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t h e E a r ly Y e a r s

The Athletic Tradition of

W e s t T e x a s A & M U NI V ERSI T Y

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B u f f a lGroup o Thunder © 2008 ii by The Booksmith All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without prior written permission from the publisher. Published in the United States of America by

an imprint of

a wholly owned subsidiary of Southwestern/Great American, Inc. P. O. Box 305124 Nashville, TN 37230 1-800-358-0560 www.thebooksmithgroup.com Publisher: Stephen D. Giddens Publishing Consultant: Leeanne Seely Managing Editor: Jennifer Dawn Day Associate Editor: Heidi L. T. Tuey Photo Editor: Bobby Sagmiller, VisibilityCreative.com Text: Dr. Billy Smith; Jim Hannaford Book Design: Susan Browne Design Photography: Jeremy Enlow; Bobby Sagmiller, VisibilityCreative.com, and University Archives Stock Photography: Front cover / Buffalo © Larry Jacobsen, 2007. Used under license from istockphoto.com. Leather texture © Selahattin BAYRAM, 2007. Used under license from istockphoto.com. i / Buffalo © Matt Niebuhr, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 1 (and others) / old photo frame © Leigh Prather, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. chapter openers / Old paper with frame © Dmitry Kosterev, 2007. 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Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 123 / basketball court with marking © Yuliyan Velchev, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock. com. 129 / square photo frame © Denise Kappa, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 130 / buffalo © John Kirinic, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 131 / vintage microphone © Kameel4u, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 134 / farmer and tractor in field © GoodMood Photo, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 138 / red wallpaper © saim nadir, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 143 / stitched leather frame © Elnur, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 144 / soccer ball © Photodisc. 145 / soccer field with markings © Sabino Parente, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 146 / circles on squares background © Luis Stortini Sabor aka CVADRAT, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 147 / basketball close-up © djapeman, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. 149 / antique Texas map part © Steven Wright, 2007. Used under license from Shutterstock.com. ISBN (Standard): 978-1-934892-20-6 ISBN (Premium): 978-1-934892-21-1 Library of Congress Control Number: 2008934423 Printed in the United States of America First printing 2008


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Contents Introduction....................................... 1 Chapter 1: The Early Years.................3 Chapter 2: The 1960s........................39 Chapter 3: The 1970s........................63 Chapter 4: The 1980s........................ 77 Chapter 5: The 1990s...................... 107 Chapter 6: The 2000s. .................... 133 Conclusion...................................... 158


Introduction

Introduction Almost from the first day students arrived at WT in 1910, sports wove a brilliant tapestry throughout the fabric of student life. Certainly no one then envisioned the packed crowds at Kimbrough Stadium that would watch the Sun Bowl-bound Buffs rewrite the record books in 1951 and send a ripple into the professional ranks. No one predicted that twins Earl and Myrl Goodwin’s transition from WT football to the professional ranks in 1928 would be only the start of WT’s contribution to professional football. The Pottsville Maroons was a long run from the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Rams. Yet decades later, Mercury Morris, Duane Thomas, Jerry Don Logan, and Jerry Richardson would grace the prairie campus of WT and make their own headlines in the National Football League in the 1960s and ’70s. No one prophesied the dominant athleticism of women’s volleyball or the Box’s packed house that would watch the Lady Buffs deliver three-point salvos. Nonetheless, sports began at WT even before throngs of early Texas Panhandle settlers descended on Canyon to dedicate what students now call Old Main.

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Chapter 1:

The Early Years

the

best that is in us

ld tallest team in the wor

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The confines of early WT athletics were primitive by today’s standards, even oddly melancholy. For nearly a century, athletes strained under the shadows of West Texas’s Old Main. They clashed on football fields with and without helmets, on prickly prairie grass and eventually smooth synthetic turf. Women lofted set shots with first six, then five players on the basketball court. (Modern-day basketball

fans would find the juxtaposition of a grass court shared with distant herds of grazing cattle both amusing and unsettling.)


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For certain, West Texas Normal College ushered in an infant century with its own brand of drama, athletic and otherwise. There was rumor of a gold strike southeast of Canyon about the same time the Girls’ Athletic Association sponsored an oyster supper to raise the first twenty-eight dollars to underwrite women’s athletics. Under a thick adornment of bloomers and tightly knotted athletic boots, women played it all—basketball, volleyball, field hockey, soccer, and dance.


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“In time to c will rival the s our boys in


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o come our girls’ team e standing set by n basketball.”

Back then sport was an end to itself for early WT women. In 1912, M. Gentry—the tallest player on the women’s basketball team at six foot one—saw her future as a far cry from the basketball court. Her simple dream? “Herding cattle,” she told WT’s first yearbook editor. Eventually, though, the pronouncement made by WT Girl’s Athletic Association member Frankie Broyles in 1923 would be fulfilled: “In time to come our girls’ team will rival the standing set by our boys in basketball.”

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The Buffalo Bowl

With a capacity of twenty thousand fans, West Texas’s

assistant coach under Gene Mayfield, and longtime fan

unique, impressive, and historic playing field has

and booster. “It was like going from the outhouse to

become a second home to many fans through the

the penthouse.”

decades. It has also been a sustained matter of pride

Behrens should know. As an offensive guard, he

for WT supporters and players since it was finished in

played in the last game at the old stadium and the first

1959 to replace an aging and ailing and much smaller

one in the new—a heartbreaking, one-point loss to the

facility on campus. And, coincidence or not, it played

University of Arizona for which eleven thousand fans

home to a new era of excellence, winning ways, and

turned out. (WT chalked up its first at-home victory

fiercely loyal support for WT’s footballers.

soon after against Drake University.)

Besides allowing more fans to watch the Buffs from

The Bowl also made a lasting impression on a young

up close, the new stadium offered luxury amenities that

Pete Pedro, when he by chance rolled through Canyon

were almost unheard of in the day, including electrical

as a member of the track team at Trinidad College in

outlets for fans to power up electric blankets, radios,

Colorado, which was headed to South Texas for a cham-

coffeepots, and even portable television sets, which

pionship meet. Gazing out the bus window on the long

then were moving past novelty status.

drive south, Pedro thought: Wow, that would be a great

“The Buffalo Bowl on Canyon Hill,” it was called.

place to play football.

Its dedication was the centerpiece of the university’s

And another thing caught the Massachusetts native’s

fiftieth anniversary celebration on September 25, 1959,

eye: the life-size statue of a buffalo that’s outside the

when then-U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson—soon to be

stadium and facing the highway. A couple of years later,

the country’s vice president—was among the speakers.

as he was first being recruited by Coach Joe Kerbel,

With its rolling hills just off campus forming a natural bowl, it seemed like the perfect place for a football stadium. And not just any stadium—this one was a big deal, a “doozie,” as some might call it.

Pedro asked: “West Texas? Is that the place with the

“It was truly state-of-the-art, no doubt about it,”

and athletic director Frank Kimbrough, and was given

said Jerry Behrens, a former WT player (1958–61),

a major overhaul in 2002. It retains the intimate feel

big stadium and the buffalo?” The stadium, which remains prominent and impressive among those in Division II, was renamed Kimbrough Memorial Stadium in 1971 in honor of the late coach


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that makes seeing a football game there an unforget-

At big games, an overflow of fans stretches out on the grassy hills—the same ones that Kerbel’s soldierly squadrons would sprint up and down—to be close to their beloved Buffs. As many say, there’s “not a bad seat in the house.”

table, almost-familial experience.

In October 1998, WT beat Angelo State 37–7 in front of 12,240 fans in what was the two-hundredth Buff game played at the stadium. In 2005, a Lone Star Conference-record crowd of 22,993 filled the seats—and the grass—as the Buffs defeated Eastern New Mexico in a thrilling 52–51 overtime win. “It’s just a great place to watch a game,” says Behrens, summing up the feelings of twenty thousandplus people in Canyon on a good day.

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“Under any circum-

stances we will put forth the best that is in us.�


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“Many of them left their last ounces of bravura on the shores of Europe and the jungles of unfamiliar Pacific Islands.�


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World War II later illuminated a brand of courage that transcended the playing fields as dozens of WT students, many of them athletes, left their last ounces of bravura on the shores of Europe and the jungles of unfamiliar Pacific islands. Star WT football player and Second Lt. J. E. Pietzsch was likely the first Texan to die at Pearl Harbor on the now-sacred grounds of Hickam Field.

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“The Best That Is in Us” In a boarding house somewhere in Canyon, a few students declared maroon and white the school colors. Transportation was expensive and unreliable, so West Texas Normal College scheduled Amarillo High School for its very first football game. For whatever reason, one hundred years of WT football began as inauspiciously as the jackrabbits that streaked through the kafir fields— with a rainout. So, “the Normal Eleven” were forced a few days later to play the unnamed “town team.” They launched WT athletics with a 6–0 win on the 35-by-70-yard gridiron. But T. Stalnacker, WT’s first football captain, couldn’t have envisioned the lasting truth of his own prophetic utterance, which lingered in the corridors of Old Main and meandered up the steep climb of Buffalo Field and even the foreign beaches of Europe. “Under any circumstances,” Stalnacker implored, “we will put forth the best that is in us.”


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Tallest Team in the World Sometimes that “best” didn’t measure up, as the sportswriting pundits would declare 1953 the “worst season in the history of football at WT.” At other times the best was the flamboyant 1940s-era men’s basketball team. Self-described as “the tallest team in the world,” they traipsed through the northeast and cities like Buffalo, Philadelphia, and New York to play in venues such as sacred Madison Square Garden. The team frequently traveled in matching three-piece wool suits, gaudy roach-killer boots, and less-than-subtle ten-gallon hats that put them all well past the seven-foot mark. The

team averaged six-foot-six in an era when anyone who could stretch a measuring tape more than six feet was considered a tall drink of water.


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In the 1941 season the team went 28–3 and was prominently featured in widely circulated magazines like Colliers, Time, Life, Look, PIC, and Esquire. They were led by Frank Stockman, Charles Halbert, and the quirky Price Brookfield, who would be named AllAmerican at both WT and Iowa State during the 1940s and go on to play professionally.

In fact, in one hundred years of WT men’s basketball, seven players have found playing time in the ABA or NBA, five of whom played in the 1940s. The packed crowds at old Burton Gymnasium and the national attention at WT belied darker times to come for WT athletics, in particular, but more importantly, for the world. The entry of the United States into World War II ended all organized WT athletics and effectively turned the entire campus into a preparatory school for young men headed into battle. WT ended its 1943 season as Border Conference co-champions. Student journalists understood the effect on WT athletics: “At this writing there is no way to predict the future. But it is not idle speculation to believe that, had not the war disrupted athletics, West Texas State likely would have had the greatest basketball team of a long line of great outfits.”


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Athletic Director Al Baggett left to become a captain in the U.S. Air Force, and dozens of players shipped out for boot camp and entry onto battlefields across Europe and the Pacific. “West Texas State is always tough,” wrote one student journalist in describing the departure of student athletes into war. “This is being carried over to a league in which some of the stars, temporarily, are Adolf, Il Duce, and Hirohito.” Despite the lows of war and the spirited highs of the “world’s tallest,” WT athletics was poised to launch into the 1960s, from which some of its greatest football athletes would emerge. And WT would do it with swagger. In 1959, Buffalo Stadium opened as the “world’s most modern football plant.” Unfortunately, the team struggled to eke out only one win for spectators entering the twenty thousand-seat facility. But 1960 would usher in the Joe Kerbel era, and WT football would redefine “the best that is in us.”

“Despite the lows of war and the spirited highs of the ‘world’s tallest,’ WT athletics was poised to launch into the 1960s, from which some of its greatest football athletes would emerge.”

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Giants Among Men

By today’s standards, they weren’t that tall. But back

The team finished with a record of 28–3 in 1941, with

in the early 1940s, the Buffaloes were a spectacle and

a few lopsided wins that went over the one hundred-

a sensation on the basketball court.

point mark. In an article in Time magazine in 1942,

They were the self-proclaimed “Tallest Team in the

Baggett said he had a simple philosophy for success

The team averaged six feet, six inches, with the tallest, Charles Halbert, towering above most players of the era at six foot ten.

on the court: He would tell them, “Boys, don’t bother

Coach Al Baggett was six foot four himself, and

he was quoted as saying, “It takes three times as much

liked to recruit other tall fellows for his team. Most

work to develop a tall player as it does a short one, but

of them came from the Panhandle area, though others

when you’ve finished, you have something.”

World,” and they had the height to back it up.

were brought in from Missouri.

passing to anybody—just pass it at the basket.” During his time as coach, Baggett’s starting lineup always averaged at least six foot three. In the magazine,

Indeed he did.


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“It takes three times as much work to develop a tall player as it does a short one, but when you’ve finished, you have something.”

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Chapter 2:

The 1960s gram they weren’t on the pro backs golden age for running renaissance no more lady buffettes


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“They weren’t on the program.” As longtime WT broadcaster Warren Hasse recalled it, quarterback Hank Washington and receiver Ted Wheeler popped a facile request: a few moments to speak during WT’s annual football banquet in 1964. “I told them I would give them a little time if they promised me that they didn’t have any foolishness planned,” said Hasse, who emceed the banquet. “They weren’t on the program.” Washington was a Los Angeles recruit from a difficult family situation, and Wheeler came from Detroit, and both captained the 1966 team. Both had found a father figure in the exigent Kerbel. The two team leaders muscled a large box to the lectern and extracted a gluttonous trophy, presenting it to Kerbel as a gift from the players.

“It sent Joe to tears,” Hasse recalled. “He just started bawling and sobbing.”

“Both had found a father figure in the exigent Kerbel.”


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A D ay i n t h e S u n

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, they play a

Logan, who had a background as a rancher in

game called the Sun Bowl. And on the last day of

Graham, Texas, was one of the early greats at WT

1962, Jerry Don Logan was its star.

during the Coach Joe Kerbel era. He went on to have a

It’s the second-oldest continually played bowl game

sturdy ten-year career with the Baltimore Colts in the

in the NCAA ranks, behind only the Rose Bowl, and

NFL, and was on the winning side against the Dallas

it carried with it a great amount of prestige for West

Cowboys in Super Bowl V (in which WT’s Duane Thomas

Texas players and fans. Many of them made the trip by

also played.)

car, and others stayed home to watch it on TV—a rare

In 1962, when Pete Pedro was down with injuries,

thrill at the time. The Buffs themselves flew to El Paso

Logan led the nation in scoring and returned six inter-

by jet and were put up in a swanky hotel as they got

ceptions for a total of 168 yards. Against Arizona State

ready to face Ohio University for the first time at the

that year, Logan returned one ninety nine yards for a

end of a triumphant season that saw only two losses.

game-winning touchdown.

It was a close one, with WT edging Ohio 16–15

“Out of all the great athletes that have played at

thanks to a late-game two-point conversion. Logan

WT, he was probably the best all-around,” says Dawson.

was a deciding factor in the win and was named its

“He could literally do everything—he could run, catch,

Most Valuable Player. In those days, players played

punt, return punts . . . he would even block field goals.”

both ways, on offense and defense, and Logan excelled

And though sheer speed wasn’t Logan’s greatest

on either side of the ball. In the Sun Bowl game he was

weapon, he made up for it with unbelievable quickness

literally all over the field, making tackles and assists

and an amazing ability to anticipate the direction of

left and right, breaking up passes, running back punts,

the play.

and catching a touchdown pass. And though his play on that day certainly warranted MVP recognition, it wasn’t an unusually great performance by Logan’s exceptional standards. “It was really just a normal game for Jerry,” says Quarterback Corky Dawson, who was also Logan’s roommate at WT.

“There are few athletes that are born with such natural instincts,” says Jerry Behrens, another team-

“Logan was two steps ahead of everybody—he could analyze the play at the snap of the ball. He just always had a jump on things.” mate.


the 1960s

The Original Pistol

Years before Pete Maravich put LSU on the map with

make him ride on the back of the bus,’ and he said, ‘You

his jaw-dropping basketball skills, college football fans

don’t have to worry about that. ’ ”

thought of one man when they heard the name “Pistol

Unlikely because Pedro was from Lynn, Massachu-

Pedro acclimated quickly to Canyon, on and off the field. He remembers that Jerry Don Logan, whom he called “Cowboy,” bought him his first jeans, boots, and Stetson hat. Though diminutive at just five foot

setts, a suburb of Boston and a world away from Canyon,

seven and 150 pounds, Pedro was a dazzling runner who

Texas—and in fact, nearly a three-day train ride.

was Third-Team All-American his first season and once

It was an unlikely speedster named Pete Pedro, who once scored six touchdowns in a single game for the Buffs. Pete.”

To this day Pistol Pete remains one of the very

scored six touchdowns against Texas Westin. Unfortu-

favorite players in the canon of WT greats. Coach

nately, knee problems shortened his career, though he

Kerbel’s staff heard about Pedro in a roundabout way.

did play one season with his hometown Boston Patriots

He had played at Trinidad Junior College in southern

and another with Toronto in the Canadian Football

Colorado, but had also applied to attend a college in

League.

California. He didn’t meet the admission requirements

He met his future wife while at WT, and together

there, but somehow his stats, including an impressive

they had five children. Pedro went on to work in the

9.7 seconds in the one hundred-yard dash, got Kerbel’s

education field, eventually becoming vice principal of

attention.

an alternative high school. He loves returning to WT, as

Pedro is Puerto Rican, but many thought he was

he did in 2000 when he was honored as one of the Top

black because of his dark skin. He had grown up in

100 Sports Legends of the Panhandle.

a mostly Italian neighborhood, so race was never an

“Every time I go there it’s unbelievable. I get a big welcome,” he said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

issue back home. And it wasn’t at West Texas, either. “My mother said to Coach Kerbel, ‘You better not

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Kerbel’s attenuated emotional outburst was juxtaposed to his devotion to football coaching legends Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bud Wilkinson. In his decade-plus-one tenure, Kerbel became an enigma wrapped in a mystery and shrouded in contradictions. Kerbel recollections span the range from the bizarre to the emotive. In 1966 West Texas State opened the season by playing newly named Texas-Arlington (formerly Arlington State) at the Buffalo Bowl on September 17. Washington quarterbacked the Buffs, and Karl Williams of Kirkpatrick High in Fort Worth quarterbacked the UTA Rebels. Both quarterbacks were black, and this may have been the first major college football game to have two starting black QBs. Kerbel was fanatically committed to his players and refused to call them by anything other than their given names. Mercury Morris was “Eugene” and Pistol Pete Pedro was “Peter.” Yet the coach was a firebrand who marched up and down the WT sidelines barking orders to players, shouting obscenities, and imploring players to give more. “He was just very intense,” Hasse said. “The

players respected him and feared him at the same time. I don’t think any of them really liked playing for him at the time, but they were devoted to him.”

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Even before Frank Kush’s antics made history at Arizona State University, Joe Kerbel was slinging players onto and off of WT football fields in fits of rage, and yet worked double time to protect them from negative influences. Players learned the Kerbel way early and decisively. Since 1925, WT letter winners were inducted into the T-Club, a rite of passage that sometimes ended painfully. Some T-Club inductees even allowed other club members to brand giant Ts on their chests in addition to other forms of hazing. Former WT player and professional wrestler Dory Funk’s Tbrand came at the end of a spark wire connected to an antique telephone crank. And he looked forward to doing likewise to the next crop of T-Club inductees. But Kerbel ended the practice in his second year as coach. “Kerbel called a team meeting and laid down the law; there would be no such hazing, no branding of the young athletes, and anyone involved in hazing would be immediately dismissed from the team and kicked off scholarship. We were a team working together for a common cause, and no hazing would be tolerated,” Funk recalled. The next season, WT went 9–2, including a Sun Bowl win.


the 1960s

Jerry Don Logan, who would later play for a decade in the Baltimore Colts’ defensive backfield, was the Sun Bowl MVP and led the nation in scoring. Pistol Pete Pedro led the nation in rushing the same year. As a former Marine, Kerbel carried his wartime experience to the gridiron with elongated practices and a constant barrage of mercurial orders that he began using during his early successful years as a high school coach in Breckenridge, Texas, and later at Amarillo High School. One former WT player confided in Hasse that after his time at WT, he entered the

“He told me that every time he felt like quitting, he would remind himself that he had made it through Joe Kerbel two-a-days,” says Hasse. “Everything after that was a breeze.” Army and went through the rigorous Army Ranger training.

Kerbel told Hasse that as a Marine he had seen soldiers die in combat because someone in their unit didn’t carry his weight. He would hold WT football players to the same standard as he did the Marines under his command. Kerbel’s reckoning was no respecter of persons. After a spectacular rushing performance, crack running back Duane Thomas ended a long run by stepping out of bounds. Kerbel exploded, kicked him off the team, and railed at him through the next defensive series. By the next offensive possession, he had reinstated Thomas. From that point forward, Thomas routinely ran over defenders at the end of runs.

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Quick as Mercury

Here are the facts: Mercury was the Roman god who was known for his swiftness and mobility. The element mercury is named for the god and is also called “quicksilver.” The planet Mercury takes nearly three months to orbit the sun.

And talk about double trouble: Morris was just a year ahead of Duane Thomas, another of WT’s true greats, and as a pair in the backfield they were almost unbeatable. Thomas was fluid, smooth, and definitely strong. But Morris, a little bit smaller, was also known for his speed and quickness and had surprising and incredible strength and power.

In his day, it must have seemed that young Eugene

“He had the upper-body strength that allowed him to

Morris, with his lightning quickness, could have made

break tackles,” says Mankin. “It was like hitting a piece

the trip much sooner—and with lots of flash and style.

of steel. People could not arm-tackle him at all.”

Morris, perhaps the most famous West Texas sports figure of all time, earned his dashing nickname soon after arriving in Canyon from the faraway metropolis of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Until he was pegged with the memorable moniker, he was known as Eugene. Amarillo newspaper columnist Frank Godsoe, now deceased, is believed to have been the first to put the tag on Morris. “I remember they were saying he was ‘quick as

After his groundbreaking tenure at West Texas, the two-time All-American, with little surprise from anyone, was the third player chosen in the 1969 NFL draft.

He went on, of course, to become an integral part of perhaps the best NFL team of all time, the Miami Dolphins of the early 1970s. He

mercury, ’ ” says former teammate, coach, and longtime

gained more than one

friend Ronnie Mankin. “All I can say is, it certainly

thousand

seemed appropriate.”

Miami went undefeated

yards

as


the 1960s

in 1972, and gained crucial yards for them in three Super Bowls. But before he wore the aqua and orange of the Dolphins under Coach Don Shula, Morris left indelible marks on West Texas during his three seasons as a Buffalo. In 1967 and ’69 he—and the university— earned a higher profile as he was running virtually neckand-neck with the University of Southern California’s O. J. “the Juice” Simpson, who ultimately captured the coveted Heisman Trophy, given to college football’s most outstanding player. “Merc,” as his former teammates affectionately call him, set NCAA records at WT for most yards in a career (3,388), most yards in a season (1,571), and most yards in a game (340). During

the years that he was in the backfield, the Buffs lost only eight games. He averaged more than six yards a carry. And he gained them quickly.

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Golden Age for Running Backs The 1960s was the golden age for WT football. The Buffs won more games

As WT’s winningest coach, Kerbel sent twenty-one players to the NFL via draft and dozens of others as free agents. during the 1960s than in any other decade before or since.

Kerbel was one of the early intercollegiate coaches to understand the importance of speed, particularly at the running back position. WT contributed to the NFL backfields Pistol Pete Pedro, Mercury Morris, Rocky Thompson, and Duane Thomas, among others. WT had won just two games in two years before Kerbel replaced Clark Jarnagin. In eleven years he reignited the program, amassing a 68–42–1 record and winning two bowl games along the way, the 1962 Sun Bowl and the 1967 Junior Rose Bowl. Kerbel was fired in 1971 amidst a swirl of controversy and a polarized community. “It broke his heart,” said Hasse. “I went to visit him right after the announcement. He was sitting in his house with his beloved dog and was heartbroken and angry.” Just two years later, Kerbel would die of a heart attack. WT football would never again scale the heights of Division I that it did under Kerbel, who struggled with his weight and suffered from chronic back pain and circulation ailments throughout his WT career.


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D u a n e T h o m a s a n d We s t T e x a s

With assured sidesteps and eye-blinking displays of unquestionable power, Duane Thomas quickly but deliberately carved his own unique history into the WT legacy. And he did it one swift and shifty, confident step at a time.

first touchdown in the now-landmark Texas Stadium, and leading “America’s Team” to victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI in 1972. Thomas, who now lives in San Diego, has lots of

During those glory days, WT’s beloved #33 often

memories reserved for the occasional time for reflection.

thought of the cowboys and frontier men who had come

And West Texas comes to mind often, he says. While he

before to stake their own but different claims. Leaving

had other college offers, he says going to WT was “abso-

home in South Dallas for the relative unknown of little

lutely” the best decision he could have made.

Canyon, Texas, was somewhat of a Wild West adventure

He saw an opportunity to show his skills on the field

for Thomas—and especially as a black athlete in the

and to satisfy an unbridled passion for travel. Because

1960s trying to prove himself in the relatively lily-

the Buffs were independent, and not confined to

white realm of major college football.

regional conference games, it was a chance for him—in

The strong and speedy Thomas had just started playing

many ways—to break into the great wide open. Road

football in the ninth grade but was an early bloomer.

trips in those days took him, in high style in the late

Despite interest from other colleges, he jumped at the

1960s, to far-flung, exciting trips to great American

chance to play at West Texas—for many reasons. As it

places like Tempe and Las Cruces and Salt Lake City,

turned out, he would become one of the true WT greats

and even over to Memphis and up to Fargo, all the

as he shared the backfield and learned firsthand from

time marveling at the American countryside from the

other standout players like quarterback Pete Washing-

friendly skies above.

ton and such great runners as Eugene “Mercury” Morris,

The young star was recruited from all sides, and

But he would also pave his own golden path that would lead to two years with the Dallas Cowboys, Rookie of the Year honors, scoring the

was tempted by other offers, some of them reportedly

Ronnie Mankin, and Albie Owens.

involving cash and cars. But Coach Joe Kerbel’s straight talk with Thomas’s father, a hard-working contractor whom young Duane had learned to respect greatly,


the 1960s

sealed the deal. Kerbel offered something more basic:

challenging Thomas’s Cowboys as part of the dynamic

“We don’t give money,” the Kerbel story goes, “and we don’t give special favors. But I guarantee you two things: one, we’ll give him an education; two, he’ll have the opportunity to play football.”

Miami Dolphins’ backfield. Thomas was Offensive Rookie

Dad’s response was that not only would Kerbel get Duane, but the other Thomas sons as well. (Duane’s brother Bertrand worked as a trainer and Franklin, Jr., played as a backup guard and linebacker.) While other former Buffs have mixed feelings about Kerbel and his sometimes-harsh ways, Duane Thomas

of the Year with Dallas in 1970, a key player in their first-ever Super Bowl win, and was seemingly on top of the world. With the flashy and fleet Morris—Duane’s former backfield mate—on the opposing side, fellow Cowboys looked for insight from Thomas. “I remember [Cowboys defensive back] Mel Renfro saying, ‘What can you tell me about this guy, Mercury?’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing . . . don’t let him get past you, or you’ll never catch him.’ ”

says he always took Kerbel’s histrionics in stride and

Renfro and the other Cowboys were able to contain

was thankful to have a great coach, as he had also

Morris and headbanging bruisers Larry Csonka and Jim

experienced at the all-black Lincoln High.

Kiick as they dominated the Dolphins 24–3.

“Race was never an issue with Coach Kerbel,” Thomas

Old pal Eugene wasn’t a factor in the game, though

reiterates. “He loved and respected all of the players,

he would help lead Miami to an unprecedented and

across the board.”

perfect 17–0 season the next year.

As for the travel, which Thomas longed for: “It was

Thomas said he was never surprised at—and never

first-class all the way. Our practice facilities and travel

jealous of—Morris’s success, and feels that they each

arrangements were top-notch. We would travel just like

made the other better through their experiences of

a pro team; we had chartered flights and stayed in the

running in tandem and blocking for one another at WT.

nicest hotels.”

One thing is puzzling to Thomas, though:

Thomas would go on to experience this first-class treatment for two years as a Dallas Cowboy and two more as a Washington Redskin. He would play in Super Bowl VI in 1972, with former running mate Mercury Morris

“I was faster than Merc at first, but he went back home [in the off-season] and then came back and he was fast, man. I haven’t been able to catch him since.”

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Renaissance While Kerbel fulminated along the sidelines of Buffalo Stadium, diminutive basketball coach Jimmy Viramontes and pioneering Allene Stovall were attempting to resuscitate the long-dormant men’s basketball program and to remake women’s sports, respectively. Viramontes had replaced Metz Lafollette in 1963 with an eye toward resurrecting the fame WT had cultivated more than twenty years prior. Student journalists described Viramontes as “an intense man who approaches perpetual motion,” and he was able to encourage his team to a 13–9 record, the best in more than a decade. Not long after, WT officials were outlawing “the dog dance” on campus and students were posting “Au H20” signs conspicuously around campus. Yet Viramontes was never able to take advantage of the momentum. In fact, by the end of the 1967 season, WT had experienced its worst season ever at 1–18. They beat only Texas A&M in a stunning upset. One sports pundit opined that it “was indeed a gray year.” Viramontes was out and former WT star Dennis “Duck” Walling stepped in and immediately delivered a more respectable 10–11 record in the next season. By the following season, the 18–7 program

had received its first NIT bid since 1942, won more games than any WT team since 1951, and earned new respectability among its rivals.


the 1960s

No More Buffettes As Duck Walling was rebuilding the men’s basketball team, Allene Stovall quietly cobbled together the framework for what would become a dominant women’s athletic machine. Before her career had ended, Stovall coached women’s basketball, volleyball, bowling, badminton, cross country, golf, softball, and track and field. She helped resurrect women’s sports from the obscurity of intramural fields to legitimacy, and eventually found a place in the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame. She organized teams on a shoestring. A few players even sold their own plasma to raise money for travel and uniforms.

Perhaps Stovall couldn’t have envisioned the powerhouse volleyball and basketball teams to come, but she would live to see some of them. Her most obscure and least appreciated contribution was finding a way to gracefully jettison the early WT Buffettes for the current women’s moniker of “Lady Buffs.” Women’s sports would spark in the 1960s, slowly burn in the 1970s, and ignite in full burn in the 1980s, and Stovall would live to see her dream of a full-fledged women’s athletic program come to fruition.

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“Blood on the Moon”

You can’t talk about West Texas football without talking about Coach Joe Kerbel. And his former players have plenty to say. Mostly, it’s out of respect. They feared him—and even hated him at times—but came away from their sometimes-harsh experiences with lasting respect.

Mankin’s initial impression of Kerbel was his sense of humor. “He was a Jackie Gleason-type guy. He could make anybody laugh at any time. He just had a great, great personality. “Until I put on the uniform the first day, and then he

Kerbel’s experience as a U.S. Marine framed his

wasn’t funny anymore. He could put you on a pedestal

approach as one of college football’s great taskmas-

and make you feel you were on top of the world, and he

ters. Several former players commented that game day

could also make you want to crawl into a cleat hole.”

was almost a relief compared to the brutal marathon practice sessions.

“Pistol Pete” Pedro, a WT star in the early 1960s, laughs when he remembers Kerbel’s unique commands

in ’67. He also coached under Gene Mayfield from 1970–

“We would be at practice, and he would get onto the guys for not hitting hard enough. He would say, ‘I want to see blood on the moon!’”

75. He says that Kerbel prepared his players for battle

Pedro remembers scoring touchdowns on four

Ronnie Mankin, a native of Coleman, Texas, came to WT in 1963 as a quarterback. He later played running back and defensive back and was a graduate assistant

on the field, and life off of it as well.

and demands.

straight plays in practice. Sensing that Kerbel had

“He had a tremendous influence on all of us,” Mankin

warmed up to him, he made a simple request. His feet

says. “He taught us that there are going to be ups and

had been hurting because the screw-in cleats they used

downs, but you can’t stay down. You’ve got to get up

in those days were poking through the insoles of his

and keep going.

shoes and into his feet. He figured Kerbel would be

“He was very much concerned with us being good

sympathetic—after all, a great runner needs comfort-

citizens as well. And most of the guys I played with

able shoes—so he asked the coach if he could get a

have been successful in life—good fathers, good

new pair. The coach’s response can’t be printed here;

citizens,” he said.

Pedro carried on with his feet still hurting.


the 1960s

Other minority players are thankful that Kerbel was truly

about developing character, developing manhood . . . . It was about creating cohesiveness among the team.”

color-blind when it came to race. He actively recruited

And, of course, “he had a great mind for the game,”

Pedro, though Puerto Rican, is considered to have broken the “color line” when he arrived at WT in 1961.

players from all parts of the United States, including Pedro from outside Boston and Eugene “Mercury” Morris from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Coach Kerbel was a very caring person,” says former star running back Duane Thomas. “Everything

was about family, about commitment, and

Thomas says. Pedro, who thought about going back home to Massachusetts after his first spring training under Kerbel, changed his opinion quickly. “We really did respect him and he really did love us,” Pedro says. “He cared about us.”

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Chapter 3:

The 1970s highs and lows a capricious decade of mortality brushes with athletic im

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the 1970s

A Capricious Decade of Highs and Lows The departure of the revered and tumultuous Joe Kerbel ushered in more than the erudite Gene Mayfield as his replacement to lead Buff football—WT entered the Missouri Valley Conference, and the accompanying travails of competing against a rigorous schedule every year. Kerbel’s departure also marked the beginning of a capricious decade of highs and lows. Indeed, WT saw plenty of gridiron growing pains in the ’70s.

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“There seemed to be a lot more lows than highs [in the 1970s],” described Ronnie Mankin, who played and coached for Kerbel and continued his coaching career with Mayfield until 1975. Mayfield had left Odessa Permian High School with a 62– 10–2 record, a state championship, and two state finalists in five years. Perhaps more importantly, Mayfield had earned Little All-American honors while leading the Buffs to a Sun Bowl victory in 1950. Mayfield was ostensibly coming home. Kerbel, on the other hand, was dismissed on February 8, 1970, four days after the death of his coaching predecessor, Frank Kimbrough, who had led the Buffs from 1947–57, and whose teams had posted wins in the Sun and Tangerine Bowls. While Kimbrough’s teams had posted one of the best (10–1) and one of the worst (1–8) seasons in WT history, it was Kerbel’s dismissal that polarized WT football fans. Kerbel immediately fired verbal salvos against the WT Board of Regents, calling them “an inexperienced board . . . with whom I have never even had the opportunity to confer.” The 1971 yearbook writer asked “the question that many asked following the dismissal . . . . ‘Is that any way to repay Kerbel for getting West Texas State in the MVC?’” On Kerbel’s last day on campus, he told a student journalist that he had “no apologies to make for my staff, my players, or for myself.” And in latent protest, WT students in 1971 named their newest Buffalo mascot “Little Joe” in Kerbel’s honor. This was the environment Gene Mayfield walked into. And he saw only limited success.


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Mayfield swapped the pro-style offense instituted by Kerbel and replaced it with the runoriented wishbone offense. And although Mayfield was only able to assemble one winning season in five campaigns, he managed to grab a share of the MVC in WT’s first conference season. WT wouldn’t win another conference championship until Bill Yung reignited the WT pro-style offense and took the Buffs to the top in 1977. Mayfield also sent a handful of players to the NFL, most notably offensive lineman John Ayers, who went to three Super Bowls—two with San Francisco and one with Denver. (Ayers returned to Canyon after his professional career had ended and died in 1995 after losing a bout with liver cancer.) Mankin believes that the lack of college-level coaching experience, the shift to the wishbone, and a strong emphasis on recruiting locally kept Mayfield’s teams from gathering traction.


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In this notable decade women’s sports advanced in the Texas Commission of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, but WT left the MVC before its first women’s conference championships. Men’s tennis was the only WT team to establish an early dominance in the MVC, allowing Coach David Kent to promulgate a legacy set by his father, who played tennis at WT in the 1920s. Bob Kitchens also established his coaching legacy in track and field, mentoring six NCAA AllAmericans and seventy Missouri Valley Conference champions, and being named MVC Coach of the Year after leading the Buffs to the 1977 MVC cross country and the 1979 MVC indoor titles. Perhaps more remarkable was that Kitchens’s teams overpowered Southern Illinois, whose squads had won each previous MVC title in the 1970s.

Basketball faced up to the demands of mid-major competition when Coach Ron Ekker traveled to Chicago to recruit a hot prospect; he returned with a lesser-known talent—Maurice Cheeks. The angular Cheeks would set a bevy of WT records and launch the most prolific NBA career of any WT player before or since. Despite two years of probation for recruiting violations, WT challenged for the MVC title in basketball throughout most of the 1970s. Cheeks was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference pick, twice to the first team.

The passing of Frank Kimbrough, longtime coach and athletic director, also marked the evolution of WT to a fully developed athletic program. The Buffalo Bowl was renamed in 1971 to honor Kimbrough’s memory.


the 1970s

Brushes with Athletic Immortality As WT walked through the transom leading to the MVC, it welcomed more rigorous competition and brushes with athletic immortality: Larry Bird paid a visit to the Amarillo Civic Center and eked out a win for Indiana State. In 1972, Ekker welcomed Cheeks, who would forever etch his name in NBA history as a championship point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers and a coach with the Portland Trail Blazers and the 76ers—and maybe as the greatest player in Buff annals. Ekker would go on to make his own imprint in the NBA as well, as an assistant coach and scout with several teams. Pat Williams chronicles a conversation between Ekker and legendary coach John Wooden in his book How to be Like Coach Wooden. Ekker was driving Wooden back to the Amarillo airport after Wooden had delivered a speech on campus. “It was a windy, dreary night, and as we got in the car, Wooden said, ‘It’s got to be a tough job recruiting here.’ I said, ‘Well, it is isolated and there’s no social life, but that allows the players to concentrate on basketball.’” Wooden then recounted how difficult it was for him to recruit during his early years at UCLA. Most sports pundits thought of UCLA as a “football school.” “My staff kept saying, ‘We can’t recruit. We can’t do this or that.’ You’ve got to get rid of that attitude before you can succeed,” he told Ekker.

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Prior to Ekker’s arrival, “Maroon Madness” had gripped the imagination of WT basketball fans and Coach Dennis “Duck” Walling had—temporarily—hoisted the WT men’s program from the doldrums of the 1960s to respectability. After a 1969 NIT appearance, though, WT’s men had crumbled to a 9–17 finish and 2–10 in conference play by 1972, its first year in the MVC. The men’s team literally limped into the MVC with a flurry of injuries that sidelined at least six players during the year. By 1973, Walling had passed the torch to NAIA standout coach Ekker. Ekker’s team immediately posted an 11–15 and 5–8 conference record. The following season the Buffs collapsed with a 9–17 record, finishing last in the MVC. Rising from the ashes of the 1974 season debacle was the WT lineup with Cheeks on board.


the 1970s

Perhaps the biggest—or at least most exciting— game of Ekker’s and Cheeks’s career came on January 9, 1975, when WT played the third-ranked University of Louisville in the Amarillo Civic Center Coliseum. With the score tied at fifty one with eighteen seconds remaining, Cheeks drove the lane and put up a shot that was choked back by six foot nine Louisville center Bill Bunton. He swatted the ball hard enough to reach midcourt, where Cardinal guard Phillip Bond snatched the ball and waltzed in for a leisurely, game-winning layup. Nearly one year later, on January 3, 1976, Ekker’s Buffaloes shocked legendary coach Denny Crum’s Cardinals by a score of 84–78 in overtime at Freedom Hall in Louisville. The win propelled the Buffs to a Top 20 ranking and a final season mark of 19–7. They lost to Louisville 69–57 later in the season before a record crowd of 6,308 at the Amarillo Civic Center.

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“Little Mo”

He was dwarfed in comparison by some of the Buffs’

basketball achievements. He started for four years and

legendary tall players of the 1940s, but Maurice Cheeks

was named Most Valuable Player three times and All-

towers above even that generation in terms of his

Missouri Valley Conference before graduating in 1978.

accomplishments both at West Texas and beyond.

He averaged 16.8 points his senior year and shot for

The six-foot, one-inch Cheeks went on to make major marks in the NBA both as a player and coach. Besides his accomplishments on the basketball court, he’s remembered and loved at WT as an allaround great player and for his personal integrity and inspiring work ethic.

56.8 percent from the field, finishing fourth on WT’s all-time scoring list with 1,227 points. “He was an all-around player with intelligence and great physical skills,” said Jerry Schaeffer, a teammate in the 1970s who remains a friend. “He had unbelievable quickness. He was a world-class athlete and was very, very strong.”

Like many of WT’s athletic greats, Cheeks came

On and off the court, Cheeks had incredible charisma

from outside the area. He grew up on Chicago’s

and a magnetic personality, though he was somewhat

hardscrabble South Side and made his way south to

naturally shy and reticent, Schaeffer said.

Canyon because, somewhat unbelievably, very few other schools recruited him.

“Maurice was a guy who was always very engaged with people when they were in his presence. He was

It wasn’t a natural fit at first, and Cheeks strongly

insightful and able to connect with people then and

considered leaving WT behind after his freshman year.

there. He would always stop and give you his

But his mother insisted that he stay in school, and way for fifteen years in the NBA as a point guard—

full attention. Because of that, he became a real treasure to the campus when he was here. Everybody loved him,” says Schaeffer.

eleven with the Philadelphia 76ers—and more years

And helping him to make the transition from urban

as a coach. He led the Portland Trail Blazers as head

Chicago to rural Canyon was a couple in Amarillo named

coach from 2001 to 2005, and was then hired to take

John and Betty Solis. They essentially “adopted” the

the helm of his beloved Sixers.

young Cheeks—and other players over the years—and

he went on to have an amazing career that paved the

His graceful ball handling and consistent play put

made him feel at home. “Betty was a great cook,” says

him at the top or near the top of many of WT’s all-time

Shaeffer. “She reached out to some of the players that


the 1970s

she thought needed a family outside their own family.” While he was at WT, a scout from Philadelphia got to see Cheeks in action several times, and the Sixers eventually selected him in the second round (the thirty-sixth player selected overall) in the 1978 draft. He went on to star alongside such Sixers greats as Julius “Dr. J.” Erving and Moses Malone—both of them legends in the NBA—and because of his achievements and consistency, eventually had his #10 ceremoniously retired by the Philadelphia organization. It was in the early 1980s that Cheeks became known as “Little Mo,” as a contrast to “Big Mo,” Moses Malone, who stood nine inches taller. In the NBA, Cheeks averaged 11.1 points and 6.7 assists per game. He played in 1,101 games, scored a total of 12,195 points, and had 7,392 assists. At the time of his retirement, he was the NBA’s all-time leader in steals, with 2,310. He played in the NBA All-Star Game four times and helped Philadelphia go to the finals four times, winning the championship in 1983.

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Chapter 4:

The 1980s an elegant culture volleyball women’s . . . and men’s speed and the three a string of four loss...and gain women’s softball


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the 1980s

An Elegant Culture

If Allene Stovall cultivated WT women’s sports in the 1960s and ’70s, Bob Schneider didn’t bother harvesting the crops—he and his Lady Buff basketball team set the field of women’s sports ablaze in the 1980s and ’90s, fulfilling Frankie Broyles’s prophecy sixty years prior.

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The trek to WT for Schneider meandered through the arable ranks of Texas Panhandle girls’ basketball, its own polestar for collegiate recruiting. In forty-three years of coaching, Schneider’s teams posted only two losing seasons. He was predictably rewarded with a place in the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame. After a short stint at Texas Woman’s University, Schneider planted himself in Canyon and choreographed the elegant mythos that became WT’s legend in Division II women’s basketball. In the wake of the Lady Buffs’ success floated a troupe of talented players, many of whom followed Schneider into the coaching ranks.


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After losing twelve games in both the 1981 and 1982 seasons, twenty more years would pass before the Lady Buffs roundballers would drop a dozen games in a single season. Winning became the Lady Buffs’ elegant culture, an expectation, a noblesse that ignited all of women’s athletics.

Under Schneider’s coaching mastery, the Lady Buffs staged twenty-five straight winning seasons and launched one of the most storied women’s programs since moving into Division II play in 1986. The rise of Lady Buff basketball came just in time for WT to migrate from the remote Missouri Valley Conference to the more familiar competition in the Lone Star Conference.

“Winning became the Lady Buffs’elegant culture, an expectation, a noblesse that ignited all of women’s athletics.”


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The Lady Buff basketball team’s list of accomplishments became almost mythical in Division II basketball; among other Division II coaches, Schneider inhales rarified air. · 585–163 at WTAMU · Twenty five straight winning seasons (Schneider’s WT teams never posted a losing record) · Eighteen seasons with 20-plus wins · 1997 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year · NCAA Invitational Tournament Runners-Up · Only two losing basketball seasons in more than 43 years of coaching · Eight Lone Star Conference titles · Two Women’s National Invitational Tournament appearances In 1988 the Lady Buffs posted the best season in its history, finishing at 33–1 and as NCAA Tournament Runners-Up. Along the way, the Lady Buffs captured a string of four Lone Star Conference Championships even though they played only half of the decade in the LSC. They followed the nearperfect 1988 campaign with a 26–3 season and a third straight LSC title. WT’s Teresa Tinner was named LSC Player of the Year and Leona Gerber was named All-Conference.


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Women’s . . . and Men’s Volleyball At the same time that the women’s basketball team was gaining dominance, women’s volleyball was producing conference-threatening teams in the 1980s that became national menaces into the 1990s, taking advantage of a robust supply of local athletes. Panhandle athletes who remained close to home were virtually assured four winning seasons and postseason play. By the middle of the ’80s, Kim Hudson ratcheted up the women’s volleyball program just in time for the transition from the old Oil Country Athletic Conference to the LSC. Prior to Hudson’s arrival, WT had jumped from a 2–27 record in 1979 to a 23–13–2 record in 1980 and earned a bid to the regional tournament at UTA under Coach Bobbie Cox. In 1982 the Lady Buffs won the Oil Country Athletic Conference with a 38–21 record in Carmen Pennick’s first year. Three seasons later they lost a share of the 1985 conference title by .00203 points in the league’s complex scoring system. During Hudson’s first year in 1986, WT improved from a 10–24 season to a 25–7 winning program. In 1989 Hudson’s girls closed out the decade with a 33–8 record to win the LSC. Hudson and the double threat of sisters Jill and Julie Myatt stamped the close of the 1980s with a foreboding volleyball dominance. Player Eve Posey set the stage for the oncoming decade—and eventually the greatest season in WT volleyball history. In 1989 she and her fellow Lady Buffs produced a 31–9 season, took home a share of the LSC title, and made their inaugural appearance in the Elite Eight. Posey took home First-Team All-LSC, American Volleyball Coaches Association All-South Regional Team, South Central Regional Tournament MVP, and AVCA Second-Team All-American honors. On the court, she set a WT and an LSC record with 1,616 assists.


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During Hudson’s tenure her teams won 127 games and lost only twenty five. Under her forbearance, WT secured two LSC titles and a co-championship. Hudson was named the Division II Coach of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association in 1990 and moved the following year to coach Northern Arizona. Named to the WT Hall of Fame five years later, she is now retired after coaching the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. WT even briefly launched a men’s intercollegiate volleyball team in 1980, but it was tragically marred when team member Greg Thompson was killed in a car accident during the season.


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Speed and the Three Over a decade, three WT men’s basketball coaches attempted to bring WT basketball back to its earlier prominence, beginning with Ken Edwards. After backto-back 8–19 seasons in 1979 and 1980, newcomer Edwards pulled off a 19–10 record with the help of Terry Adolph, whose older brother Mose Adolph was Edwards’s assistant coach. Adolph broke Cheeks’s record for most assists with 215. Adolph, who developed a well-deserved reputation for his speed and passing ability, led the team to an NIT berth for the third time in school history and beat 20th-ranked Southern California.

In 1981, Adolph won the Frances P. Naismith Award as the best player in the nation under six feet tall. He went on to the Golden State Warriors as a fourth-round draft pick.


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Edwards’s team slipped the following year, posting an 8–20 season, and continued to struggle until Gary Moss took over the WT men’s program in 1984 and instantly elevated them to an 11–17 season. The team followed with another 11–17 season in ’85, and by 1986 Moss had helped the WT men climb to the top of the LSC with a 24–7 record, and with another seminal

Charles Byrd had all but mastered the three-point shot that had just been introduced into the Lone Star Conference. Byrd ended the 1986 season as the conference’s second most prolific three-point shooter, all the while leading WT to an LSC co-championship. force on the court.

Coach Moss left after only three seasons and under the cloud of an NCAA investigation that eventually ended with two years’ probation placed on the WT men’s team. Consequently new coach Mark Adams began his tenure at WT ineligible for postseason play; nonetheless, Adams led the Buff’s to an 18–10 season and a tie for second in the LSC. Adams’s teams put together a 108–40 record from 1987–92, including consecutive twenty-plus winning seasons in his final three years.


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A String of Four A string of four head football coaches throughout the 1980s sought to produce winning seasons for WT football. Dynamic Bill Yung could only stitch together a 26–27–2 record in five seasons. His team was able to capture two conference championships in the 1970s, but none in the 1980s. Yung left that chore to Don Davis, choosing instead to step into the helm at Texas-El Paso, which competed in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Davis instituted a run-and-shoot-style offense that let Victor McGee emerge as one of the top passers in the country in 1982. But Davis’s team took a nosedive in 1983 and posted only a single tie and the worst season in WT history. In Don Davis’s last season, 1984, WT posted a paltry 3–8 record but ended an eighteen-game losing streak that had started in 1982.

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In 1985, under the direction of new coach Bill Kelly, WT tried to parlay the arm of standout quarterback Tod Mayfield into victory in a season that saw Mayfield rewrite the record books and emerge as one of the top Division II quarterbacks in the nation. The following year, 1986, was WT’s first year in Division II and the Lone Star Conference. The Buffs began 1–4 and losing on the road at Stephen F. Austin State (a Division I-AA team) by a score of 36–31. On the following Monday meeting of the WT Touchdown Club, master of ceremonies and Kimbrough Stadium public address announcer Phil Woodall predicted that the Buffaloes would not lose another game that year. WT ripped off six consecutive victories, including a wild 54–49 win at Texas A&I and a season-ending triumph at Abilene Christian on November 22. The Buffs were behind 28–7 at the start of the fourth quarter, but they scored twenty five unanswered points to win 32–28 and clinch the outright LSC championship. Although they were conference champions, the Buffs were not selected for the NCAA Division II playoffs, which then took only eight teams. It was probably a good thing for the rest of Division II, since the Buffs could have won it all.


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Loss . . . and Gain Amid all the triumphs of the ’80s, WT sadly bid farewell to its track and field programs. Coaching legend Bob Kitchens parlayed his early success at WT into fabled programs, first at Mississippi State and then at the University of Texas-El Paso. But it was during this decade that bowling erupted in its place. Though Bill Passons’s 1980 men’s team lost in the finals of the National Collegiate

they became known as one of the most prolific bowling squads in the collegiate ranks, producing national and international talent for years to come. Bowling Tournament,

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Among the several alumni WT has sent to the Professional Bowlers Association are Amarillo twins Mike and Mark Scroggins. Mike joined the PBA tour in 1989 and has won nearly $1 million, and another teammate, Marc McDowell, became the 1986 PBA Rookie of the Year, served as PBA president from 1991–92, won five titles, and earned Bowler of the Year honors in 1992. Jack Jurek still ranks as one of the top twenty bowlers in the Professional Bowlers Association. In 1983 Jurek qualified for the World Bowling Tour in Australia while playing for the Buffs. The Lackawanna, New York, native eventually joined the PBA tour and won nearly $400,000.

The women’s team sent shockwaves through the collegiate bowling ranks with a dominating national championship in 1982 and again in 1987. By the end of the decade, the women’s squad had made eight straight trips to nationals, even after they lost all university funding. By that time, Coach Regina Loveall had assembled one of the most inimitable teams in the nation and raised the funds to keep them on the lanes. Sisters Cathy and Carolyn Price returned the favor by providing strong leadership.

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Women’s Softball Women’s softball made an impressive launch in 1979 before the program fell victim to budget cuts in 1984. Under the tutelage of Brenda Marshall, the brief chapter in WT women’s sports history is still paying dividends. Lady Buff Renee Luers set school records for most wins, saves, complete games, innings pitched, and strikeouts, and later converted Texas Tech’s women’s team to national prominence in 1998 before taking the University of Central Florida job. In addition, she pitched several no-hitters and a shutout against nationally ranked Oklahoma State in 1983.


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Chapter 5:

The 1990s

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A Farmer Down the Road WT faculty and administration had sparred for much of the 1980s, leaving little goodwill for the tattered athletic department. WT needed a change.


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So Barry Thompson was summoned from Tarleton State University to assume the presidency of WT and to ameliorate the administrative footing that was splintered by the years of facultyadministration head-butting. Thompson orchestrated a plan for WT to join the Texas A&M System and changed its name to West Texas A&M University. But first, he had to face the financial difficulties of rehydrating the emaciated shell of the WT athletic department. Thompson was a cunning risk taker who had fashioned a reputation for retooling broken institutions. He’d brought Tarleton State back from the brink of collapse; WT’s situation wasn’t quite as dire, but old wounds needed tending. Thompson held his own passion for sports—horse racing in particular. (After retiring from his public university career, Thompson would open his own horse racing operation in West Texas.) But his personal sports hurrah would have to wait, for WT’s football program was in the red, and anemic on the field.

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The interplay of WT politics and athletics careened into the 1990s with especially ruinous consequences for WT football. After talks with then head football coach Steve Graf, and one of the worst seasons in WT history (1–10 in 1990), Thompson canceled the 1991 season. “It was a very difficult decision, especially when you consider how much I love college sports,” Thompson said.

“It was a very difficult decision, especially when you consider how much I love college sports.”


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Students complained. Scholarship athletes scrambled to find spots with other intercollegiate teams. And Kimbrough Stadium fell silent with no collegiate football for the first time since its construction. Even WT’s marching band was forced to look for Friday night gigs at area high schools, and homecoming found a temporary home with intercollegiate rodeo. Tragically, the haymaker of a cancelled season was felt throughout most of the 1990s as the football program continued to sputter. When Thompson revived the sport a year later, WT was out of the Lone Star Conference and competing as a Division II independent with non-scholarship athletes. The jovial Ron Steele took the unenviable task of rebuilding WT football and was only able to put together seasons of 1–9 (WT beat Prairie View A&M, with its own legacy of losing seasons) and 3–6 before leaving in the spring of 1994. Steele’s assistant, Morris Stone, held the reins for the next three seasons before Stan McGarvey took the helm in 1997 and brought some respectability back to WT football, posting winning seasons in 1997 and 1998. However, three WT teams in the ’90s ended their seasons with only one win apiece, as four coaches during the decade assembled total records of 38–57. Stone’s 1994 team went to the air on the arm of prolific quarterback Grady Benton, an Arizona State transfer, and produced a 9–2 record, giving longtime fans a glimmer of the past. The Buffs scored 506 points and threw virtually every down under Stone’s run-andshoot offense, but the next two years were dismal.


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Even with the spark of 1994, though, WT was still unable to defeat even the lesser teams of the LSC. They lost to both Abilene Christian and Eastern New Mexico in the season prior to reentering the Lone Star Conference. By 1995, WT was back in the LSC, and the teeth of the LSC buzz saw cut deep: WT finished with a single win. Stone resigned. And eventually Athletic Director Mike Chandler left. Longtime Division II athletic director Ed Harris took over the athletic department and hired Stan McGarvey, whose demeanor was the antithesis of Joe Kerbel, whose shadow still hung over Kimbrough Stadium.

Nonetheless, McGarvey’s job was to reincarnate WT football as the decade

wound down. McGarvey quietly propagated a sense of dedication, commitment, and integrity in Kimbrough Stadium and recruited heavily from the junior college ranks to field immediately competitive teams. In his first season McGarvey’s Buffs posted a 7–4 record with three straight wins to end the season. By the 1997 season WT won six of its first seven games and completed an 8–3 campaign. For McGarvey’s final three WT seasons, his teams struggled to hold on to what they had started, and by 1999 they’d dropped to 3–8. Despite McGarvey’s drive toward respectability, Kimbrough Stadium never saw a consistent stream of fans pack the stadium once the lights were turned back on. If the 1960s were the golden years of WT football, the 1990s were a tarnished display of courage and struggle followed by heartache and disappointment.

Sustaining traction was difficult. Money was in short supply. Students struggled to envision a football renaissance. No one realized that the resurrection of WT football was embodied in a farmer toiling just a few miles west of Canyon.


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Hunting for a Job It was an odd confluence of the happenings—deer hunting, a disastrous football season, and a sliver of an article in a small north central Texas newspaper. But it all fell together for Butch Lauffer, the only full-time soccer coach that WT has ever had. The demise of WT’s football team in 1991 had jeopardized WT’s eligibility in Division II. They needed another men’s sport, and soccer was the cheapest addition to a financially strapped athletic department. While he was taking a break from deer hunting in El Dorado, Lauffer spotted a newspaper article that announced Barry Thompson’s decision to end WT football. The story indicated that WT might add another men’s sport—perhaps soccer—so it could maintain Division II status.

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Lauffer was under no illusions. Soccer was a little exotic for WT. By the early ’90s, children were just discovering organized soccer and the knowledge pool was a little shallow. But Lauffer took on the task of building a soccer program with the zeal of an evangelist and the savoir faire of a soccer intellect. He wrote instructional books, cast soccer videos, and elevated the stature of the world’s most popular sport among youth organizations in the Texas Panhandle. While he was at it, he created a few winning teams at WT. He lobbied local sportswriters to take an interest in Major League Soccer. He had to enlighten a willing but somewhat ignorant WT athletic administration on the fineries of soccer etiquette: “Do you have cheerleaders at soccer games?” More importantly, he understood that soccer needed early success or it wouldn’t last past the renewal of football at WT. “It was a heckuva learning experience from day one. At the time I was running a club in Houston, so I was able to find some players. I told recruits that they’d have a chance to play right away. We had to be successful early on or it wouldn’t work,” he recalled. His teams didn’t disappoint, with the men going 10–9–2 in their first season and the women posting a 12–4 record and winning the LSC title using Panhandle talent in their inaugural season a few years later in 1996. Midfielder Julie Saylor Young, an Amarillo High School graduate, completed her career with twenty one goals and twenty four assists and was First Team All-LSC as well as receiving All-LSC Academic honors. In seventeen years as head men’s soccer coach and another twelve years as the women’s coach, Lauffer’s teams would amass a 334–143–32 record. By 1997 (and then again in 2000), the Buffs reached the NCAA Division II playoffs. Both the men’s and women’s teams would make the trip in 2001.


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“He wrote instructional books, cast soccer videos, and elevated the stature of the world’s most popular sport among youth organizations in the Texas Panhandle.”

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A Remarkable Season Undeterred by the gridiron struggles of the 1990s, Bob Schneider’s Lady Buffs basketball team posted winning seasons during each year of the decade. The Lady Buffs notched five LSC championships and eight appearances in NCAA postseason tournaments. Perhaps the most remarkable season in the decade was 1997. The Lady Buffs ran into a labyrinth of injuries; in one game the Lady Buffs lost two players to ligament injuries within the span of one minute. At times they had only one healthy player on the bench. So Coach Schneider looked for help. A product of the Texas Panhandle’s women’s basketball lore, Schneider knew there must be a few players among the student denizens. In the earliest days of Texas Panhandle history, girls in farming community schools played basketball long before administrators in large schools envisaged women’s athletics. “The larger schools thought sports were too tough on girls until about the 1970s. The small schools knew better, so some of these girls had mothers, grandmothers, and greatgrandmothers that played basketball,” Schneider said.


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“The larger schools thought sports were too tough on girls until about the 1970s. The small schools knew better, so some of these girls had mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers that played basketball.�

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“We are in the Texas Panhandle. I knew that there were talented girls on campus.” Schneider publicized an all-campus tryout, recruited volleyball players who were in their off-season, and figured out a way to win. The lady roundballers lost only two games and won the LSC championship as Schneider not only punctuated his own coaching legacy but spotlighted the latent talent within reach among WT’s student body. “It was really a remarkable season,” he recalled. “I asked some of the girls if they wanted to play, and they were very willing, worked hard, and had a great attitude.” One of those players was WT volleyball standout Leslie Brown Murrell who, at the time, was struggling for playing time at the net. “I was riding the pine. For some reason I think playing basketball that season made me a better volleyball player. I went to help them and they ended up helping me,” she said. “The next year volleyball seemed to click.” Brown, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and performs in stand-up comedy clubs, was forced to adjust to a culture that was far more serious than she was. “I remember one time, on a road trip, Coach Schneider was driving. I was joking around with the other teammates, ‘Why do you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?’ ‘If you drink half of Half-n-Half, does that make it Quarter-Quarter?’ and Coach Schneider snickered and said, ‘Leslie, if you could put half of that effort into remembering our plays, it’d be wonderful.’ Touché. I still remember some of the plays now. It took me a while, but I figured them out.” For most players, Schneider and his family became their extended family. Schnei-

“I wanted the girls and their parents to understand that even though they were away from home, they had a home with us,” said the coach. der’s wife, Barbara, acted as cook and confidante.


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The Best Season Ever With Coach Kim Hudson’s departure at the close of the 1980s, people feared the WT volleyball program would go downhill fast. But thanks to a few coaching connections (including a Buff men’s basketball player from Brazil) and some serendipity, Hudson had gotten her hands on a videotape of two promising Brazilian players with lightning speed and blistering kills who would make their mark in the new decade. Hudson had convinced Ana Carolina and Ana Cristina Pereira to make the trip to Canyon. They were kind, even-tempered, and quiet women off the volleyball court, but they mercilessly punished unsuspecting teams on the other side of the net. “I’ve burned my hand in the oven and felt less pain than the time I blocked Carole [Carolina] during practice,” said Leslie Brown.


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With plans to stay for perhaps a month, the sisters instead guided the Lady Buffs to its best season ever (38–1) and a national championship in 1990, and again in 1991 under new head coach Jim Giacomazzi. The Pereira sisters also received AllAmerican honors. In 1991 NCAA Division II national championship pitted Portland State against WTAMU at the Amarillo Civic Center before 3,199 rabid volleyball fans. Ana Cristina “Tita” Pereira was the Division II National Player of the Year. The next year “Tita” did not play, but her sister Ana Carolina “Carole” led the Lady Buffs to a 30–11

After Giacomazzi was fired by the athletic director, a diminutive spark plug named Debbie Hendricks filled the void.

record and third place in the national tournament.

Taking over in 1993, Hendricks immediately endeared herself to volleyball boosters and solidified her teams by bringing in a few playmaker recruits. In four seasons WT was 97–37 with two LSC championships. Hendricks left at the close of the 1998 season after a first-round loss in the regional tournament to pursue a medical career. But not before the year—1997— when Amarillo High product Sarah Butler surprised the Big 12 world by leaving the University of Texas after being named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year to return to her home in the Texas Panhandle. Can you say “national championship”? “We were so fortunate to get her,” explained Hendricks. “It was a real coup and we knew it.” So Hendricks and her staff begin assembling a cadre of players around Butler, made up mostly of local talent. “You had to stop our team. Different people stepped up at different times, but Sarah was the nucleus.” As the cornerstone of the 1997 team, Butler and company posted a 37–3 record, including an eighteen-match winning streak to end the season, and earned another national championship with an exciting five-game rally over Barry (4–15, 15–13, 21–19, 7–15, 18–16) in Bakersfield, California. It was a match that was heard in the early morning hours back in Amarillo and Canyon. Hendricks was named the 1997 AVCA NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year. She also won 1997 and 1998 LSC South Division Coach of the Year honors. Having posted thirty-plus winning seasons in 1995 and 1997 and compiled a 159–47 record. Hendricks was selected to the LSC’s seventy-fifth anniversary allsports team in 2007.


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Along the way, Sarah Butler collected enough postseason hardware to secure a spot in the conversation about the best volleyball players in WT history—and remain in it. She was a two-time NCAA Division II Player of the Year, including that national championship season as a sophomore, and she eventually joined only five other women named to the NCAA Division II all-time volleyball team. Butler repeated the Division II National Player of the Year honor in 1999 in Coach Tony Graystone’s first year, when the Lady Buffs lost in the Elite Eight semifinals at Battle Creek, Michigan. Butler eventually joined Tony Graystone’s staff as an assistant and married Colby Carthel, WT football’s defensive coordinator.


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T h e Vo i c e o f t h e B u f f s

For nearly thirty years, Warren Hasse was the voice

associated their teams’ progress on the field with

of the Buffs on the radio. It was sort of an acciden-

Hasse’s gentle, direct delivery.

tal career for Hasse, and it was a perfect match. He cherishes his decades of association with West Texas. Hasse, a native of Wisconsin, was a sportswriter before he got into radio. At the 10,000-watt KGNC— at 710 on the AM dial—he would go on to announce virtually all of the Buffaloes’ sports contests, even going on the road with the teams and arranging to have the Sun Bowl televised regionally in 1961.

“I just tried to be professional. My interest was more in people—the players and the coaches—than trying to keep scores and statistics,” he says.

“On radio, you can’t talk too much—you have to paint the picture. You have to describe everything—the wind, the temperature, the color of the uniforms, the size of the crowd. Everything. One of the

He says he had no model as a broadcaster; he just

biggest compliments I’ve received is that three different

wanted to keep it natural and preserve the flow of the

blind people have told me, ‘I could picture everything

games (virtually uninterrupted by commercials in those

that’s happening.’”

He was literally thrust into the job one sunny day in 1954 for the second game of a baseball doubleheader. The regular announcers, days).

Hasse’s son, John, of course, has been a part of the West Texas athletics program for thirty years, now as assistant athletic director. When he was little, he would sometimes accompany his father on the road trips.

he said, had gone off for a bite to

Former player Ronnie Mankin says

eat between games, and failed to

what made Hasse’s delivery stand out

return in time for the opening pitch

was its personal nature. He would go to

of the second game. “Suddenly, they said, ‘Here’s Warren Hasse to do the play-by-play,’ and they pushed a microphone in front of my face,” he says with a chuckle. From the mid-1950s to the early ’90s, Buff fans

great lengths to get to know the players and their various interests and share that with his listeners. “He knew us, so it was almost like the fans knew us too,” says Mankin.

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Chapter 6:

The 2000s

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Not on Video For nine years Don Carthel walked the turn rows that framed his farm rather than the sidelines of Kimbrough Stadium because he loved his children and had learned the hard way, during several successful campaigns at Eastern New Mexico University, that coaching took time. Lots of it. And he missed his children.


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“I was missing all of their games. I just stepped back and decided that I wanted to see them in person and not on video,” Carthel recalled. So after seven years at ENMU, in which Carthel had compiled a 44–28–1 record and pulled the Greyhounds out of the doldrums, he took a decadelong hiatus from coaching, stuck his hands in his father’s farm near Friona, and went about raising his two children. All the while he was looking over his shoulder and thinking about football. And he kept his toe dipped in the football flow. He coached in Division II All-Star games. When he had a chance, he volunteered to help coaches of other teams, even assisting his son, who coached at Abilene Christian University. After getting his children off and running, he took over the struggling WTAMU football team in 2005, compiling a 33–5 record and winning three straight LSC titles, and simultaneously resurrecting a winning tradition that WTAMU hadn’t seen since the Kerbel era. Carthel recruited speed. Found a quarterback in Dalton Bell, for whom thirty passes a game was a slow day, and wove together local talent with junior college transfers and a few Division I recruits looking for a second chance. Kimbrough Stadium was full again; cars lined Interstate 27 north to Amarillo and south to Canyon. Attendance averaged fourteen thousand and set national Division II records. Local folks decided the Buffs were worth watching again. Conversation even started about possibly constructing a bigger, more modern stadium fit for a new generation of players.

In 2005 the Buffs shocked the Lone Star Conference—and even Coach Carthel—with a 10–1 season after the pundits had matter-of-factly added them to the bottom of the conference in preseason polls. “I was surprised that we got it turned around as fast as we did; we won a lot of games that we shouldn’t have won,” said Carthel.


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Success brought accolades. Carthel was 2005 Coach of the Year. The first conference championship in nineteen years was followed by two more. No WT team had ever managed a piece of three straight conference championships, much less three unshared titles in a row. Folks started talking about Carthel even more fondly than they had remembered Joe Kerbel. In his first three seasons Kerbel had wracked up eighteen wins. Carthel’s Buffs amassed thirty-three wins in the first three years against five losses.


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And while Kerbel was lionized for his iron-fisted coaching, Carthel commingled accountability with an engaging, salesman’s demeanor—only Carthel believed in what he was selling. “WT was a sleeping giant. I felt that way from the time that they dropped to Division II. All of the ingredients were in place; we had to get them [the players] to believe,” Carthel explained. But Carthel took a few plays out of Kerbel’s discipline playbook. “The biggest key to coaching is treating the kids well and holding them accountable. And that hill at Kimbrough works wonders,” said Carthel, referencing the pernicious incline on Kimbrough Stadium’s north end. Players forced to scale the hill were usually making amends for some on-the-field transgression.


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“WT was a sleeping giant.”

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The Savior Farmer Carthel brought a singular philosophy to the football field—“play with passion.” In 2005, Dalton Bell sparked Buff aerial appetites by throwing for nearly four thousand yards and thirty touchdowns in eleven games and revealing the posture of the new Buff team. “Fans love to see you sell your body and play with excitement. That’s 90 percent of football,” he said. Carthel’s early success has also allowed the savior farmer to build WT football the way he wanted to from the beginning, but he was forced to take a more expedient route. The WT talent pool was so depleted when Carthel arrived that he immediately went to junior colleges for quick help. With the 2007 recruiting class, Carthel and his staff focused almost exclusively on filling its open ranks with high school recruits.

“We’re trying to wean ourselves from the transfers. In the first years we didn’t have a choice, but now we’re building a self-sustaining program,” he said. If the Buffs are successful, future pundits will survey the crop of winning seasons grown by WT’s savior farmer and declare T. Stalnacker’s promise to deliver “the best that is in us” as Carthel’s golden harvest.


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Soccer Success Stories Butch Lauffer’s success with the WT women’s team ultimately eclipsed his early start with the men’s team. The men have been no slouches either. In addition to honing a string of All-LSC talent, Lauffer mentored Davey Arnaud, WT’s first All-American after posting thirteen goals and three assists in 2001. Arnaud left WT for the pro ranks and made the Kansas City Wizards as a striker, and eventually earned a spot on the U.S. National Team. But the women have won the LSC regular season or tournament title six of the last eleven years, including three in a row.


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Along the way, Lauffer has orchestrated a string of firsts: · First women’s soccer camp in Trinidad. · Formalization of zoned-style play that Lauffer called “innovation based on survival.” · One of the first to take an intercollegiate team abroad for preseason practice in Ireland and Germany. · First to start bringing in sports psychologists to work with players. “We didn’t always have the best players, so we had to be better prepared,” Lauffer said. · First college team in Texas to scrimmage MLS teams.


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Not the First Choice . . . or the Second Almost sixty years after the storied success of WT’s 1940s teams, men’s basketball coach Rick Cooper inserted a hard-driving, speed-dependent offense and a relentless man-to-man defense to emerge as the most successful coach in WT history. And it almost didn’t happen. “I was not the first choice; I don’t think I was even the second choice,” Cooper remembered. “We rolled the dice and took a chance.” He was the third choice, and coaching a few miles south of Canyon at Wayland University in Plainview. WT Athletic Director Mike Chandler offered him the job. The WT athletic budget was suspect, which might have contributed to the two earlier false starts. Nonetheless, Cooper “rolled the dice.” Recruiting started late, leaving Cooper with little time to ponder the significance of being something other than the “first pick.” “I was just worried sick about trying to win ball games,” he recalled. Beginning with his inaugural season and into the 2000s, Cooper’s teams have muscled, passed, and sprinted their way into LSC prominence with six NCAA Regional Tournament berths in his fifteen years in both the WT Fieldhouse and the new $13 million WT Events Center that opened in January of 2002. WT hasn’t had a losing season since Cooper took over the reins in 1993. WT introduced its new mentor with fifteen straight wins in that season. He was also the first WT coach to lead a team to the Division II Elite Eight (1998), and his teams have made ten postseason appearances.


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“We want our players to produce their best when the best is required.�


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In stark contrast to his fiery court presence, Cooper is philosophical about his contribution to fifteen successive winning seasons. “We want our players to produce their best when the best is required.” Perhaps some of Cooper’s success revolves around his willingness to act as WTAMU salesman to prospects who dip their toes into the Texas Panhandle on recruiting visits. Unlike the exchange between legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and 1970s WT coach Ron Ekker acknowledging the difficulties of recruiting into rural Texas, Cooper has cooked up winning seasons with a healthy mix of local and more distant recruits, including one in his own household. Cooper enlisted his own son, Tyler, to play for him through the 2007 season. “It’s been the time of my life. It’s forced me to look at it in a different light. It’s made me a better coach,” he explained. For more typical recruits, Cooper believes just getting them on campus is half the battle, and if he can get them to the WT president, the deal’s almost sealed. WT president Russell Long, who served in the top post during much of Cooper’s career, insisted on meeting every recruit.

“The campus sells itself, and if it’s important to the president, it’s important to the campus,” Cooper said.

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Brister Soars to Top with Lady Buffs

She’s humble and unassuming, but she aims high and scores.

ished for twenty-five winning seasons and multiple

The Lady Buffs certainly have a rich basketball

Fans and admirers can easily tick off Brister’s impres-

tradition, and Emily Brister is taking them to new

sive traits . . . and then keep ticking them off. The

heights. After just her third season at WT, she has earned

five-foot-nine guard is a great shooter, is fast, pulls

her place in the pantheon of WT greats like Vanessa

off quick, crafty passes for assists, and is constantly

Wells, Teresa Tinner, Pat McDonald, Natasha Taylor,

gathering rebounds on both ends of the court. The

Latricia Spencer, Brandi Green, Celeste Stevenson, and

Amarillo native is also an excellent student and has a

Keisha Moore.

sunny but low-key personality.

On her way to becoming WT’s all-time leading scorer—with 2,106 points (beating Stevenson’s high mark of 1,993) and another season to go—Brister has been named

championships under Coach Bob Schneider.

“She’s really got it all,” says Phil Woodall, longtime play-by-play announcer with the Buffalo Sports Network. “Just everything she does, she does a great job on.” With all the attention focused on Brister during her

All-American for the third year in a row and was named

junior season, Woodall maintained a “Brister Watch” to

Lone Star Conference South Division Player of the Year

alert the media to her many progressive milestones—

for the third straight season as she helped to lead the

among them attempted field goals and three-pointers

Lady Buffs to a regular-season title and their ninth LSC

made.

Championship and sixteenth NCAA postseason appear-

When preparing for her first season with the Lady

ance in 2008. Fittingly, she was named the LSC Tourna-

Buffs, Coach Krista Gerlich, herself a former star at

ment MVP after averaging 25.7 points per game for the

Texas Tech, commented on Brister’s all-around skills

Lady Buffs in postseason play.

and leadership presence:

Courtney Lee, the Lady Buffs continue a tradition of

“She sets the bar in practice every day by her work ethic; then she lifts them up with praises when she is successful,” Gerlich says. “She is truly a special and

greatness that started with Allene Stovall and flour-

gifted individual.”

With Brister at the guard position and strong supporting players like Jamie Dreiling, Dixie Bell, and


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As a freshman in 2005–06, Brister averaged twentyone points a game and won the Lone Star Conference South Division Player of the Year award as well being named the LSC’s Freshman of the Year. In her second year at WT, Brister picked up a bagful of more awards while averaging twenty-three points a game. In 2008, Brister was majoring in bilingual elementary education and was excited about working with children in the future. She consistently earned excellent grades at WT; in 2006–07, she was named the Lone Star South’s Academic Player of the Year and was named an Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports Scholar.

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Volleyball Tony Graystone, following in the footsteps of Kim Hudson and Debbie Hendricks, continued as the third generation of WT volleyball coaches to mix local talent with the seasoning of targeted recruits from across the United States—and continued the winning ways too. Under Graystone’s stewardship the WT women have won nearly 85 percent of their games, and in his ninth year as coach, his teams

He eclipsed Hendricks’s record of 160 wins to become WT’s all-time winningest coach, and his teams hit the one hundred-win mark faster than any team in NCAA history after only 106 matches, including a 34–4 record in 2007.

have more than 250 wins.


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Conclusion

As West Texas A&M begins its Centennial Celebration, it is our pleasure to bring you Buffalo Thunder, a celebration of the first 100 years of athletic achievements at West Texas. Since 1910, WT has been home to incredible triumphs and—as is the very nature of sport—disappointing losses. Each has contributed to the rich history of Buffalo Athletics. Most importantly, our teams have been a common bond for our alumni and community to share a passionate devotion to the Buffs and Lady Buffs. Buffalo Thunder is a tribute to all those who have competed for the Maroon & White and in the process provided the people of our university and our region with countless memories and lifelong friendships. Undoubtedly, the book will stir memories and provoke conversation among you and your family and friends. These pages highlight only a few of the outstanding coaches and athletes who have each played a role in our history. Those featured in Buffalo Thunder would agree that their accomplishments were due in large part to their teammates and coaches. We hope this is the first project of many that will pay proper tribute to the thousands of Buffs and Lady Buffs who have come before us. While Buffalo Thunder celebrates the first 100 years of athletic accomplishments, the Buffs and Lady Buffs of the next century will no doubt provide more thrills and memories for generations to come. May you enjoy this work, share it with your friends and continue the charge of “On, On Buffaloes!” Go Buffs!

Michael McBroom

Director of Athletics

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