Texas' '69 win over Arkansas helped it to title
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Controversy over how to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the legendary 1969 Texas-Arkansas football game that helped steer the Longhorns to a national championship has led Arkansas officials to ignore it altogether.
Athletic director Frank Broyles said Tuesday that the university, which is hosting Texas on Sept. 11, has decided to "cancel all festivities relating to the anniversary" of the game that's become known as "The Big Shootout."
|“||The wounds are still very deep. It was Arkansas' real moment in the sun. It was a humongous letdown. ”|
|— Ex-Arkansas SID Rick Schaeffer|
Instead, Broyles said, at halftime the school will recognize the 1964 Razorback team that claims a disputed national championship.
"The Big Shootout" took place in Fayetteville 35 years ago in arguably the most notable sporting event ever held on campus -- with Billy Graham giving the invocation and President Nixon in the stands. The teams were ranked first and second in the nation, and Texas came from behind in the second half to win 15-14.
Broyles said any plans to honor participants in the 1969 game, which he coached against Texas' Darrell Royal, were only in their preliminary stages.
"There was much controversy developing, and that would be unfair to the present players and coaches and fans, so we just nipped it in the bud," he said in an interview.
Royal and Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
It's the second landmark athletic event the University of Arkansas will have ignored this year. The school did nothing to honor the 1994 basketball team that won the NCAA Tournament. At the time, former basketball coach Nolan Richardson's lawsuit against the university was pending.
Arkansas-Texas once was one of the nation's premier rivalries, with the Southwest Conference title often at stake. The teams quit playing each other regularly when Arkansas defected to the Southeastern Conference after the 1991 season.
The schools have played twice since Arkansas left the SWC, with Arkansas winning both games -- 27-6 in the 2000 Cotton Bowl and 38-28 last year in Austin, Texas. No regular-season games are scheduled after this year's.
The possibility of honoring the 1969 Texas players on Arkansas' field has stirred emotions among the Razorback faithful, with some callers to local talk radio shows threatening to withhold their financial support of the athletic program if the graying Longhorns step onto the Razorbacks' field.
Former Arkansas sports information director Rick Schaeffer said it's hard to overestimate the emotion the game still stirs in the school's fans.
"The wounds are still very deep. It was Arkansas' real moment in the sun," Schaeffer said. "It was a humongous letdown."
Schaeffer said he's heard much talk among alumni about the anniversary, and almost all of the opposition has to do with the Texas players.
"If they have a way to commemorate the game, I don't think anybody is opposed to that," he said. "What the opposition is, is to honoring Texas. Who in Arkansas wants to honor Texas, especially if it's your home game?"
Brittaney Wright, a student at the Fayetteville campus, disagreed.
"It's a poor decision on Broyles' part," she said. "Why not honor the legendary players from both teams? Since they are having the game this year with Texas, it would have been a great game to honor, since it was one of the games of the century."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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