing my high school (Jack Yates) and college (University of Houston) days.  Swindell’s Gulf Station was an occasional pit stop for me, whereas I had an uncle who lived closer and was a frequent visitor to the station and knew Earl on a friendship basis.  Connections in the community were important!  “TRUST.”  The oral history is that Swindell’s Gulf Service Station was one of the first African-American owned service stations in Houston, TX.  He owned that business for close to 40 years.  In many respects, Earl Swindell was an anchor in the community providing not only excellent service, but jobs and often financial assistance to those in need.  A true testament to the Swindell family values of “work ethic” with a strong sense of “responsibility” and “sharing.”  

 The Scholarship

 Retha was the recipient of the prestigious Texas Achievement Scholarship, a 4-year full ride to UT, based on her academic achievements in high school.  She graduated 4th in her class from Center HS where she was a member of the National Honor Society 2 years and a member of Who’s Who 4 years.  She was a true student-athlete and her excellence extended far beyond athletics.  Retha Swindell would not have been able to attend UT if not for the academic scholarship.  At the time there were no full athletic scholarships for women, only a few partials for each sport.  The financial times were lean in Women’s Athletics.


For many reasons, it was important for Retha to attend UT on an academic scholarship.  It was somewhat intentional, yes!  In truth, I preferred it to be that way.  You see, when barriers are crossed and broken so are myths, stereotypes, and erroneous beliefs.  Part of Retha’s UT journey has been to defy many of the myths, stereotypes, and erroneous beliefs about the capacity, competence, and qualifications of black athletes and people of color; academically and athletically.  There were other athletes, more than acknowledged, who were capable of attending UT, academically and not just athletically.  Of that, I am certain.  A sense of welcome and belonging were not as obvious as today, and some athletes were not willing to face the challenges and difficulties of breaking racial barriers.  The history, as well as the progress, are both undeniable.


Another aspect of the story is that two other talented black players at Panola Junior College, Debra Thomas and Pat Johnson, had agreed to play for the Lady Longhorns in the next season of 1976-77.  They had been recruited and vetted by coach Dorothy Williams and the Bowers sisters.  “TRUST.”   Debra Thomas had been a teammate of Retha’s at Center HS.  After my coaching termination, they chose to take their talents to Stephen F. Austin and play for the legendary coach, Sue Gunter.


Internal Strength:


In the fall of Retha’s sophomore year, November of 1976, tragedy struck the Swindell family.  I received a call from Retha one evening informing me that her mother had been killed in an auto accident returning home from Church.  I remember seeing Retha on campus during that time burdened with great sadness and disappointment.  I knew the sadness I had in my heart and could only imagine what Retha was carrying internally.  Obviously, during this challenging time her internal strength and composure were not only tested, but shone brightly as her academic and athletic excellence never wavered.  As you might suspect, I made another trip to Center, TX offering my support and concern for Retha and her family.  In a small way, I was answering the message of her mother’s eyes when we first met, yes, “I will look out for your daughter.”  “TRUST.”  In a recent phone conversation, Retha shared that Novembers are still tough for her.


Records, Awards, and other Achievements

Retha’s legion of achievements includes USA/International Basketball Experience on the 1978 USA Select Team which traveled to Korea, Hong Kong, China, and Japan.  She was also honored as Women’s NIT All-American in 1977-78, along with other AIAW honors for rebounding and points scored.  In the Texas Record Book, her achievements are numerous, and well documented in the areas of rebounding, scoring, and games played.  In her own humble and unassuming manner, she was truly outstanding!

 Retha was a 2001 University of Texas Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor Inductee.  In 2014, The Center High School Alumni Association recognized Retha as a Hall of Honor Award Recipient for all of her achievements.  Both Hall of Honor Awards represented achievements on and off the court.

After graduating from UT in 1979, Retha played professional basketball with the Chicago Hustle and Dallas Diamonds.  Matter of fact, at her request, I assisted in negotiating her first professional contract with the Chicago Hustle.  I was still looking out for her mother’s daughter.  It was an honor and a privilege.  “TRUST.”

Retha settled into a long teaching and successful coaching career with stops in Tyler, Pineland, and Baytown.  Her achievements included district championships, regional finalists, and twice being named “district coach of the year.”  She has recently retired from Baytown ISD and hopefully enjoying retirement.

Wilma Rudolph once said, “Sometimes it takes years to really grasp what has happened to (in) your life.”  This is often true for many.  As I look back over the 45 years I’ve known Retha, I better understand and grasp the deep meaning and significance of her journey.  I trust that she does as well.  She has played an integral role in the shifting, social landscape of Texas Longhorn Athletics History, Black History, and American History. 

I share this tribute to honor not only Retha, but also her strong family, Coach Dorothy J. Williams, Helen and Judy Bowers, and the remainder of Retha’s support network.  All, have a special place in my heart and soul.  The “Village” has always been an important dimension in the life and legacy of Retha Renee Swindell.


Rodney Page

Life Coach

February 19, 2019







’49 Longhorns: Unlikely champs almost didn’t get their chance

By Gaylon Krizak

Ten games into the 1949 baseball season, it was clear to at least one observer that Bibb Falk’s latest edition of the Texas Longhorns just didn’t measure up to its predecessors.

Granted, the bar the ’49 Longhorns faced was as high as the fence that sat atop the limestone hill that stretched across the outfield at Clark Field, Texas’ baseball home since 1928. The Steers, as the Longhorns frequently were referred to in print in those days, were going for their sixth consecutive Southwest Conference championship and their 28th in the 35-year history of the SWC.

This also was the third year of the NCAA baseball tournament, and the Texas team of 1949 appeared to have some unfinished business to attend to. With two-sport superstar Bobby Layne leading the way on the mound as a junior, the 1947 Longhorns had reached the Western Division final in Denver before losing, in what then was a single-elimination format, an 8-7 decision to eventual national champion California.

The following year, chiefly citing summer job commitments and the monthlong delay between the end of the regular season and the start of the NCAA tourney, Texas coach Bibb Falk opted to skip the tournament.

To get their own chance, the 1949 Longhorns first would have to win the SWC, since no more than one team from each conference qualified for the eight-team field (plus any teams in district playoffs needed to determine some of the participants in the tournament). And 10 games into the season, with conference play set to begin, Texas was not performing up to Texas’ standards.

As a team, the Longhorns were batting .228, including an anemic .181 against left-handers, with a staff ERA of 3.87. In the three previous years immediately following World War II, Texas had not lost more than four games in a season and had dropped just two in the entire 1948 campaign. Through 10 games, the ’49 Longhorns were 6-4, including three losses in four tries against minor-league professional teams.

The low point, arguably, came March 23 as Texas was going for a three-game sweep of Ohio State. Instead, Buckeyes lefty Dick Hess limited the Longhorns to two singles in nine innings, giving Ohio State a 5-1 victory that ended Texas’ 36-game winning streak at Clark Field against collegiate competition that dated back to 1946.

So – fittingly, perhaps – in the April Fools’ Day edition of the Austin American, staff writer Seale Doss offered this blunt assessment of the team:

“Shy at the plate, this ’49 club had been laughed off as Bibb Falk’s poorest team in years …”

Ironically, the past tense proved more prophetic than the dire pronouncement that contained it.

In hindsight, the first of the University of Texas’ 54 NCAA team championships, six of which have come in baseball, was accomplished by a team most like two that followed in its wake: the 1969 football and 1983 baseball squads. All three were great teams in their own right, but all three to this day still get unfavorably compared to their immediate, non-champion predecessors.

The ’69 football team was 11-0 and beat Arkansas and Notre Dame in two of the most memorable games in UT history. Yet many – including some players who were on both teams – claim that, by the end of the season, the 9-1-1 team in 1968 was better, its loss and tie coming in the first two games of the season while the newly created Wishbone offense was still having its kinks worked out on the fly.

The ’83 baseball team, meanwhile, won a school-record 66 games and featured a pitching staff that may have been the best in NCAA history; led by Roger Clemens, Calvin Schiraldi, Mike Capel and Kirk Killingsworth, Texas led the nation with a 2.72 ERA. All four were on the ’82 staff as well, with only Schiraldi having a markedly better season in ’83, and they led the Longhorns to (and this is no typo) a 57-4 record going into the College World Series. The Longhorns then won their first two CWS games before falling to eventual champ Miami and runner-up Wichita State.

As mentioned earlier, Falk chose not to enter the 1948 Longhorns in the tournament at all. As Weldon Hart of the Austin Statesman explained just after the ’48 season ended, there were “too many factors competing against the Longhorns.”

“The playoffs come along a month after the Southwest Conference season was over. Meanwhile the Texas team would have been disbanded for final examinations and a visit home, reassembled for only a few days of practice at best – and without several of their best players.

“Shortstop Chick Zomlefer probably will have signed a professional contract … and Pitcher Bobby Layne will be attending summer school at Texas Tech. Several players plan to go to summer school here. Others will want to report to summer jobs.

“As Coach Falk noted, it would not be possible for Texas to field the same team that won the conference championship. To do any less, he feels, would not reflect deserved credit on the University and the conference.”

A shame, since the 1948 team may well have been the best of the 25 he coached at Texas. Zomlefer, a three-time All-SWC shortstop, signed with the Baltimore Orioles – then the main farm club for the Cleveland Indians – nine days after the season ended. Layne, better known as a Hall of Fame quarterback, finished his career unbeaten in SWC games; like Zomlefer, he was a unanimous all-conference pick. The Longhorns went 18-1 against collegiate competition, losing 8-7 midseason at Baylor, and 20-2 overall.

As the 1949 Longhorns began to hit their stride, winning their first seven conference games as part of an overall 10-game streak, Falk again was forced to confront the possibility of a decision on the NCAA tournament. And, once again, as he spelled out in an April 19 piece by Austin American sports editor Jack Gallagher, Falk leaned hard toward sitting it out:

“Every year around this time I hear talk of the NCAA baseball tourney. But I don’t want any part of it.

“Look at it this way: It means a layover of over five weeks for us. It means additional expense and practically no return. It means delaying the start of professional careers for many players on the club. …

“We tried using a patched-up team at Denver two years ago and it was no go. We were out of shape; hadn’t played together in over a month.

“Bobby Layne had not pitched a ball for 30 days. He wasn’t in any kind of shape to pitch in the intercollegiate championships.

“This NCAA baseball championship is a fine thing for the Eastern and Western schools. They finish their school year about a month after us, and can move into the playoffs without sitting around for five weeks like we have to do. It’s a good thing for them, this tournament, but I wish they would keep it to themselves instead of trying to put pressure on me to get my team into it every year.”

A 10-4 rout of Baylor seemed to awaken the slumbering Texas bats. Including that 12-hit outburst, the Longhorns batted at a .318 clip and averaged 8.6 runs per game – and also won three consecutive shutouts – in their 7-0 run to open SWC play. A 14-4 pounding of Texas A&M delayed a day by rain gave Texas a three-game lead over A&M and SMU … but also, because of weather issues as well as a two-game series with Valparaiso that was on the UT schedule but not Valpo’s, turned out to be the Longhorns’ only game in a 15-day stretch.

Apparently rusty after the long layoff and playing an inspired Baylor team still hanging on in the conference race, Texas traveled to Waco and suffered 11-5 and 3-2 defeats that cut the Longhorns’ league lead to 1½ games over the Bears and Aggies with six left to play. Wins in their next four games sent Texas to College Station needing one victory in the two-game series to wrap up the SWC title; two A&M wins plus two more over last-place Rice the following week would send the trophy to Aggieland.

The Aggies kept things interesting in the opener when ace Bobby Fretz limited the Longhorns to a single run on five hits and, for good measure, hit a three-run homer in A&M’s 6-1 victory. But Texas still had its ace to play, and Murray Wall came through. He tossed a two-hitter for his eighth win in SWC play – and his third of the week – complimented by Frank Kana’s home run in a four-run seventh inning as the Steers turned the tables and wrapped up the title with a 6-1 victory of their own.

Which, had Falk had his way, would have been the end of the 1949 story. But the NCAA alleviated at least one of his postseason concerns when the District 6 committee extended its tournament invitation and told the Longhorns that they would not have to play a qualifying district playoff; instead, Texas would host one of four best-of-3 regional series for the right to take part in the third College World Series, to be held for the first (and as it turned out, last) time in Wichita. Falk put the invitation to a team vote and reluctantly accepted their decision to participate.

(As Paul Tracy of the Statesman pointed out, there may have been another reason for Falk’s curmudgeonly stance: “Another minor consideration is the fact that the Texas coach does not draw a salary after May 31. His services in postseason playoffs are definitely beyond the call of duty.”)

In any event, the Longhorns hosted Oklahoma A&M (now State), which eliminated Kansas in a three-game District 5 playoff, in the Region C series 35 days after beating Texas A&M. The Cowboys made the Longhorns work to win the opener, but Texas scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Al Joe Hunt in a 3-2 victory. The Longhorns then breezed to a 7-3 win the following afternoon and, as Wall proclaimed in the dressing room afterward, “Wichita, here we come!”

Five days later, Texas took the field against St. John’s in the opening game of a newly instituted four-team double-elimination tournament and rolled 7-1. Wall tossed an eight-hitter, and star first baseman Tom Hamilton belted two home runs for the Longhorns. The train kept rolling the next night as Texas crushed Wake Forest 8-1 behind left-hander Charley Gorin’s complete game on the mound and an offense that churned out 15 hits, including Ed Kneuper’s homer.

The Longhorns were off Friday as Wake Forest eliminated defending champ Southern California in 12 innings, setting up, if necessary, a doubleheader Saturday for the NCAA title. Texas made the twinbill completely unnecessary, overpowering three Demon Deacons pitchers for 18 hits in a 10-3 victory. Second baseman Jim Shamblin totaled five hits (including a double and a triple) for a championship-game record that twice has been equaled but remains unsurpassed. After Wake Forest tied the score at 2-2 in the home half of the fourth, Texas broke the game open with two runs in the fifth, two more in the seventh and four in the eighth, the big blow being a three-run homer by Hamilton that wrapped up the game for Texas and the tournament’s first-ever Most Outstanding Player award for him.

Hamilton’s homer capped one of the best seasons any Longhorn has enjoyed. He batted .417 and slugged .878 – including averages of .479 and .966 in SWC play – in 1949 and finished his three-year baseball career at .347/.653. He was the All-SWC first baseman in 1948 and ’49, and joined Wall on the 1949 American Baseball Coaches Association All-America first team.

He also compiled one of the best multisport careers in University history. As a freshman, he helped lead the UT basketball team to its first Final Four; three seasons later, as a senior, Hamilton was named to the 1949-50 All-SWC first team after completing his career as the school’s first 1,000-point scorer.

Wall, meanwhile, was the Longhorns’ stopper throughout the season. He was credited with eight of Texas’ 12 SWC wins and went 11-2 overall.

Hamilton and Wall led a solid UT contingent on the All-SWC baseball team that also included Kneuper (who also was on the All-America second team), Shamblin and catcher Dan Watson. None except Wall returned for the sequel in 1950, which is another story (but a good one; promise) for another time.

So what changed this from a 6-4 team being “laughed off as Bibb Falk’s poorest team in years” to a 23-7 squad that hoisted the program’s first national championship trophy?

Start with pitching. Wall, as noted, was amazing, but far from alone. Gorin (hampered by a sore arm most of the season), Jim Ehrler and Frank Womack also contributed in key spots, and joined Wall to form one of the nation’s strongest staffs in 1950 as well.

Add a touch of Falk. Injuries – particularly a fractured left thumb suffered by Watson that kept him out of most of the pre-conference schedule – among other things kept the wily veteran coach from really settling on a lineup, but his hunches generally paid off. Specifically, Falk installed Womack, almost exclusively a relief pitcher most of the season, in the leadoff spot as an outfielder starting with the regional playoff opener with Oklahoma A&M; Womack responded by batting .458 in the postseason and .563 in the CWS, earning him a spot – along with Hamilton, Kneuper, Wall, Gorin and Watson – on the unofficial all-tournament team.

Mostly, though, it was the rugged non-conference schedule that helped forge the progressively sharp batting eyes of the Texas players. The Longhorns hit .303 in SWC games, .322 in the postseason and .351 in Wichita.

Shy at the plate no longer, the 1949 Texas Longhorns bludgeoned their way into the winner’s circle, establishing a name for themselves in a program already loaded with tradition and setting a new standard that only five subsequent teams have matched.



The T-Ring was first introduced to Texas athletics during Coach Royals first season as head coach at Texas (1957).   Royal created the unique award to recognize the student-athlete who lettered and graduated from UT.  

Head coach Mack Brown embraced that tradition when he arrived at Texas in 1998 and  continued to stress its importance, often stating that the Texas experience is not complete without the T-Ring. "We're really excited about how hard our guys work in the classroom," said Brown. "Seeing them earn their degrees and pick up their T-Rings is as rewarding as all of the victories they've helped us get on the field."


In Jenna McEachern's book 100 Things.... she says  Royal paid for the rings out of his pocket.  When asked why he paid for the ring he said "The players need to know it's important to me. I want those boys who graduate, even if the only reason they do is to make the ol' SOB pay for the ring." 

Coach Akers and the T-ring

Coach Akers and the T-ring

The "'T' ring is also presented to honorary "T" men who are key benefactors and/or special individuals who have helped make Texas great but who did not graduate or letter at UT Austin. Coach Fred Akers, Coach Mack Brown, and DeLoss Dodds are a few representatives of this group. 


In 1996 the UT Athletic administration decided to present the T-ring to all qualifying athletes in all sports- not just football.  The football T-ring still is designed with a topaz color stone with the "T" in relief. The "T" ring in all other sports contains a orange stone with the "T" in relief.  



T-Ring Letterman

Bobby Gurwitz said "Having  played at The University is like a badge of honor.  I don't carry a card that says I played at Texas.  I just wear that  'T' ring that Coach Royal gave us, and that is identification enough."  

Keith Moreland stated "I've got a  National Championship ring for baseball and a World Series ring, and the  'T' ring is just as important to me as those other two."

Gene Powell -the past Chairman of the Board of Regents for the UT system- says about the T-ring.

"Billy-When I read your article this morning I quickly ran through a mental list of my early successes in life and thought about how all of them led up to my T-Ring and how the T-Ring then led to numerous other achievements ..........." "I always wear the T-Ring on my right hand and that means that I earned that ring with four long, hard, brutal years of work and that the ring came from someone all of them highly respected" (DKR).

"When I was sworn in as a Regent in the spring of 2009 it was very important to me that (a) I have my T-Ring on for the swearing in and (b) that Edith and Darrell be in attendance." .................


Article below is on TexasSports.com- The official website of UT Athletics.

June 19th, 2007

A sign of achievement

Rings are often used to commemorate a large achievement. Whether it is a class ring from high school or a National Championship ring- each have symbolic, physical, and intrinsic value. The "T  ring represents  all of these qualities.

Dallas Griffin who was named the Anson Mount Scholar/Athlete which recognizes the nation's premiere scholar-athlete, who was named to the Outland Trophy list for the nation's best interior lineman confirms his feeling about receiving the T-ring when he says:  

"I don't want to take anything away from the National Championship ring or other season rings, but this ring embodies the whole college experience for me." That is why it is so special." .


Dallas Griffin

Dallas Griffin

DKR's emphasis on the importance of the T-ring reveals a special quality in his character.  Coach Royal was committed to academics. He was convinced that his duty went beyond athletics, and it was his responsibility to make sure the players were prepared for life after football. I mean, I don't care if you were a starter or what.  That is why he hired the first Academic Counselor in the nation. While he took great pride in winning football championships, he took greater pride in the players winning their  scholastic championship. Four out of every five players who lettered for Royal graduated. 

Jack Collins, halfback, 1959-1961 learned the hard way about Royal's commitment to education. Jack says "One week--the week of the OU game--I cut a class. And I remember having to run stadium steps with Frank Medina at 6:00 in the morning.

Starting his first year at Texas in 1957,  Coach Royal made sure his athletes understood the importance of an education.  The letter below was sent to Bobby Goodwin. 

I agree with Dallas Griffin's comment that the T-ring represents the total experience of being a Longhorn athlete and student.  However, each individuals experience is different.  For me, playing football and graduating from Texas was rewarding but  difficult.  My years as a student athlete were filled with discouraging moments, setbacks, and struggles.

Frank Denius in his book On the Way captures the essence of the T-ring for many recipients.  He says "there is a purpose in our hardships, because they demand persistence and determination to overcome. Adversity and difficulty often draw out qualities in a person that otherwise might never be realized and incorporated into a useful live." 

Page Elizabeth Bauerkemper in her 2013 report titled Beyond Sports: A Guidebook for Potential Collegiate Female Student -Athletes  also confirms Franks observation.  She says " Many of the lessons and experiences that come from participation in athletics  are career transferable skills. Competing with a team improves communication, leadership skill, toughness, and reliability. Athletics teaches many life lessons, including how to try again after failure, triumph with class, and the advantages of going the extra mile. All of these skills and attributes are valued by employers and  can  enhance your career." 

Many student athletes every year overcome injuries , obstacles ,and hardships to fulfill their dreams of graduating and earning their T-Ring as a Longhorn Letterman. This group of men and women possess a special spirit, focused commitment, and an irrepressible passion to have an equity stake in the Longhorn heritage that shapes the present and empowers the future.  

As I look at my T-ring 50 years after earning it, Frank Denius and Gene Powell's words resonate with me. Looking into the burnt orange stone with the white 'T' in relief is like looking into a crystal ball that reflects my past instead of my future.  My reflection in the T-Ring confirms that overcoming hardship is an important benchmark for a successful life journey and validates my "four long, hard, brutal years of work".




                                   Billy Dale- Proud T-Ring recipient 1971 


Give him 3 refers to 3 National Champions

Click on link below to hear the Gatlin Brothers sing











Prior to the implementation of a tax exempt 501 (c) (3) in September 2018, $145,000 was raised for various Longhorns. From those donations $103, 345 was used to offer temporary financial support to 9 Longhorn teammates .

 Doctor Mark Akin signs Greg’s painting. There are 285 names on the painting, and the artwork will be auctioned off in 2019 with all proceeds donated to the TLSN tax exempt to help qualifying former Longhorns with temporary financial support.