Posts Tagged ‘Football’

College Football Playoffs: A Very Simple Model

January 2, 2011

Dem Frogs Made All the Cockroaches Proud!

First of all congratulations to the TCU Horned Frogs of 2010 for once more fulfilling the ancient warnings of former UT Coach Darrell Royal; “Like cockroaches, it’s not what the Horned Frogs come in and haul away that hurts, it’s what they fall into and mess up that causes all the pain.”

Yesterday the Frogs of TCU fell into the “Granddaddy of ‘Em All,” the Rose Bowl and messed it up for Mighty Wisconsin, the Big Ten, and all other supporters of the big time power school football system that stands in the way of all little guy schools from ever having anything more than the once-in-a-purple-moon chance at winning big that fell to little TCU on the first day of 2011. The system still succeeded in keeping TCU away from the main banquet hall and the so-called national championship game. Those exclusive seats were reserved for two of the undefeated good old boys of Auburn and Oregon at a site and date down the road.

It’s time for taking the bowl setup and converting it away from the total snoozer they’ve ll become and reinvesting a few games with the fervor of a playoff. Here’s a simple model for doing a 16-club playoff, using the best paying bowls as the way to get there. For models, I am using the 16 top rated BCS clubs from 2010 and this past month’s calendar to set the thing up. The leftover bowls can simply fill their dance cards with all the “bowl eligible” 6-6 clubs they can dig up. They will be no worse off under this new plan than they were under the dull and deadly system in place now.

Round One: Friday & Saturday, December 17-18, 2010:

Friday, Dec. 17

(1) Insight Bowl, Tempe, AZ ($3.25m) #1 Auburn vs. #16 Alabama (Bama gets a second chance)

(3) Holiday Bowl, San Diego, CA ($2.075m) #3 TCU vs. #14 Oklahoma State

(5) Pinstripe Bowl, New York, NY ($2.00m) #5 WIsconsin vs. #12 Missouri

(7) Chick-fil-A Bowl, Atlanta, GA (3.35m)  #7 Oklahoma vs. #10 Boise State

Saturday, Dec, 18

(2) Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, TX ($3.125m) #2 Oregon vs. #15 Nevada

(4) Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, FL ($2.225m) #4 Stanford vs. #13 Virginia Tech

(6) Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX ($2.05m) # 6 Ohio State vs. #11 LSU

(8) Outback Bowl, Tampa, FL ($3.4m) #8 Arkansas vs. #9 Michigan State

Round Two, Friday & Saturday, December 24, 25:

The surviving eight clubs play each other down to the four who will meet in two major bowls on New Years Day, 2011.

Round Three, Saturday, January 1, 2011:

These two bowls will determine our two finalists.

Round Four, Saturday, January 8, 2011:

The National NCAA Football Championship Game.

Notes: Don’t get hung up on the payoffs listed above or the actual dates of play. The schedule could be adjusted to accommodate equitable payoffs and rotating participation by bowls that ante up from year to year – and the schedule of games could be worked away from Christmas the NFL as much as possible. The point of this exercise is simply to show that a playoff system is workable. Teams that win have to play more games, but, of course, they get a bigger payday for winning than they do now. Pro rata pay to other NCAA schools could also be included as another incentive for general support.

Bottom Line: We could have a system that generates interest – and not just a regeneration of power and money for the few who now control college football with the BCS and traditional bowl game set up.

What’s your preference? Change? Or the status quo?

That First AFL Championship Game

December 30, 2010

January 1, 1961: A half century ago - and I was there to see it.

It was January 1, 1961 and, ah yes, I remember it well!

In their first year among the other founding partners in the new American Football League, the Houston Oilers were preparing to take on the Los Angeles Chargers in the first ever new professional football conference’s championship game at Jeppesen (now Robertson) Stadium on the University of Houston campus. And I was there with my girl friend, Sandy, to take it all in. We were young and fresh out of UH as new Cougars on the Houston job market back then, but we were able to obtain affordable tickets on about the north end 20 yard line in the preferred sun-at-our-backs west grandstands – in spite of that now seemingly dire financial fact.

What was the bare bones of that money fact? Well, as a 1960 psychology graduate, and waiting on an affordable opportunity for graduate school at Tulane, I was getting paid $339 a month as a full-time family case worker at what was then known as DePelchin Faith Home and Children’s Center here in Houston. Sandy was doing what most young women did with college training in 1960. She was not working as a teacher or nurse, so she had taken a job as a legal secretary. Of course, this was the era in which guys were expected to pick up the tab on all social outings, anyway, and, make no doubt about it, going to see the first AFL championship game of a half century ago was 99% my need and idea. Our female partners back in that day simply did not speak up and say, “Hey, Boob! Why don’t you make sure we get tickets for that first major sport championship game in Houston history!”

January 1, 1961: Our Game Faces Were On! You also dressed up for big games back then.

The game was great and quite exciting. The weather started brisk, but seemed to heat up with the action on the field before the 32,183 capacity crowd that showed up to view the biggest sporting event to that time in Houston history. “Old Jepp” was the Oilers’ home field during the 1960 inaugural season under Coach Lou Rymkus as Quarterback George Blanda and LSU Heisman Trophy Winning Running Back Billy Cannon led the baby-blue-sky adorned Oilers through their half of the first major championship season. Now all the men in blue had to do was knock off the visiting impostors from the West Coast to grab hold of the big boast that our Houston would be the permanent home to the first AFL football kings.

For those who stayed home that day, the first AFL championship game was being televised over ABC-TV with Jack Buck handling the play-by-play and George Ratterman and Les Keller handling the analyst/color roles. Forget instant replay and watching the game on a VCR later. There was no such thing back in 1961. You either saw it live or missed it completely.

The pre-San diego Chargers gave the Oilers all they could handle.

The Oiler offense sputtered in the first quarter as the Chargers’ Ben Agajanian banged home field goals of 38 and 22 yards for a 6-0 Los Angeles lead.

A 17-yard TD pass from George Blanda to Dave Smith early in the second quarter drew first blood for the Oilers, pulling the club ahead, 7-6, but that advantage failed quickly when Agajanian kicked another field goal from 27 yards to put the Chargers back on top by 9-7. A George Blanda field goal of 17 yards would put the Oilers ahead at halftime by 10-9.

The afternoon and our Houston fan appetite for winning went into halftime with a decided hot flash for the idea of winning it all.

#20 Billy Cannon racks up another gain on the ground.

The Oilers added some breathing room in the third quarter when QB George Blanda capped a drive hitting receiver Bill Groman in the end zone from 7 yards out for a 17-9 expansion on the lead. LA came back with a drive capped by a Paul Lowe dive run that again narrowed the Charger deficit to a single point at 17-16.

Going into the fourth quarter it was still anybody’s game at 17-16 Oilers and we all began to feel that curious teeter-totter between joyous hope and dreadnought fear of something going terribly wrong. Fortunately for Houston fans, the realization of dreadnought fears was little more than the hint of Houston’s future back in 1961.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the ball on the 12-yard line down near the south end zone, Oiler QB Blanda dumped a little pass off to RB Billy Cannon on the right side. Cannon took it on the fly and poured his heels into g-force traction. He took off down the sideline, coming our way on the other side of the field, and leaving all pursuers in the dust. Just as he once had done to Ole Miss while at LSU in 1959, Billy Cannon had stunned a foe and done the deal.

Our 32,183 voices roared as one. With little time remaining in the game, Houston now led 24-16 and we were on our way to our first citywide celebration of something that felt like a world championship.

After the game, many of us went to Valian’s for pizza. What better way to commemorate a championship. We poured pepperoni and anchovies all over the thing.

Now I’m just glad to be around long enough to remember things that happened in Houston a half century ago.

In spite of all the bad things people have learned to say about you since that time, Bud Adams, thanks for acting upon a dream that made big league sports in Houston available to the rest of us. And thank you, “Old Jepp,” for lasting this long as a daily reminder of Houston’s salad days in big time sports. It will be too bad for local history if UH decides to take apart all of your architectural exterior in the construction of its new venue on your current site.

Happy New Year and Fondest Memories, Houston! – And remember too – our best days are still out there – still yet come! Let’s all try to hang around for the party, OK?

About That Pearland Oilers Trick Play

December 19, 2010

First of all, roll out the congratulations this morning to the Pearland Oilers high school varsity football program. Last night up in Arlington and Jerry Jones’s Cowboy Stadium, the Oilers defeated the Euless Trinity Trojans, the defensing state champions and currently ranked “best high school team in the nation,” to take the 5A Division I Texas state championship by the eke-out score of 28-24.

Pearland did it with heart, talent, and a dose of trickery that even fooled Fox Sports, the network that ostensibly was handling the telecast of the game state-wide. As it turned out, Fox got almost all of it on live camera. They missed about 15 critical seconds in the third quarter, so thank God for replay capacity. Even with replay, it still left me feeling slightly cheated.

No doubt the DVD of this game will serve Fox as a tutorial for all new and some current game action directors on what not to do in the interest of absorbing colorful sideline stories into the coverage. You never know during those lull parts of a game when something may happen you’ve never seen before – and may never see again. And that’s exactly what happened last night. In a play that came off as a trick sleeper play, the Oilers of Pearland scored a touchdown that eventually proved to be the difference between the disappointment of defeat and the joy of a state crown on they eventually rode on the back of a perfect 16-0 season record.

With a little less than seven minutes to go in the third quarter, and leading 14-10, Pearland was driving, with a first down on their own 46 yard line. That’s when Fox cut to the stands for a report on why certain male Euless Trinity students had decided to go shirtless and paint their chests patronizingly on the occasion of this cold weather game. (DUH, FOX! It was indoors! They’re adolescent males! What do you expect them to do, act like mature adult FOX executives? And where was all your journalistic training about story line in that director’s apparent (i.e., “Dog Bites Man = no story. Man bites dog = story.) Had they been female students doing the same thing, you might have had a shocking sideline sidebar piece, but you had nothing there in these typically adolescent young men to justify missing one of those once in a lifetime plays that hardly ever happen,

Here’s what we missed. It’s better told with pictures here. Sorry that I have no way to run it as a video clip, but just catch your local news today – and YouTube by no later than tonight. The action view should be all over the world by then:

Above Photo: Pearland (in white) center Derek Hoffpauir snaps the ball to QB Trey Anderson. Receiver Sam Ukwuachu is in motion off-camera, lower left, but all other Pearland players are perfectly still. Taking their cue from the still guys, ten of the Euless Trinity defenders just stand there too. The only defender to figure it out early is the back covering Ukwuachu. He goes in motion to guard against what’s to come, but he has no help.

Above Photo: Pearland QB Anderson lulls the time away, just giving his receiver the time he needs to get down the field and past the lone defender. Meanwhile, the Euless Trinity boys mostly just stand around too, feeding on the narcotic stillness of the the Pearland magicians. This play is “misdirection” in its most extreme form.

Above Photo: QB Anderson cocks his arm for the calmly calculated launching. In the still of the night, the Euless Trinity players continue to just stand and watch, along with most of their Pearland actor counterparts. By this time, the sight of Anderson’s arms going way back, at least,  must arouse a thought as singularly simple as this one among some of the Trinity boys: “Wonder what he’s doing?”

Above Photo: Euless Trinity players: “Holy Lost Cause! He’s throwing a forward pass! Wake us when it’s over!”

Above Photo: Pearland wide receiver slips by the lone Euless Trinity defender and prepares to glide under the catch near the 20. He will take it in fully at the 16 and waltz home home easily from there. By now, the rest of the Euless Trinity team is moving, but it is way too little and far too late for the Trojans to prevent disaster. Alarm clocks and snooze buttons are not much help in football either.

Above Photo: The catch comes home and the race is on.

Above Photo: “Bye, Bye, Baby, Goodbye!” Ukwuachu heads for the house and a 20-10 Pearland lead. Officially, the play covers 54 yards at 6:41 left on the clock in the 3rd quarter, but it covers the whole big 5-A championship game with the added art of deception, proving itself ultimately to be the difference-maker we described earlier.

Above Photo: With Pearland becoming the first team to break bread in the end zone on a trick play of all trick plays in the second half, that score you see above you is about to change to Pearland 21 – Euless Trinity 10.

Above Photo: With 6:41 to go in the 3rd quarter, Pearland has taken a 21-10 lead. Each club will score seven points in the fourth quarter, but this play throws all the momentum behind Pearland and, as we are starting to say redundantly, it also transcends as the final difference in scoring. Euless Trinity plays well, but they get a taste of one of life’s most important crueler lessons: Sometimes life isn’t fair and things are not always what they seem. All we can do is stay alert, try to learn from our errors and disappointments, and hope we do better the next time. The same set of lessons are available to the Fox Sports Network.

Above Photo: Here’s a picture of Fox’s live coverage during the precious seconds that the sleeper play is unfolding live. Fox makes up for the brain-freeze with ample opportunities to see the trick again on replay, but even though that’s cool, it still isn’t the same as seeing something in the moment it actually unfolds.

Oh well, nobody’s perfect, Better luck next time, Fox. And you better save this game for your in-house training sessions. Most of the time, you guys do a great job. In fact, everything else came off like clockwork last night. Or so it seemed.

All Time Big College Football Champs

October 19, 2010

"Run, UH, Run! - You've got a lot of ground to cover to ever catch the big guys on this list!"

When you think about it for five seconds, is it really a big surprise as to which schools are in the running for a national championship in big-time college football every season? Just follow the scent of money, alumni power, and the support of the broadcasting networks, advertisers, and other marketing forces of the American body politic and it all comes out in rolling tides of gator chomps and horns that hook ’em.

The following group is a top ten school list of those universities that won the most national football championships from pollsters since 1901. If we were to start this list from the first awards of national recognition from 1869 forward, the leader-board would also contain a tinge of Ivy League, but we chose to ignore that earlier era here for the sake of keeping this list more in contact with the reality of how the college game is played today.

Here’ what we found:

Big School College Football Championships (1901-2009):

(1) Alabama – 13

(2t) Michigan – 11

(2t) Notre Dame – 11

(2t) USC – 11

(5) Pittsburgh – 9

(6t) Ohio State – 7

(6t) Oklahoma – 7

(8t) Michigan State – 6

(8t) Minnesota – 6

(8t) Tennessee – 6

Two Others of Local Interest …

LSU – 4 (1908, 1958, 2003, 2007)

Texas – 4 (1963, 1969, 1970, 2005)

The whole article on past championships going back to 1869 is very interesting. Simply cut and paste the following link to your address live and check it out. …

If we go back to include schools that mainly did their trophy-winning in the 19th century, Princeton (28) and Yale (27) rise to the top of the heap above all others. These Ivy League schools are disqualified here for having used true student athletes to rack up all the honors from those earlier era, very misinformed pollsters as to what is really important in life, especially to the extent that honesty and integrity should have anything to do with intercollegiate athletic competition.

Alma Mater Fidelity

October 10, 2010


Freshman David Piland Gets "Baptism Under Fire" at QB for UH.


The Houston Cougars ended their 18-game home winning streak last night before 32,067 fans at Robertson Stadium by falling decisively to the bigger, faster, more experienced  and hungrier Mississippi State Bulldogs, 47-24.

UH Coach Kevin Sumlin continued his search for a successor to the ill-fated and career-finished hopes of former star Case Keenum by inserting his other true freshman QB prospect into the game in the form of young David Piland. Piland did OK, but his two TD passes were more than off-set by two interceptions, one of which led to a fatal touchdown run back near the halftime mark that left the Cougars in a 33-10 hole at the mid-game break.

The other freshman QB, Terrance Broadway, got in the game long enough near the end to throw a 17-yard TD pass to Isaiah Sweeney with 4:36 to go, preventing the game from become the most lopsided loss in Coach Sumlin’s three-year history at UH.

We Cougars took the disappointment in stride and moved on. After case Keenum went down forever as a UH Cougar in the UCLA game of Sept. 18th, none of us were really surprised by last night’s outcome. Few clubs at the college level are deep enough to survive the loss of their only superstar with any hopes of the season playing out as the final realization of their  once great expectations.And UH is no different from the rest in that regard.

For UH, major victory on the gridiron remains more of a hope and a distant memory than it is an actual realization. UH’s 37-7 win over Michigan State at East Lansing in 1967, that 30-0 shutout of UT at Austin in 1976, and the 17-14 thumping of Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl jump to mind, but none of those wins happened recently and all were against big name teams that aren’t likely hot to play the UH Cougars again anytime soon.


A few UH plays worked well early against MSU last night.


Today’s piece isn’t really about last night’s game, or even about becoming a team that is perfect enough to to win a national championship or stay in the hunt for one at any cost, every year, including especially the cost of young futures that sometimes get thrown into the fires of  ambition fanned by the universities and their wealthy alumni.

Today’s question is simply: Why be loyal at all to the universities that gave so many of us a good start in life? And, more complexly, why celebrate that loyalty by throwing so much of our support into paying for the athletic programs, especially the lucrative football and basketball programs?

From a money standpoint, the first question speaks for itself and the second virtually answers itself. We are indebted to the university as one of the great givers in our lives. We are loyal to our university’s sports teams because of the complex identity we share with the university and all others who gone there as we did and who have also come out into the world as Cougars, Longhorns, Aggies, Owls, and the like. We carry it even further by incorporating the colors, emblems, hand-signs, and slogans of our group into a ritual show of affiliation by our mode of dress and behavior.

Has anyone ever heard the guy whose luxury care horn plays “The Eyes of Texas?”

Look! I’m not going egghead on you this morning, but for me, it works something like this. I can’t really speak for anyone else: (1) I not only did my undergraduate work at UH, but I also grew up only two miles from the campus. UH always was, and always will be, part of who I think I am – a kid from the East End of Houston who caught an early  break and worked his way into a slightly larger world of possibility and opportunity through a door-opener on higher education. And that open-door, as long as I was willing to both work at my studies and also support myself by working at whatever honest student job I could find, was the University of Houston.

(2) My affiliation with UH’s athletic programs was an easy fit for me. Sports are a way of defining our successes and failures in measurable terms that often are blurred or simply expunged from everyday life matters due to certain politically correct factions that would prefer we behave as though “winning does not matter.” Of course, winning matters. If it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t have all these companies, including NASDAQ, manufacturing scoreboards and all the other kinds of scorekeeping equipment.

(3) I say the scoreboards are for measuring progress, not perfection. If they are merely measurements of perfection, than all college sports fans are doomed to the disappointment that Alabama suffered yesterday because of their 35-21 loss to South Carolina. Perfection says: “So what if you won the national championship last year? You didn’t win yesterday! And that makes you imperfect and, de facto, no good!”

By my standards, the UH loss to Mississippi State last night was simply a toll both on the road to progress, just part of the price of getting better as the team searches for somebody who has a chance of growing into Case Keenum’s shoes at Quarterback. Our UH goal is always, “in time” (our longtime university motto) to get better. – We show improvement by learning from everything that turns out painful on the road to progress – just as we hope to learn from our disappointments in everyday life.

(4) We watch college sports also because they are fun to watch. It’s not much fun watching researchers working on a new health care vaccine, or math theory., but I also believe that our dedication to pure progress includes financial donations to our universities and their academic programs to the extent that we can afford to do so.


"All Hail to Thee, Our Houston - University!"


(5) Alma Mater. Always Faithful. Everything hinges on the important ongoing relationship of fidelity and trust between a university and its alumni. Both should be conscious of the need to take care of each other by mutual effort – and not be turning the entire reciprocal act of mutual caring into another wasteful play of institutional entitlement.

The only entitlement here belongs to the students. Students are entitled to the best academic opportunity the university can provide them without any exploitation of the student’s funds or talent resources,

At any rate, that’s how I see my relationship to my alma mater, the University of Houston. Last night’s football loss to MSU was simply another painful toe-stumper on the road to progress with larger goals and accomplishments for us all in the wider, deeper scheme of things to come.

Have a happy 10-10-10, everybody!

Top Ten Reasons Why The Astros Have a Better Chance of Reaching the World Series Than the Texans Do of Reaching the Super Bowl.

January 24, 2010

Drayton McLane, Houston Astros.

10. The Astros don’t have to worry about finding a running game. If there’s any running to be done, the Astros have Michael Bourn.

9. The Astros play their games in Minute Maid Park, which already saw a World Series in its sixth year of play. The Texans, however, play their games at Reliant Stadium, which has only seen the Carolina Panthers play there and the New England Patriots win there in a Super Bowl. Reliant is also too close to the moribund and without-a-Super-Bowl-action-champion-site-of-any-kind as the Astrodome for over forty years,

8. The Astrodome and Reliant Stadium are rumored to have been built on the site of a Native American burial ground. Minute Maid Park was built on the site  of the former Union Station, a ground walked upon by every major champion from all sports and all walks of life in the 20th century who ever visited Houston.

7. Lightning regularly strikes Minute Maid Park at 3:00 AM following every Astros home-stand opening game win. These events are usually followed by double-digit win streaks by the Astros and instant wealth and social good fortune for all fans who happened to have been sitting in the area of the ballpark that was later that night struck by lightning.

6. Relative to each other geographically in Houston, the Astros are located to the north and the Texans are situated to the south. As everybody who has studied history already knows, the North always wins. Right?

Bob McNair, Houston Texans.

5. Astro fans main-gate the ballpark, going inside and pouring all of their positive energies into pulling for the Astros live at the actual game. Many Texan fans simply tail-gate in the parking lots next to Reliant Stadium and never go inside. They watch the game on portable television sets and are too busy pouring beer down their gullets to pour positive energy live into the Texans.

4. As a source of good-buddy-knowledge talent, the Astros rely upon outcasts from the lately very successful Philadelphia Phillies. The Texans rely upon refugees from the so-so Denver Broncos.

3. The Astros once traded Larry Andersen to Boston for a rookie named Jeff Bagwell. The Texans once used the top pick in the NFL draft to select Mario Williams over either Vince Young or Reggie Bush.

2. Astros owner Drayton McLane is in the wholesale grocery business. He could afford to feed his club during hard times. Astros owner Bob McNair is into oil and horse racing Axle grease on horse meat burgers does not sound like a diet that many Texans could sustain over time.

1. Tal Smith is President of Baseball Operations for the MLB Astros. Rick Smith is General Manager of the NFL Texans. Astros take home the “Senior Smithsonian of Sports Award.”

Wondrous Warren McVea.

January 10, 2010

He was a human water bug as a running back. Try to trap him with your hands as a defensive lineman and he will simply relax the muscles in his legs and torso, allowing your touches to suddenly slide off his body as though they were spoons slipping off a buttered noodle. You are left in the lurch, grasping at air as the water bug quickly squirts off in another burst of animated motion down the field behind you.

If you then, as one of three linebackers, pick up all this happening before your disbelieving eyes, you have about one nanosecond to make eye contact with the tiny approaching figure as he looks you one way and then dashes around you another. By the time you have all relocated your jock straps, the water bug has gone again, moving deeper into your team’s side of the fifty, and now heading on a left angled diagonal trek across the field and into the intercepting pathways of four quick, cunning, and converging defensive backs.

As interceptor one, you make a calculated dive for the dancing legs. They boogie by your empty-armed grasp and you are left tumbling on a teeth-clinching roll into the turf.

As interceptors two and three, you pick up the bug in your sites and attack from cross angles. One of you reaches a left shoulder, causing the bug to spin back. The other of you explodes against the right calf of the bug as it turns back from you in response to the other side assault. Another nanosecond later and the two of you joint interceptors are crashing into each other. A near 360 degree spin by the water bug has first freed him from your almost deadly grasp and then propelled him on a course to the opposite right pylon corner of the now even evermore inviting goal line.

As the fourth, last, and greatest interceptor. you close in upon the water bug from an angle that is slightly to his left. Your paths converge at the one yard line. Just as you are about to finally bring down the elusive bug, he stares and you blink. A quick frame later, the water bug has braked just long enough to cut behind you and step over the goal line for an 84-yard touchdown run.

At journey’s end, no ball-slamming or end zone dancing takes place. The water bug simply discards  the no-longer-needed football with a gently releasing toss and trots back to his team’s sideline.

“What an incredible run! How does the guy do it?” As a fan, your dual points of exclamation and wonder about the water bug helped invent the word redundancy as it came to apply to sports page expression in the 1960s.

That human water bug, of course, was a diminutive running back from the University of Houston named Warren McVea. Between the lines, there’s never been another one like him. His ability to escape capture in an open field made him something like the Harry Houdini of college football back in the salad days of “once upon a time.”

Here’s how it all began, once upon a time in San Antonio, just days after the John F. Kennedy assassination in November 1963. Brackenridge and Lee high schools of San Antonio met in the Alamo City in a state football bi district playoff game that is still regarded by many (and all of us who saw it) as the greatest playoff game in Texas High School Football history. It also marked the very daybreak of television’s power to make overnight stars of high school kids. The image-building job was made easier by the fact that this game featured two kids who were doing pretty darn good on their own without the face of television.

Linus Baer of Lee and Warren McVea of Brackenridge were each the star running backs of their two schools, propelling their teams over all comers with virtually unstoppable running attacks. Now they had to play each other and it was anyone’s guess as to which team would prevail. The demand for tickets was so great that the game was put on television by a San Antonio station. I’m not sure how far their TV coverage reached into other markets, but I was fortunate to have been visiting with my folks in Beeville following the Kennedy death and I got to watch it with my dad.

Both clubs put their stars back to receive on kickoffs. As a result, both clubs avoided kicking deep. The one time that Lee made the mistake of doing so, Warren McVea ran it back something close to 100 yards for a touchdown. McVea collected over 200 yards rushing in the game and both stars scored multiple touchdowns before Lee finally prevailed on a last second touchdown by 55-48.

Linus Baer went on to play for the University of Texas Longhorns. Warren McVea had his pick of any top school in the country that then accepted black players. Above 73 others, McVea chose to sign with the University of Houston and to become the first black football player in the school’s history.

At UH from 1965-1967, McVea played masterfully in multiple rolls as a running back, wide receiver, and kick returner. On September 23, 1966, McVea took a pass from QB Bo Burris and went 99 yards for an unbreakable one-play distance TD catch-and-run record against Washington State. In 1967, McVea’s 84 some-odd yard touchdown run against Michigan State led the visiting Cougars to national prominence with a 37-7 win on the road at East Lansing. He made two first team All American teams in 1966-67 and then left UH for an NFL career.

After a six-year stint with Cincinnati and Kansas City of the NFL, McVea played briefly with the Detroit Wheels and old Houston Texans of the now long defunct World Football League. By this time, the 5’8″ 160 pounds soaking wet water bug had seen his better jiggling days.

Sinking into a life dominated by domestic violence, petty crime, and heavy drug addiction, Warren McVea sadly found himself sentenced to twenty-years in the Texas Department of Corrections penitentiary system.  After several years of incarceration, McVea was paroled and left to pick up the pieces of his once promising life. From all appearances, he apparently has done that neatest escape from ignominy.

Warren McVea today is sober and living in San Antonio. He works as a courier/delivery guy in the Alamo City . He came to Houston and was admitted to the University of Houston Athletic Hall of Honor in 2004 and he has since also been inducted into the San Antonio Athletic Hall of Fame.

Life’s one day a time now. If Warren McVea can avoid a relapse into that lost dark hall of the soul, it will be the greatest escape of the water bug’s life. With God’s help, it will be done.

Bill Yeoman: His Legacy to UH Was Loyalty.

December 27, 2009

When Bill Yeoman took over as the head football coach at the  University of Houston prior to the 1962 season, the Cougars  had j ust wrapped up sixteen years (1946-61) of poor to  mediocre play  at the least distinguished level of NCAA  competition. It was  hoped that the 34-year old former assistant  at Michigan State  would come down to UH and stay long  enough to finally get the  program on the right track. The TV  money in college sports was  next to nothing back then, and t  there was no BCS, of course, but  the major universities, the big  dog conferences, and four major  bowl games (the Rose, Cotton,  Sugar, and Orange) still decided  who played where in any  contests of post-season consequence.

Yeoman brought an impressive resume with him to UH for a    man so young. He layed his 1945 freshman year at Texas A&M  and then transferred to West Point. He played his three college ball eligibility seasons (1946-48) for  Army as a center under  the legendary Earl Blaik.  That ’46 club finsihed the year at 9-0-1 behind dual Heisman trophy winners and All Americans Doc Blanchard (“Mr. Inside”) and Glen Davis (“Mr. Outside”). Yeoman served as captain of the ’48 team during a season in which he achieved his own acclaim as a second team All American center. During his career at Army, Yeoman’s clubs finished with a total record of 22-2-4. Following graduation, Bill Yeoman served four years as an officer in United States Army (1950-53). After the service, Yeoman went to work as an assistant to  football coach Duffy Suagherty (1954-61) for seven years.

I had only been out of UH a couple of years when Yeoman arrived on the UH campus and I was still pretty tied as a young adult alumnus to whatever was going on at the old frat house of Phi Kappa Theta. We were all surprised when a simple phone call invitation to Bill Yeoman to join us for dinner at the animal house was not only accepted, but kept. The guy was just as down to earth and enthusiastic about UH football as could be. We all sensed that UH was in for a different deal from our young new coach. We simply had no idea how big and broad that echo of Yeoman’s loyalty to UH would carry.

After leading the Cougars to a 7-4 record and a win in the Tangerine Bowl during his first (1962) season, Yeoman became the man who led UH to integrate its athletic programs with the  signing of all-everything-world running back Warren McVea of San Antonio on June 11, 1964. During the 1965 season, Yeoman integrated something else quite powerful, introducing the world of college  football to his own invention, the veer offense. By 1965, the Cougars were also now playing in the new Astrodome – and beating name schools like Kentucky and Mississippi with the Yeoman veer attack. Things would never be the same on on old Cullen Boulevard. The Cougars proeeeded to lead the college football nation in total offense for three consecutive seasons from 1966-1968.

Improved play, victories over nationally big name opponents (like the 37-7 pasting of Michigan State in their own house in 1967) soon elevated UH to higher status, better scheduling, and greater positioning for membership in the Southwest Conference. When UH joined the SWC in 1976, it proceeded to celebrate the occasion by knocking off UT in Austin by 30-0 in Darrell Royal’s last year as coach, capturing the SWC crown, and then drubbing Maryland in the Cotton Bowl for a 4th place finish in the final polls.

Under Yeoman, UH went on to win three SWC championships in their first four years, and four SWC crowns altogether. The Cougars also made it to 11 bowl games during Yeoman’s 25 year reign as coach.  Coach Yeoman finished with a UH record of 160 wins, 108 losses, and 8 ties. He stayed on at UH after his retirement as coach following the 1986 season to help promote the university and  its football and other atheltic programs.

Wikipedia reports Bill Yeoman’s post-coaching awards in this way: He “was inducted into the University of Houston Hall of Honor in 1998. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Also in 2002, Yeoman received the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award Lifetime Achievement Award.Yeoman currently works as a fundraiser and Development Officer in the athletic department of the University of Houston.

Bill Yeoman could have become a wildly rich football man at places like Notre Dame, USC, Alabama, or Texas, but he didn’t go that route. He stayed with the lesser known university that gave him his big break long ago. Those of us who bleed Cougar Red shall be eternally grateful, as we also hope daily that current Cougar mentor Kevin Sumlin proves over time that he is made from the same stuff.

I’m On a Publication Deadline Break.

December 2, 2009

Hi, folks! I’m on a publication deadline break that has saved you from the spam of my blogs these past few days. I will be done with my work pressures and back on the blog firing line by the weekend. If any of you do not want to receive notices about my pretty much daily, heavily baseball oriented articles, just let me know and I will drop your name from the mailing list. I don’t want to be a bother to anyone.

There is a one-liner answer Q&A that I heard on TV Sports last night that goes with the banner photo above of our one dollar bill. I’d give credit if I knew who came up with the line, but that wasn’t revealed, but as a contemporary sports observation in Houston these days, it’s priceless. I’ll leave it with you as our thought for the day:

Question: How is a one dollar bill different from the Houston Texans NFL club?

Answer: You can get four quarters out of a one dollar bill.

Have a nice Wednesday, Houston professional football fans!


October 4, 2009

UH 100309