Heated Rivalry Of Old Renewed
So when questions about the importance, intensity and magnitude of the Arkansas-Texas rivalry came up this week, they understandably passed on commenting. They were far more worried about learning their ABCs than following hoops when Arkansas defeated Texas, 120-89, in the 1991 Southwest Conference Tournament Championship Game. "You're talking about a 15-year void of playing an opponent," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "So they have no recollection of it. I'm aware of it just because I followed basketball for so many years. But I want them to be aware of it." Heath wants to educate his Hogs that when they meet Texas at 8 p.m., on Wednesday night. It will represent the renewal of a rivalry many former Hogs players and coaches considered the fiercest they ever experienced. The series dates back to 1923, when Francis Schmidt's Razorbacks dropped a pair of close contests to Doc Stewart's Longhorns. Many coaches went on to prep teams for this heated series. Names like Leon Black, Abe Lemons and Bob Weltlich come to mind on the Texas side. Others like Glen Rose, Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson carried on the tradition for Arkansas. Throughout the years, in buildings like Schmitty's Barn, Barnhill Arena, Bud Walton Arena, Gregory Gym and the Frank Erwin Special Events Center, the names of the players and coaches meant little. The only meaningful words were those on the front of the uniforms. It was, is and always will be a series fueled by the fans, fueled by their collective hatred for their counterpart. Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles learned that pretty quickly when he arrived in Fayetteville. "Whenever the two teams played, it always meant a lot more than just a basketball game," Broyles said. "It's great when the two schools play in anything. It's a great rivalry. We're neighbors, and there's a lot of bragging rights at stake." Living participators on both sides agreed the series amped up in ferocity when Lemons-coached Texas and Sutton-coached Arkansas. Then, in the late 1970s and early 80s, the sides truly showed a disdain for one another. "One memory to me about that series was during my freshman year," said Jimmy Dykes, a three-year Arkansas letterman in the early 80s and now a color analyst for ESPN and ARSN. "I remember Abe Lemons telling his kids, ‘Whoever played the worst had to stay in Fayetteville.' Our team didn't need any more encouragement but we all used that as extra fuel." Rick Schaeffer, the longtime sports information director for Arkansas basketball, recalled a fevered incident involving Sutton and Texas guard Johnny Moore. Story goes, Schaeffer said, that Moore tried to take a charge with the first-half buzzer about to sound in a 1979 game. After Moore flopped to the ground, failing to draw the foul, Sutton walked by and said, "You're too class a player for that." Lemons didn't like that at all. "Abe lit into him," Schaeffer said. "I think Eddie ended up writing an apology to Moore after that." Lemons, Schaeffer said, always seemed to get the final word, no matter the result. "His big thing, even after a loss in Fayetteville, was to say, ‘Well, at least we get to leave this place. They have to stay,'" Schaeffer said. Once Lemons and Sutton moved on, the series seemed to die down a bit. Richardson's arrival in Fayetteville brought Arkansas dominance. Sure, he lost to Texas twice during his first season. But his "40 Minutes of Hell" went on to give the Longhorns fits, especially when Tom Penders took over as Texas' coach. Penders went 1-8 against the Hogs before Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference. In 1990, Arkansas toppled Texas to advance to the Final Four. One year later, the Hogs crushed the Longhorns in the SWC title game that marked the two schools' last meeting. Consequently, Richardson didn't buy into the rivalry. He wasn't trying to be rude. He wasn't attempting to belittle those who cherished the series. He just believed that a rivalry was defined by consistent winning on both ends. In going 10-5 against Texas, he didn't experience that. "We dominated Texas so long that it wasn't really a rivalry any more than it was just another ball game," Richardson said. "Kentucky was more of a rivalry to me personally than Texas ever was. I could always see (the Texas game) was a big deal to the fans, though." So, as Texas prepares for a visit from Arkansas, Longhorns coach Rick Barnes wants to impress that on his players. He hopes they realize the emotions that others will bring into Wednesday's contest. Just like Heath. "Just being at Texas, as I would go around and speak, probably more people would talk to me about us playing Arkansas than any other school," Barnes said. "Now with current players, I don't think they understand what you're talking about. But I think the fans, especially those that have been around for quite some time, think the Texas-Arkansas game will still mean something."
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