A decade ago Michael Crabtree made one of the most improbable plays in college football history. His touchdown late in 2008 Texas Tech game helped dash Texas’ chances of playing for a national championship, winning the Big 12 outright and would later help put Oklahoma, who Texas beat, in the BCS National Championship Game, where they would lose lopsidedly to Florida.
Crabtree’s play instantly made him one of the greatest villains in Texas Longhorn football history and it’s his name that invokes curse words everywhere among die-hard fans.
Crabtree is certainly one to consider, but is he in the top 10? With some help from American-Statesman sports editor Jason Jarrett, here is a two-part list of the 10 greatest villains in Longhorn history.
10. Bill Snyder
The first time Texas played a Bill Snyder-coached team was in 1998. It ended with Mack Brown’s Longhorns being beaten to a pulp by No. 5 Kansas State, 48-7.
Yes, those trips to Manhattan, Kan. have been like going to the dentist and your dentist using a big drill.
The second time Texas played Kansas State was in 1999, and the Wildcats handed Texas a 35-17 loss in Austin. Third time was a charm for Texas, as the Longhorns, ranked No. 8 in 2002, survived a 17-14 war of attrition against Kansas State in Manhattan.
Snyder briefly retired after the 2005 season and Texas still lost to Kansas State in 2006 in a memorable game. (Side note, Kansas State head coach Ron Prince’s offensive coordinator was future Penn State head coach James Franklin and defensive coordinator was future NFL head coach Raheem Morris).
In 2009, Snyder returned as head coach and in 2010 Snyder returned to beating the Longhorns.
When Texas arrives at Kansas State on Oct. 7, Bill Snyder will have a 7-5 record against the Longhorns. For as someone with a reputation like Snyder – universally respected by every college football person – it’s comical that Snyder has a Boogie Man-like persona among Longhorn fans. The Wizard, at 78, probably evokes more fear from Longhorn fans than Bob Stoops, who actually falls off the Snyder coaching tree like so many college football coaches. They have this fear for good reason, because some of the best teams Mack Brown ever had couldn’t beat Kansas State or struggled to beat Kansas State.
Maybe the fact that Tom Herman beat Snyder in his first crack at the legend is a telling one, still, it took an overtime game in Austin for Texas to beat a Kansas State team that lost five games in 2017.
Still, when you think of Snyder and Texas, you think of Snyder and his days coaching against Brown and his record against the College Hall of Fame coach was 5-3.
9. The Freedom Bowl and other second-tier bowl games
Scene: Texas has just lost to (insert Big 12 team here)
Fan No. 1, wearing slightly not so burnt orange shirt with anger in his voice: “Great, looks like another trip to the Texas Bowl”
Fan No. 2, wearing burnt orange 2005 Rose Bowl shirt: (In audible cursing).
There are BOWL games and there are bowl games, and if you’re Texas, not going to a BOWL game is a sign the season has not gone well, even when it has. This villain strolls hand-in-hand with Daunting Expectations, but how many times has Texas been sent to a bowl game, say the 1984 Freedom Bowl, and just been demolished. In the past, making anything but the Cotton Bowl or the Sugar Bowl was, well, just the worst to many Texas fans.
And then the Longhorns would exemplify that sentiment on the field.
In 1984, Iowa beat Texas 55-17 in the Freedom Bowl.
In 1985, Texas lost in the Bluebonnet Bowl, ah the Bluebonnet Bowl, to Air Force 24-16. Sure the Longhorns have won a lot of these second-tier bowl games, but to so many Longhorn fans, these bowl games are a joke and a waste of time. Some schools would kill for an Alamo Bowl invite. For Texas, it’s a sign that the season didn’t go so well.
And there is a positivity about this villain, in a way. Players don’t want to play in the Texas Bowl. They want to play in a New Year’s Day Bowl like the Rose Bowl and want to be in the College Football Playoff, so the fear of being relegated to, say, the Texas Bowl, can motivate players – it’s like being chased by Jaws and a major bowl game is the beach.
Why are they a villain: Because many fans don’t get excited for non-New Year’s Day bowl games and treat them as a disappointment that saps the entire program – for basketball fans, going to the Holiday or Sun or the Texas bowl is like being invited to the NIT.
8. Ara Parseghian and Notre Dame
This is a coach who many Longhorn fans born in the 1980s don’t know much about. And frankly, Parseghian, the legendary head coach of Notre Dame, is probably not really the most “villainous” guy ever – he coached Rudy for crying out loud.
But it was Notre Dame who not only ended Texas’ 30-game winning streak in January 1971, but it also put a rather awkward blemish on the Longhorns’ 1970 National Championship claim. Yes, the national champion was crowned before the bowl game in those days, at least by UPI, so Texas was and is the champion of record – along with AP champion Nebraska – but there’s a reason why in today’s world a champion isn’t named until after all the games are played.
Texas lost to the Fighting Irish 24-11 in the Cotton Bowl in January of 1971. It was a rematch of the 1970 Cotton Bowl that Texas needed a touchdown with 1:08 left in the game, Billy Dale’s touchdown, that pushed them over the top.
There is a statue outside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend of Parseghian being carried off the field after beating the Longhorns in 1971.
Parseghian retired in 1974 but the Leprechauns still haunted the Longhorns. Now coached by Dan Devine, a team led by Joe Montana and Bob Golic prevented a fourth Texas national title in 1977. The Longhorns had Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell and were No.1 in the nation. The Irish led Texas 24-3 at one point and went on to win 38-10.
Since 1978, the Longhorns are 1-3 against Notre Dame, being outscored by 63 points in those games. While one of Charlie Strong’s best wins of his Texas career was the 50-47 overtime victory over Notre Dame, one of his three worst moments was the 38-3 thumping in South Bend.
Why they are a villain: Texas would have another national title if not for Notre Dame and Texas’s best winning streak was snapped by them. Plus, I’ll ask, should Texas really claim a share of the 1970 champion? Nebraska (11-0-1) says no.
7. The nameless (sometimes not namesless) angry booster
Whenever the Longhorns start stumbling, one of the first things that is floated is how upset “the boosters” are and how they want changes. This is something that has happened on the 40 Acres for nearly a century, dating back to the 1920s with coach E.J. Stewart who was at odds with members of the athletic department after his record slipped and was fired with a 24-9-3 record. Even Clyde Littlefield, who was 44-18-6, dealt with booster issues when Lutcher Stark, namesake of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas, called for his job.
Stark is the O.G. of Texas boosters. After coach Berry Whitaker went 22-3-1 from 1920-1922, he resigned as coach because of a rumored conflict with Stark.
Longhorn fans know some of the famous cantankerous boosters who give opinions, like Red McCombs, who famously dumped on the Charlie Strong hire before Strong ever coached a game. But there are plenty of boosters outside of McCombs who could make this list.
Why are they a villain: All these boosters love Texas more than the average person. They have to because many of them give thousands or even millions to the program and like any smart, successful person, they want to know their money is being spent correctly, but sometimes that love can strangle the program.
There were whispers that boosters wanted Mack Brown out after the 2010 season – 12 months after playing in the BCS National Championship Game. “Boosters/ powerful alumni” always seemed to be reported as individuals plotting for the arrival of the next coach, often the Kent State alum who currently coaches Alabama. That type of negative vibe – and perhaps meddling – make the “Nameless angry booster” one of the biggest villains in Texas history.
6. Frank Broyles, Arkansas head coach
Once upon of time Texas played three games that were more than just games, they were heated rivalries. Oklahoma. Texas A&M.
And never was that rivalry more fierce than when Darrell Royal and his coaching rival, Frank Broyles were on the sidelines.
Broyles is to Royal what Bob Stoops was to Mack Brown. They were the two best coaches in the SWC during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Both were hired in the 1950s and both retired following the 1976 season. In fact Royal and Broyles played each other in their final game as coaches and both went on to become athletic directors – Broyles was far better at that job than Royal was, staying on as Arkansas athletic director until 2007 – 33 years as AD.
Sports Illustrated said Royal and Broyles “waged a most civilized war.”
They were friends and rivals, but that doesn’t mean Arkansas wasn’t a villain. They were the team Texas had to beat in 1969 to win its second national title, and they barely did, winning 15-14 in arguably the greatest regular season game in Texas football history.
It was called the “Game of the Century” for a reason.
Perhaps the game that is forgotten the most by Texas fans is the 1964 Arkansas game. Texas was the defending national champion and was undefeated. The Longhorns lost at home to Arkansas 14-13. Texas scored 13 fourth quarter points and with a chance to tie following an Ernie Koy touchdown, Royal went for two with with 1:27 left to play.
Texas didn’t convert. Broyles’ Hogs won. Texas didn’t lose again until 1965.
That year Texas was undefeated and ranked No. 1 when Arkansas beat them 27-24 and the loss sent the Longhorns season into a tailspin, finishing 6-4.
In the 1960s, Texas and Arkansas played seven games that were decided by less than a touchdown. Arkansas won four of them.
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