Texas Tech University Football Firsts

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During football season last year we told you that the SWC archives hold the entirety of the old Southwest Conference’s records, as well as a large portion of Big 8, Big 12, and NCAA archival material. But the Southwest Collection is located at Texas Tech University, so it’s high time that we focused on Red Raider football, a story that began almost 90 years ago. McMurray1925 ttu first game

This is the cover of the program for the first football game played by the newly-opened Texas Technological College (you can see the whole program here courtesy of our University Archives!) It was a heated contest held on the afternoon of October 3rd, 1925, at Lubbock’s South Plains Fair. The McMurray [sic] College Indians traveled north from Abilene to face off against the Matadors, and the game resulted in a 0-0 tie. An inauspicious beginning, perhaps, but things would soon turn around.

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Although Texas Tech’s first bowl game was against West Virginia in 1937’s Sun Bowl (a 7-6 loss,) perhaps their most historically significant bowl appearance came after the 1953 season. As you can see from the cover of the 104-page program above (the entirety of which you can see here,) the Red Raiders squared off against the University of Auburn Tigers in the 9th annual Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. Although the 17th-ranked Tigers led early, the Red Raiders surged back in the second half to win the game 35-13, handing Auburn one of its more lopsided bowl losses. Not surprising, perhaps, considering Tech’s 10-1 regular season record, but a closer look at the box score reveals that Texas Tech did the bulk of its work in 7 minutes, racking up 28 points in that short amount of time under the lead of now-legendary halfback Bobby Cavazos. He scored 3 times and also stopped an interception return that would have likely resulted in a defensive touchdown. Bobby and his fellow 1953 stars can be seen in the image below, taken from that same game program.

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“But this article is entitled Texas Tech Football Firsts!” you might be pointing out to us right now. And we appreciate the reminder, because while the 1954 Gator Bowl was one of Tech’s biggest wins up to that point, it was even more notable for two historic moments in Texas Tech Red Raider football history. First off, this was Tech’s first televised football game. In the 60 years since then, the Red Raiders have had their share of television coverage, but it all started with this game. But here’s what really matters to fans: this was the first official appearance of the Masked Rider! The Rider had shown up from time to time since 1936, but the Gator Bowl was the first time it galloped onto the field as Tech’s new official mascot. Thousands of spectators shared a moment of amazed silence before erupting into cheers. According to Atlanta Journal’s sportswriter Ed Danforth, who was also a press box spectator, “No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance.”

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In 2004, the saddle above was given to then-Chancellor Kent Hance to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Masked Rider. Generously donated to the SWC in 2014 along with many of Kent Hance’s papers, it is one among many unique Red Raider artifacts that we preserve. If you’re curious about those, our other Texas Tech collections, or the many, many sports-related archives we keep around, hurry up and contact our Reference Department and they’ll see about getting you a look at those!

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Football Season Part 2: The Southwest Collection’s Big 12 and NCAA Records

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These figurines are actually whiskey bottles molded into the likeness of mascots of former SWC schools that are now members of the Big 12 Conference. From left to right: the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University, and Baylor University

A couple weeks back we told you about our Southwest Athletic Conference (SWC) Records; over 300 boxes of material documenting that organization’s more than 80 year existence. After the SWC disbanded in 1996, many of its schools moved on to other conferences, the largest of which was the newly-created Big 12 Conference. The Southwest Collection is also proud to make its records available to our patrons. These two collections dovetail with our National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Records, which date from the 1930s until the late 1990s, to provide a thorough picture of collegiate athletics in Texas and its neighboring states for nearly 100 years.

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This set containing a commemorative pitcher and glasses were crafted shortly before the demise of the SWC in 1996.

Why did the SWC disband? Most would agree that money was a leading factor. A new conference such as the Big 12 would give the new members more media coverage and therefore more revenue for their individual schools. Another theory claims that politicians had a role in its breakup by pressuring schools, other politicians, and university representatives to consider a new outlook for collegiate sports in Texas and neighboring states. Either way, four SWC schools, Texas Tech University, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, and Baylor University, united with the Big Eight Conference to create the Big 12. The legacy of the Southwest Athletic Conference remained tangible in the many rivalries that persist to this day in the Big 12 in all sports.

The collections of records reflect this in numerous ways. For example, some material pertains to the annual October football match-up during the Texas State Fair between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. The Big 12’s records include a large number of member universities’ media guides, as well as Conference-wide media guides.  The media guides cover baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, softball, and volleyball. The Big 12 continues to deposit media guides and other publications with the Southwest Collection. Office files and printed materials promoting the Big 12, such as handbooks and directories, are also present.

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This is a whiskey bottle cast in the likeness Raider Red, one of the mascots of Texas Tech University, the home of the Southwest Collection. In 1958 Texas Tech University was the second to last school to join the Southwest Conference, but was a founding member of the Big 12 in 1996.

The NCAA itself, of which the Southwest Conference was a member and to which the Big 12 still belongs, needs little introduction. It monitors athletic programs from virtually all   collegiate athletic programs. Among other things, they assess schools’ compliance with academic regulations; student and media relations; and recruiting, sports, officiating, and championship regulations. Our collection of their records consists of a variety of material. Manuals, convention programs and artifacts, annual reports, yearbooks, directories, periodicals, and committee handbooks are the most common items. Perhaps most interesting are the historic and descriptive documents, studies, surveys, and analyses that relate to the NCAA’s oversight of recruiting, compliance, student athletes, faculty members, and media relations. Finally, there are a number items to championships in all sports, as well more general documentation related to baseball, basketball, football, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

As with all of our collections, our Reference Department  would like nothing more than to arrange for researchers to peruse these records. Don’t hesitate to contact them!

– Robert Weaver

– Photos by John Perrin