State of the Hogs: Texas Phobia

Texas players from the 1969 Shootout will be introduced at halftime during a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of the Game of the Century between the Hogs and 'Horns. Not everyone is happy about the thought of Longhorn players being introduced at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Whenever the University of Texas is mentioned, the blood pressure rises for Arkansas fans. I'm only 50, but from what I can tell, it's been like that for the better part of a century.

Burnt orange is the one color that makes the Razorback Nation see red. It's a phobia of sorts, I guess. Phobia may be the wrong word since phobia suggests fear. Hatred may be a better word. And, maybe it's a misguided phobia since the Hogs are now in the Southeastern Conference and don't play Texas on a regular basis in anything. But make no mistake, that phobia still exists.

Even my 22-year-old daughter loved telling me about her drive to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series to see Arkansas play Texas. She said she enjoyed her many chances to give the downward Hook ‘em Horns sign to any car with a Texas license plate also headed north on Highway 71.

So it's probably not hard to understand that a great number of folks are upset, perhaps even outraged, that a ceremony planned for the halftime of the Arkansas-Texas game this football season to pay tribute to the Great Shootout of 1969 will include a handful of Texas players from that game.

Chuck Barrett's SportsRap radio show of Wednesday night touched on this plan. Not surprisingly almost every caller during a red-hot, two-hour stretch of the show expressed disappointment in the UA's decision to allow Longhorn players to be recognized in any form or fashion. Some promised to quit giving to the Razorback Foundation. Others said they will skip the game in protest. I may not agree with those thoughts, but I'm not surprised.

Again, I think it's a Texas phobia more than anything. We hate all things Longhorn. It's bred into us. Maybe it's time we get over this phobia. I don't know. It's wrong to hate, but I understand it.

What I also understand is that this ceremony could produce an ugly scene. There are many who think it should be rethought. Do we really want to put any Texas players on the field? It's a good bet there will be at least some boos. Perhaps boos will dominate.

Lord knows what could happen if James Street, Ted Koy or any of the other former Longhorn stars decide to display a Hook ‘em ‘Horns sign. They may have more than boos hurled at them.

It's not just fans who object to recognizing anything UT on the field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Former players have objected, too. Some of them have phoned and emailed them to my office. They say they will now skip that game because a Longhorn team which beat the Hogs will be honored.

Chuck Dicus, president of the Razorback Foundation and a star on the ‘69 UA squad, said it's not that the Longhorns will be honored. He said it's more of a tribute to a game, or an event, than to a team.

"It's an event in the history of college football that some would argue is the best ever," Dicus said. "It's been called the Game of the Century. All eyes were on Fayetteville, Arkansas. It's the (35-year) anniversary of the game. We thought it would be good to include members of the other team. It's not about who won or lost the game."

It is to some. In fact, it is to many. Why do you celebrate a game the Hogs lost and a game that set Texas on a run of two straight national titles?

Dicus played in the game. Maybe he can explain that best.

"We have to get past the fact that we lost that day," Dicus said. "It was tough for me to get past it. It took me a long time. I know some of my teammates have never gotten past it. But they need to. If there are fans out there that haven't gotten over the fact we lost, they need to get past it, too."

Everyone agrees there is nothing wrong with celebrating the fact that the Hogs played in the Game of the Century. That's easy enough to see. The ‘69 Hogs were an outstanding team. And, they did play for the national championship, or at least a right to play in the Cotton Bowl to wrap up a national title. Could it be done without Texas players being introduced?

"I don't object to them being invited to the game, just don't put them on our field," said a member of the ‘69 UA squad. "We are going to have a dinner Friday night and I think (Texas representatives) can be there if they want to be there. But I just think putting them on our field isn't the way to go about the celebration. I do not recall one of our teams which beat Texas being invited to come into their stadium. They wouldn't do it, and we shouldn't do it."

The Hogs' 1964 champions will be honored later in the year, at a halftime ceremony during the Alabama game in Fayetteville. Forty years ago, that team beat a top-ranked Texas team.

Interestingly, to my knowledge, no Texas players will be there on that day. I do not know if any were invited, but I doubt they'd come if they were invited. (That Texas team ought to be invited. Afterall, the ‘Horns did beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl to clinch the Hogs' national title in ‘64.)

Dicus said that members of the ‘64 UA squad were consulted about the plans, organized by Dicus and Bill Montgomery, for the halftime of the Texas game.

"We discussed the different options and it was decided that the only way to do it was to have the event for the Game of the Century for the Texas game since that is the only way we could get members of the Texas team from that game to come to Fayetteville," Dicus said. "It didn't make much sense to have them come back for a different game and the members we talked to from the ‘64 team understood."

Some understood, but not all. Some of those ‘64 squad members may never understand.

"We beat Texas and I still don't want any of those guys on our field," said one star from the ‘64 Hogs. "I can't stomach it. Just can't. I don't think they are going to have our bunch come down to Austin and lead us out to the 50-yard line. I just don't believe we are doing this."

It's going to be hard to hold back the boos. It's going to be difficult to keep Arkansas fans from raising their arms high with a downward Hook'em Horns sign if and when any Longhorns are led out onto the field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

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