Top Tens of 1997

Sports Top Ten

1) Out With the Mack. In With the Mack. Don't know what the pollsters saw in the Fiesta Bowl butt-kicking last January that led them to believe Texas was deserving of a Top Ten ranking to start the '97 campaign, but pre-season expectations were high. Then Texas played UCLA. Despite the nine games left on the schedule, UT never recovered from the 66-3 humiliation; and with a defense that would surrender to the French, Texas ended up 4-7-- hell, save for a fluke roughing call, Texas lost to Rice for the second time in four years and finished 3-8. No surprise, within days of season's end, coach John Mackovic was reassigned. Enter Mack Brown off a wildly successful season at North Carolina. Brown made football relevant in the country's cradle of college hoops and arrived at Texas with a Gipper press conference that itself might have sold a luxury box or two. Expectations are already high around here... again. -- Michael Bertin

Hook 'Em bows at Jody's 700th

photograph by Susan Sigmon

2) Jody! Jody! Jody! It was the perfect exclamation point to a year that marked the 25th anniversary of Title IX and the inaugural ABL and WNBA season. On December 18, Jody Conradt's Lady Longhorns got their beloved leader her 700th win, making her the only woman to achieve such an honor. Conradt, who downplayed the milestone, joins the ranks of legends Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp as one of the winningest coaches in college hoops. It's been a less than stellar season for the young Lady Longhorn team, but their mid-December victory over Northwestern will be remembered as one of the standout sports moments in 1997. Here's to 700 more. -- Lisa Tozzi

3) No Future? What NBA team can: a) muster only two points in a 12-minute quarter, b) help another team end a 9-game losing streak, and c) be penciled in as a possible "W" by other cellar dwellars? That's our Dallas Mavericks! Oh, the tortured existence of a Mavs fan. Season after season of losing records, spoiled stars, and inept management. Not to mention the plague of season-ending player injuries. The franchise is cursed. What's an Austin NBA fan with an eye towards the millenium to do? Root for the San Antonio Spurs? Too wimpy. Houston Rockets? Great, but all the talented veterans will retire soon. Washington has its Wizards, Minnesota its Timberwolves. Where is the young, upstart Texas team we can support as they get swept out of the first round in the playoffs? The fans in Philly, Boston, and New Jersey can have hope for the future. Why can't we? -- Teresa Rendon

4) Right on Track Ivan Wagner transferred to UT from North Carolina to jump high for the Running Horns basketball team, but thought he would kill some time in the spring by jumping high for the track team as well. His spare-time pursuits produced a stunning upset at the NCAA championships with a winning leap of seven feet, six and a half inches, breaking his personal best by a whopping two inches. Similarly, Dana Riley of the Lady Longhorns was not among the favorites in the 800 meter run, but shocked the field by winning in two minutes, 2.89 seconds. Both upset victories helped push their respective teams to second-place finishes. -- Lee Nichols

5) Build It, They Will Come The erection of the monolithic east side of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium takes up about as much psychic space in the way of year-end Austin sports wraps-ups as it does in imposing real-life physical space. "Skybox" is the word, so forget your perfect view of Austin's lovely city skyline from the LBJ forever more. The good news, however, is that ground was broken in October and construction is proceeding as planned for the Mike A. Myers Stadium & Soccer Field (Shagadelic, baby!) scheduled for completion in January, 1999, which will reside east of Memorial. Plus, the new Red & Charline McCombs Field for women's softball, next to Disch-Falk, should be available this February. -- Kate X Messer

6) OU? Ow! The Texas-Oklahoma game ceased being a national championship-caliber showdown a long time ago, but now it's so pathetic that neither team can manage to enter the game with a winning record, and droves of Texas Blue Chippers are heading to places like Kansas State and UCLA. Nevertheless, this year's Red River Riot was one for the record books as OU's De'Mond Parker and eventual NCAA rushing champion Ricky Williams lowered their shoulders for a combined 514 yards on 51 carries (291 and 223 yards, respectively) in the "Best One Man Team With No Defense" category. -- Taylor Holland

7) Bats Don't Bite Here are four bites from the Austin Ice Bats' inaugural season: 1) At his best, Brett Seguin, the "Ice Bats' all-time leading scorer" (as rink announcer Bob Fonseca calls him) is the Wayne Gretzky of the WPHL, always hitting the perfect pass while seeing rhythms that others don't and creating openings by forcing the defense to focus on him. 2) Witnessing the final seasons of three stellar IHL and/or NHL veterans: Goalie John Blue ("Bluuuuuuuuuuuue!"), winger/team co-owner Paul Lawless and defenseman/current head coach Jim Burton. 3) Ryan Anderson or Kyle Haviland and some opponent's battered face. 4) The playoffs were a bust, but the Ice Bats did manage to buy their fans one more home game with a nail-gnawing overtime victory on Easter Sunday in El Paso. -- Jason Cohen

8) Root for the Home Teams Austin Cyclones, we hardly knew ye. When the Southwest Basketball League folded just halfway through its opening season, the Cyclones got to host a hastily arranged playoff semifinal game... on second thought, make that a semifinal series... no, wait, a championship series, 'cause nobody wants to play in the finals. Whatever... only 136 hardy fans showed up for the last game anyway. Coach Joey Wright (the "W" from Tom Penders' "BMW" glory days at UT) deserves better. On the plus side, Austin is still one professional team ahead of last year; soccer's Austin Lone Stars went pro last year, in their 10th season of operations. In so doing, they also became the city's first team since the old baseball Senators to have an affiliation with a national major league; their DIII Pro League is soccer's equivalent of, say, Texas League AA baseball. In other highlights, the Lone Stars hosted the MSL's Dallas Burn, two U.S. Open Cup matches, and averaged over 1,000 attendance at House Park. -- Nick Barbaro

9) We Aren't the Champions It was a heckuva year for the Westlake Chaps, as our erstwhile state champions rode an explosive offense and the D of sack-happy Jeff White to a 10-0 regular season record and a ranking atop the state polls. Dreams of a second state title proved premature, however, as the Chaparrals fell to San Antonio MacArthur in a first-round playoff upset. (MacArthur advanced to the regional finals before losing to interstate-mates New Braunfels.) Just wait 'til... '96??? -- Jay Hardwig

10) Da Boys Will Be Boys Depending on your point of view, this July will be a return to what July's supposed to be: hot, dry and dull. Or it will be a sad first anniversary of a jilted lover: The Cowboys have left Austin. For the Cowboy hater, like me, a month of the Cowboys at St. Ed's, along with the revolting media blitz, was like having a wet towel stuffed in your mouth. For us, it's good riddance. However, for the over 100,000 Austin Cowboy fans who braved ghastly, dog-killing heat to watch their heroes stretch, I guess it will be a loss. Who dumped who? St. Ed's says they'd had enough. They wanted their campus back. Jerry Jones says he was ready to leave. As with many love affairs, this one did not end cleanly. On the last night of camp, the Boys trashed many of the dorm rooms, ripping out light fixtures, punching holes in the walls and, for an extra nice cowboy touch, they peed on the floors. Not too surprisingly, no other city in the state seems to want them. -- Coach Andy Cotton