Mack Brown

Former tight end David Thomas still holds records with Texas football, but now his success comes from his broadcasting job with Longhorn Network.

The 2006 Rose Bowl game typically conjures up images of Vince Young tearing apart the USC defense and sneaking across the goal line with 20 seconds left on 4th-and-5. But few fans remember the team-leading 10 receptions that tight end David Thomas hauled in to help Texas earn its first national title since 1970. 

“We couldn’t have won it without that,” former head coach Mack Brown said.

But Thomas’ earned more than just a national championship during his time at Texas. In his four years, Thomas also won the 2005 Rose Bowl by a slim margin and set the Longhorns’ record for receptions, yards and touchdowns by a tight end — records he still holds.  

His play caught the eye of the New England Patriots, who selected Thomas in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft. He went on to have a fruitful seven-year career, in which he brought a Lombardi Trophy to New Orleans.

But Thomas’ love for Texas football stayed strong until he retired after the 2012 season. When Longhorn Network came calling, Thomas, a Texas native, leapt at the opportunity despite not having a communications degree or prior experience.

“I hadn’t really given a whole lot of thought to getting into broadcasting,” Thomas said. “The first time I did it, I started to see that I could still be around the game and be able to give my opinions and cover a team that I love to cover”

The attributes that earned Thomas praise from NFL and NCAA coaches and teammates have also garnered him strong reviews from his peers in the media.

“[Thomas is] a really bright guy who earned his degree before going to the NFL,” said Brown, who is now a broadcaster himself for ESPN. “He knows the game and had so much awareness of what was happening on the field. He has great insight for both broadcasting and coaching.”

Although Thomas’ playing career is over, the record-setting tight end still prepares for studio work as if he were going to take the field Saturday.

“It’s a very similar mindset,” Thomas said. “I kind of get lost in the world of watching the scheme and watching the players and the matchups and figure out where the other team is vulnerable and what can be exploited.” 

Thomas reputation and experience led to a side job coaching with the Air It Out passing camp in December 2014. Alan Wartes, the camp director when Thomas’ attended as a high schooler, leapt at the opportunity to bring his former student and longtime friend on as a coach when Thomas retired from NFL.

“First and foremost, he’s just great for kids,” Wartes said. “David’s a great guy, and he’s a good ambassador for the University of Texas.”

As important as Air It Out may be to a camp alumnus such as Thomas, there are a few other players that take up most of his time now. He has four kids, ranging from one to seven years old, and has taken on the responsibility of coaching all of their teams to stay as involved as possible in their lives. 

Thomas is just two years removed from a championship-winning career, but he has already found what he wants to do for the rest of his life.

“I’m thrilled with where I am,” Thomas said. “The game has done a lot for me and has opened a lot of doors for me and continues to open doors for me through these avenues. I’m very blessed to be able to do what I do and work with the people that I work with.”

Head coach Rick Barnes talks with sophomore guard Kendal Yancy. In Barnes’ last four seasons, his numbers have been eerily similar to the former football head coach Mack Brown’s.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

When Rick Barnes and Mack Brown were introduced as head coaches for men’s basketball and football, respectively, their careers were somewhat destined to be compared.

In the 1996–1997 season, then-men’s basketball coach Tom Penders led the Longhorns to the Sweet 16, and then-football coach John Mackovic won the Big 12 Championship game over heavily favored Nebraska.

Both coaches followed that up with losing seasons in their 1997–1998 campaigns, leaving Barnes and Brown to turn the programs around after achieving success in the ACC.

The majority of their tenures were filled with victories.

Barnes’ teams qualified for the NCAA tournament in the first 15 of his 16 seasons coaching Texas men’s basketball, whereas Brown won 10 or more games every season from 2001–2009.

Barnes led the Longhorns to the Sweet 16 or better five times in a seven season stretch from 2002–2008, including the school’s first Final Four appearance since 1947. Brown coached the Longhorns to their first national title since 1970 in 2005 and almost won a second title in 2009.

But the programs’ success hasn’t carried over into this decade. 

Much like Brown’s tenure ended, Barnes has struggled to bring Texas basketball back to the level of success he set the bar to in the mid-2000s. In each coaches’ last four years, their numbers are eerily similar — and not in a good way for Texas. 

Both coaches had similar winning percentages in this time period. Brown posted a 30–21 record (58.82 percent), and Barnes sits at 79–55 (58.96 percent). In the first three quarters of their tenures, both coaches won at a much higher rate; Brown won 82.58 percent in his first 12 seasons, and Barnes won 72.12 percent in his first 13.

Barnes’ teams compiled a poor record against teams that made the NCAA tournament, similar to Brown’s struggles against teams that went bowling.

Using Lunardi’s projections, which are bracket projections,  to fill in the 2015 tournament field, Texas is 21–45 against opponents that make the Big Dance, including 13–35 against conference foes. Brown, on the other hand, went 16–19 against teams that played in bowls, including 11–16 in conference play.

Likewise, both coaches’ records against teams in the AP top 25 are comparable. Brown went 4–15, and Barnes posted a record of 10–32 — both winning percentages of under
25 percent.

From the 2011–2012 season to the present, the basketball team is 35–37 in regular season conference play under Barnes, but it is only 22–36 when excluding Texas Tech and TCU, the perennial cellar dwellers from the record. From 2010–2013, Brown went 18–17 in conference play but was only 12–16 when excluding Kansas and Iowa State, the two worst teams in the Big 12 over this stretch.

In addition, the two times Brown and Barnes each finished below .500 in conference play occurred in their past four seasons.

If Barnes continues to follow Brown’s decline, he may end up with the
same fate.

During his time on the 40 Acres, kicker Anthony Fera proved to be one of the best kickers Texas has seen with a school record-tying 15 straight field goals. Though he did not receive an NFL spot last year, Fera is hoping to get another shot.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

After transferring to Texas from Penn State and suffering a groin injury that delayed his Longhorn debut, Anthony Fera took to the field his senior year to become one of the most consistent kickers Texas has ever seen. During his tenure, he hit 15 straight field goals — tied for the longest streak in school history.

Fera, who kicked and punted for the Longhorns in 2012 and 2013 after transferring from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal, was a consensus All–American in 2013 and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best kicker.

“We saw the real Anthony Fera in his last year at Texas,” former head coach Mack Brown said. “He was focused and excited, and you could see that in his kicking. To go from such a difficult situation to becoming a Groza Award finalist really speaks to his determination.”

Kicking may be the most high-pressure job in football, but for Fera, the task became second nature.

“For me, kicking … it’s easy to me,” Fera said. “Once you learn it and you master it, then it’s not a problem.”

Now a year removed from college, Fera needs the confidence and determination that allowed him to thrive amid a collegiate career sullied by scandal and injury. The kicker, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. referred to as the best in the 2014 draft class, is still trying to join the tiny fraternity of NFL kickers and punters.

“It’s a waiting thing,” Fera said. “It hasn’t really worked out for me yet.”

Though he was not drafted, the former Longhorn standout did get a taste of the NFL dream at the Miami Dolphins’ rookie minicamp. But by the time the regular season rolled around, Fera found himself without an NFL roster spot.

“Right after the draft, I went down to the rookie minicamp down in Miami and had a little setback with a school injury, just a strained muscle, and a couple weeks later I went to Jacksonville, but they were looking more for a punter,” Fera said. “That didn’t really work out as planned.”

Despite the yearlong setback, Fera is still dead set on landing in the NFL. He now spends his time hopping around the country, punting and kicking at veteran combines and working out in Austin.

“[I’m] working out … probably five, six times a week, still kicking … probably two times a week just trying to stay fresh.” Fera said.

Still, no player can maintain peak physical performance for long — as anyone who has labeled the NFL as “Not For Long” can attest. For a player such as Fera — an undrafted specialist hanging in limbo after a full season on the market — it is especially important to have a backup plan in place.

When Fera is not trying to maintain NFL levels of fitness, he is busy learning the ins and outs of the oil industry from his father at MidStar Energy, a directional drilling company in Houston. He hopes to eventually have enough industry knowledge to land a career in sales.

“I’m just trying to learn the whole process at the moment,” Fera said. “Every now and then, I’ll go out to an oil rig and check out a few things.”

Fera said his fledgling career will not pry him away from his dream of landing on an NFL roster.

“My main focus is making the NFL,” Fera said. “I’ll probably give it a try the next year or two.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

The relationship between a player and coach at the collegiate level is unlike any other bond.

Many college athletes are able to attend school only because of their ability to play a sport, and, typically, it is their coach who recognized that talent and provided them with the opportunity to gain a post-secondary education.

Coaches often act as father, or mother, figures for athletes who come from tough upbringings and are usually mentors to players outside the field of play, just as much as they are teachers on it.

But these coaches are paid to do what they do, and their livelihoods depend on the success of their athletes, so it’s not uncommon for them to play the role of harsh disciplinarian. They often scream and holler at their student-athletes, pushing them to their absolute physical limits. And athletes expect it.

Therein lies the challenge coaches around the country face each day. They must each find a way to motivate their players and push them to improve and produce on the field, while maintaining their respect and serving as a leader whom players feel comfortable approaching off the field.

Mack Brown, former Texas head coach, was as good as anyone at finding that balance through the first three-quarters of his tenure in Austin, developing a reputation as a happy-go-lucky southern gentleman, whose players loved to win for him. But, as his teams failed to produce in his final four years on campus, Brown was all of a sudden accused of being too soft on his guys.

The hiring of Charlie Strong symbolized the end of anything soft on the 40 Acres, as he quickly went to work, instilling his core values and removing anyone who didn’t abide by them. Being the opposite of Brown, the initial fear was that Strong’s no-nonsense approach would rub some of the team’s veterans the wrong way, causing the disciplinarian to quickly lose the locker room.

However, much as when Brown first arrived, Strong and his staff appear to have found the perfect balance. Despite his team’s struggles and the possibility of missing a bowl game, Strong’s players continue to preach their admiration for the new regime.

“[The coaches] respect each and every guy by the type of person he is,” senior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “I think they can relate to everybody just by the way they act.”

“The way they act” is much different this year. Under Brown, entrance to the coaches’ wing of Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Center required a code. Upon his arrival, Strong had all such barriers removed, opting instead for an open-door policy among his coaches and encouraging players to stop by whenever they please.

That’s just one example of how the new staff has quickly built a strong repertoire with its players.

“I can tell you, I’m about to go sit in those guys’ office right now and look at some film.,” Diggs said. “There are things I wasn’t able to do my first three years here.”

It speaks wonders that Diggs and his fellow seniors have already bought into the new regime’s hard-nosed style. After spending several years playing for a man who couldn’t be more opposite, the team’s veterans have quickly adjusted to Strong and company’s different approach.

“They do a good job of letting everybody know that they truly care about you, that they want to relate to you,” said senior linebacker Jordan Hicks, who spent four years playing for Brown.

It’s a unique relationship, the one between player and coach, but Strong and his staff seem to have rapidly established a good one, and the players appreciate it.

“It’s important to have that relationship with your coach,” Diggs said. “We don’t take that for granted.”

Former Texas football coach Mack Brown had a history of recruiting brothers to the 40 Acres. And it seems current head coach Charlie Strong’s staff is on their way to following the trend.

Early Thursday morning Strong extended an offer to 2016 Gilmer Athlete Demarco Boyd. Demarco is a talented player in his own right, but most schools seem to understand that his best quality is his ability to influence his brother Kris Boyd, a 2015 Army All-American cornerback.  

The Boyd’s aren’t the first star brothers Strong’s staff has offered this year as 2015 RB Kirk Johnson and 2016 WR Collin Johnson have been committed to the Longhorns since April. The Johnson brothers were also seen as a package deal, but are widely regarded as high quality recruits no matter who they could bring with them.

The art of recruiting brothers is a time-honored practice. Brown was a master of it, recruiting some of the best talent in the country to Texas during his 16-year tenure. Sam and Emmanuel Acho, from the class of 2007 and 2008, respectively, benefited greatly from Brown’s willingness to offer within the family. The Acho brothers ended their careers at Texas as highly decorated linebackers, with both being named finalists for the Lott IMPACT Defensive Player of the Year Award while garnering All-Big 12 and All-American honors.

Though, on the other end, the Vaccaro brothers didn’t see the same equal results as the Acho’s. Older brother Kenny thrived as a defensive back under Brown, eventually being named All Big 12, All American, and a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Younger brother Kevin, from the class of 2012, has dealt with a few injuries, but for the most part it seems that the junior safety has not been able to impress the new coaching staff enough to earn quality playing time. After recording five tackles in his freshman season on special teams, Vaccaro has played in just seven games without recording a stat.

But the McCoy brothers are perhaps the greatest example of recruiting both brothers based on the older brothers accomplishments. Former quarterback Colt McCoy left college as a two-time Heisman finalist and as the NCAA leader in career wins.  His legacy still lives strong at Texas, where many believe he should've won the 2009 National Championship. 

Younger brother Case McCoy is a different story. Though he was an accomplished high school quarterback, many saw his recruitment to Texas a favor from Brown, based on pedigree rather than potential. Case had an interesting career at Texas, splitting time with former quarterback David Ash for the better part of three years. Though he had some success at Texas, he was never near the player his brother was.

One half of Brown’s last brotherly recruits are still making an impact for the Longhorns. Senior WR Jaxon Shipley has been a consistent playmaker for the Longhorns throughout his career, breaking into the top 10 in school history in receptions, receiving yards, and punt return yardage. Older brother Jordan, who graduated in 2010, is one of the best Longhorn receivers in recent history, breaking records throughout his career including a school record 273 receiving yards against UCF in 2009. The eldest Shipley was a Consensus All-American as a senior, and recipient of the Paul Warfield Trophy, given to the nation’s best collegiate wide receiver.

Recruiting talented brothers is a long standing tradition in college football. Sometimes, as was the case for the Acho and Shipley brothers, both were recruited based on their own ability and potential. Other times, and probably too often, one brother is targeted by a school who has no intentions for him to contribute anything to the team besides a talented sibling.

It’s too early to tell where Coach Strong’s two sets of brothers will fall in this argument, though it seems as if the Boyd brothers fall into the same mold as the Vaccaro’s and McCoy’s. The Johnson’s seem to fit in with the Acho’s and Shipley’s, but it will not be clear until their time on the 40 Acres is up. 

Charlie Strong will face Oklahoma for his first time as Texas head coach this Saturday in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

For the past 15 years, there were a few things to count on at the annual Red River Showdown in Dallas: greasy food, a stadium divided and Mack Brown and Bob Stoops pacing opposite sidelines, leading their teams in one of the greatest rivalries in college sports.

There will still be fried Oreos on Saturday, and there should be an equal sampling of burnt orange and crimson in the stands, but, for the first time since 1999, Brown, former Texas head coach, won’t be opposite Stoops at the Cotton Bowl this weekend.

In Brown’s place will be new Texas head coach Charlie Strong, who is making his debut in the rivalry. While he hasn’t had any experience coaching in this specific one, Strong is no stranger to emotional rivalry games.

“I’ve been involved with Florida-Georgia and Florida-Florida State,” Strong said. “The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is a special rivalry. We know how big it is.”

In his best attempt to get a feel for just what it will be like to run out of the tunnel with Big Tex looking on this weekend, Strong has been talking to some of his staff members who have experience representing the Longhorns against Oklahoma.

“Just having a chance to sit down and talk to [defensive coordinator] Vance Bedford and [wide receiver coach] Les [Koenning] and [Marcus] Tubbs as guys that have played in it,” Strong said. “And you have [tight ends coach] Bruce Chambers who coached in it. They all know how big this game is.”

Strong’s replacement of Brown at the helm of Texas, signifies the beginning of a new era in the historic matchup. In a sport where players change every few years, the coaches are often the only constant. With Brown and Stoops each having been so successful at Texas and Oklahoma, respectively, their rivalry became almost as big as the one between the schools.

That certainly won’t be the case between Strong and Stoops — at least not for a while — but the two do have some history together and share similar defensive-minded philosophies. 

“Bob and I are friends,” Strong said. “When I was at Florida, I was leaving Florida and he was coming in. I respect him and the job he’s done there in Oklahoma. He’s an unbelievable coach and, not only that, just a really good person.”

Stoops had similar praise for Strong, who has impressed him with what he’s been able to accomplish since arriving in Austin.

“I think a lot of Charlie Strong and the way he coaches.” Stoops said. “I know he is going to continue to work that program and we will see a team that will be motivated and ready to play. They are a team that is capable and again, they beat us just a year ago.”

Saturday’s game will be the first chapter of a new era, but Strong and Co. are hoping to pick up right where last year’s team finished — with a win.

For Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, the hype surrounding the Red River Rivalry is nothing new. 

He brought home nine wins in 15 matchups against former Texas head coach Mack Brown. But now, as Stoops prepares to take on the new head coach in Austin, Charlie Strong, for the first time, many fans and media alike see it as the start of a new era. Stoops, however, says he sees no change.

“I don’t see [this year] being any different at all,” Stoops said. “It would be different if [Mack Brown] and I were out playing but that isn’t happening, and I’ve never looked at it across as an individual issue — it’s not for me.”

Stoops has told various publications through the years that the historic matchup is about one great program against the other, not about any individual rivalries. He told the San Antonio Express-News in April he’s “not between the lines playing in the game;” and, even if he was, “football is the ultimate team sport.”

A team sport indeed, but Stoops holds plenty of personal accolades. The winningest coach in Oklahoma history, Stoops is the only college head coach with a national championship victory and wins in every BCS bowl game. Through 199 games at Oklahoma — 123 against Big 12 opponents — Stoops boasts a winning percentage above .800. 

The nature of the rivalry and Texas’ historical advantage both add to the excitement of the annual trek to Dallas. Stoops says the Sooners remember last year’s 36-20 loss well. In the 16-point loss, four Longhorns recorded touchdowns, two running backs surpassed 100 rushing yards and then-senior quarterback Case McCoy, who played only because of an injury to then-sophomore quarterback David Ash, racked up 190 yards through the air, passing for two touchdowns. The memory of such an embarrassment for the Sooners doesn’t fade fast.

“This week with Texas, we understand the rivalry and what a challenge it will be,” Stoops said. “We went down there a year ago and got beat by 16 points. We are still very aware of that.”

With this awareness comes an adjusted game plan. Stoops must cater to Strong’s schemes rather than those of Brown, to whom he’s grown accustomed. Stoops and Strong have crossed paths over the years, and each expresses utmost respect toward the other.

“[Stoops] and I are friends,” Strong said. “When I was at Florida, I was leaving, and he was coming in and even at Big 12 meetings, we sit together and joke around. I really respect the job he’s done at Oklahoma.”

Stoops, too, said that the Sooner staff “think[s] a lot of Charlie Strong and the way he coaches,” and notes Strong’s progress early on.

“I know he is going to continue to work that program and we will see a team that will be motivated and ready to play,” Stoops said. “They are a team that is capable, and, again, they beat us just a year ago.”

As the No. 11 team in the country there’s little doubt that the Sooners field a better team than the Longhorns do each week. But Stoops and his players know that in rivalry games like this one, anything can happen. It’s anyone’s game this weekend at the Cotton Bowl. 

And, despite Stoops’ insistence that the rivalry is restricted to men in shoulder pads, the veteran boss has been heavily invested in the competition for 16 years now. The hype is nothing new. And it will never get old.

A fire ravaged the North Carolina home of former Texas football coach Mack Brown last week, according to multiple reports. 

David Vance, Avery County, North Carolina Fire Marshall, told the Austin Business Journal that the fire was first reported late Thursday night and took five local fire departments to finally put it out. Only two chimneys were left standing from the fire. 

Since announcing his retirement in December, Brown has spent significant time at this mountain home, which is located in a gated community in Linville, North Carolina. Recently, Brown reportedly moved most of his Longhorn memorabilia from his Austin home to this residence. 

Brown reached out to his supporters on social media Tuesday morning to thank them for their well-wishes. 

“Thx for your thoughts and prayers about the loss of our house,” Brown tweeted. “Tough deal, but thanks. Blessed everyone is fine and we are moving forward.”

The cause of the fire is currently unknown. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

A new era began in Austin on Saturday night.

For the first time in 16 years, a new coach led the Longhorns out of the tunnel at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Charlie Strong replaced Mack Brown on the sidelines, leading the Longhorns to a dominant 38-7 win over North Texas.

“It’s great,” Strong said. “I mean, it’s my first one of the year, which is really good, just to get it in and get out a win.”

Early on, Texas showed many glimpses of the change that was anticipated in the offseason, and, in contrast to the ugly start on both sides of the ball in last year’s season opener against New Mexico State, the Texas defense set the tone early.

To start off the game, the Longhorns forced a three-and-out on the Mean Green’s first drive. On their next drive, sophomore safety Dylan Haines, a former walk-on, intercepted North Texas’ pass and returned it for 22 yards to start the momentum swing for Texas.

The Longhorns intercepted two more passes in the first half, including the first interceptions of senior linebacker Jordan Hicks’ and sophomore safety Adrian Colberts’ careers. Senior linebacker Demarco Cobbs added Texas’ last interception in the second half, which resulted in a pick-six.

The Texas defense didn’t allow a touchdown in the contest and didn’t allow the Mean Green to produce a play of more than eight yards.

“I know it’s hard to believe,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. “We talked about getting four takeaways — one takeaway a quarter — and to come away with four interceptions, that’s outstanding by those guys. Good pass rush, and guys can make plays if the ball is in the air.”

Texas struggled on offense in its first two drives, only moving the ball a combined 17 yards. But, after a personal foul penalty and multiple pass drops, junior quarterback David Ash hit senior wide receiver John Harris for a 27-yard breakout. A few plays later, senior running back Malcolm Brown punched the ball into the end zone for Texas’ first score of the season.

Brown, who finished the game with 13 carries for 65 yards, scored his second touchdown early in the second quarter to give Texas a 14-0 lead. Junior running back Johnathan Gray, in his first game back from a break because of his Achilles’ heel tear, finished with 16 carries for 82 yards, including a sprint of 42 yards to set up an Ash touchdown late in the first half.

Harris, who finished the game with a career-high seven receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown, led Texas’ receivers after nearly doubling his career receiving totals in yards and receptions.

“Once [Harris] dropped those two, then he was able to bounce back and then just start playing,” Strong said. “And just relaxing, and make the big third down and score on the touchdown where he outran everybody. It was just fun to see him come out.”

The Longhorns lost senior center Dominic Espinosa in the third quarter, after which Texas struggled with snaps, including two fumbled snaps. Espinosa will miss an undetermined amount of time, breaking his streak of 40 consecutive game starts, and will undergo surgery Wednesday. 

Check out more photos from the game in the slideshow below - 

Bill Little, special assistant to the head football coach for communication, will retire Sunday after 46 years with the Texas athletics department. The football and baseball press boxes will be named the Bill Little Media Center in his honor. 

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Seven years ago, Bill Little, special assistant to the head football coach for communication, made a promise to then-athletic director DeLoss Dodds and head football coach Mack Brown.

The longtime sports information director committed to stay at Texas for as long as Dodds and Brown did.

But, last January, just a few months away from turning 72, Little and his wife, Kim, realized that promise had been fulfilled.

“In January, I looked up, and both DeLoss and Mack were gone,” Little said. “A new group of people were coming in, and they needed their own people to do their own thing. So [Kim and I] said, in the words of Coach Royal, ‘Let’s just set our bucket down.’ And that’s what we decided to do.”

On Aug. 31, Little will retire, and, for the first time since 1968, he will no longer be an employee of Texas athletics.

The legendary wordsmith, who worked as a commentary writer and special assistant to Brown for the past seven years, saw the reigns of five football coaches, five basketball coaches and four athletic directors during his time in Austin. He attended 36 bowl games with the Longhorns and broadcasted more than 1,700 baseball games. Even Little’s honeymoon consisted of accompanying the Longhorns’ basketball team to New York during their NIT trip in 1978. But, after seeing six decades come and go at Texas, Little thought it was the perfect time to leave.

“It’s always hard to step away,” Little said. “But the timing was just perfect. I always said I never wanted to leave anywhere bitter, and that has always been important to me. The opportunity seemed right for the new administration — for Coach Strong and for everyone. It was a hard decision, but it was also an easy decision.”

Little grew up in Winters, a small town south of Abilene that encompasses under three square miles and has a population of just more than 2,500. After growing up a Longhorn fan, he followed in the footsteps of both his parents and began his college career at Texas in 1960.

As a student, he majored in journalism and worked in the sports information director’s office, creating a close friendship with football coach Darrell K Royal that would span until his death in 2012. In addition, he served as the sports editor of The Daily Texan for two years, witnessing Royal’s first national championship in 1963.

In 1968, at 26, Little started his full-time career at Texas as an assistant sports information director after a job interview that lasted just two sentences.

“I saw there was this really good job in public relations at the University of Texas,” Little said. “I called Coach Royal, and I said, ‘Coach, I want to come back.’ And he said, ‘I’d like to have you back.’ And that was the extent of it. I started that spring.”

Unknowingly, Little would spend the next 46 years involved in Texas sports. Ironically, though, sports weren’t Little’s passion. His passion stretched through sports to the stories that could be told and the people who were discovered through the game.

“I knew I loved journalism, and I knew I loved to tell the story,” Little said. “What I found in sports was the human element. It’s the conquest of the human spirit. It makes you love the game — whatever it is — and you cry with it, whether you win or lose.”

Little wanted to make a difference through his work and through his words.

“I always found that, if you can write something that can make a difference to somebody, it can change a life,” Little said. “I was a bad golfer and a worse tennis player. And I wasn’t big enough to play football, and I was too short to play basketball, so my only gifts were to write and talk. And, if I was going to do what God put me on this planet to do, then I needed to do those things.”

Little made that difference he was seeking and influenced so many around him that the football and baseball press boxes will now be named the Bill Little Media Center. A significant gift from longtime athletics supporter Marian Dozier created the funds to honor Little.

“It means so much to be able to honor my great friend Bill in this way,” Dozier said. “This naming will help honor his immense life work, the legacy he has left nationally on sports media and hopefully motivate young people to follow their passions in work and life.”

With his retirement approaching, Little — who has three children and ten grandchildren, all of whom are Texas fans — is ready to step away. He still hopes to stay involved with Texas athletics, though, by announcing home baseball games and doing radio work. He’s also written seven books on the Longhorns and hopes to finish a few more during his new free time. 

“Texas athletics has pretty much been my life for close to 60 years,” Little said. “This fall will mark the first time since 1957 I haven’t covered football for somebody. But now, I think I’ve earned the chance to set my bucket down.”