1968 was a year that changed the world. Also, in 1968 Austin College had one helluva football team.
The 1968 Austin College Kangaroos were honored at Homecoming this weekend. The ‘68 squad went 8-1 and finished the season ranked #6 nationally in the NAIA. Team members were recognized on the field prior to the game against Rhodes (formerly Southwestern (TN)); it will come as no surprise to you that Rhodes was one of their many victims. Three members of the team were named NAIA All-American; fifteen sit in the AC Hall of Honor. The season was so successful that AC’s head coach was later lured away to a Big XII university that recently defeated the Texas Longhorns. According to that coach, members of the 1968 team were so good they could have started for him at that Big XII school.
1968 was a tumultuous year in the United States and around the globe. Conflict abroad and racial strife at home tore the nation apart and a governing political party was split in two. Students fought administrations in the US and Europe. The tragedy of assassination revealed itself again. An eastern European nation suffered anew from Soviet oppression. The Olympics were marked by violence and protest. And yet, the year ended on a positive note when humans traveled to the moon and viewed the earth from afar:
“You’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.”
- Astronaut Frank Borman’s thoughts on seeing the entire earth from outer space as he and the crew of the Apollo 8 returned from orbiting the moon.
In 2016, we told the tale of 1981 and Austin College’s magical NAIA D2 national championship. In 2017, we revisited the season of the 1988 TIAA conference champions who fell to the eventual national champs in the NAIA D2 playoffs. In 2018, we’ll head back a half century to a team in a year that were both second to none.
The 1968 Roos ended an 18 game winning streak of one opponent; another competitor boasted a future member of the Dallas Cowboys Doomsday Defense. One member of the AC team is synonymous with the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; another is an author and member of an All-Canadian college football team. Still others have great stories you and I have yet to learn.
One interesting little fact that is relevant today. The 1968 Roos ended their season on November 11, 1968. Exactly 50 years ago today. And exactly 50 years after Armistice Day 1918.
The 7-0 start for the 1968 team has only been matched by the previously mentioned 1988 squad. No team in the 122-year history of Austin College football has ever gone undefeated; over that time period, only a single team has ended a season with one and only one blemish: the 1968 Austin College Kangaroos.
In December, we’ll tell their story.
Over November, I’ve been accumulating press of the 1968 season and revisiting some of the biggest national and international events of that year. I’ve also been friending members of the 1968 team online, so that they can be included in the story. After all, while I can tell a decent play-by-play, only members of the 1968 team and the friends and family can add a much needed color commentary.
Members of the 1968 Austin College Kangaroos:
Chris Nyvall, Dee Dearen (request sent), Eddie Farley (request sent), J.B. Cole (request sent), John Fain, John Sheridan, Keith Johnston, Mark Burtner (request sent), Nick Jones (request sent), Paul Neubach (request sent), Phil Fuller (request sent), Randy Reedy (request sent), Rick Page, Bob Sheffield, Roland Rainey (request sent), Steve Schiff (request sent), Vb Atchison, Bruce King (request sent), Jerry Moore, Bob Schucany, Bobby Anderson (passed), Charlie Schreiber (passed), Clay Fulcher, Dennis McEntire, Don Fields, Eddie Brister, Fred Maples (passed), Gary Watkins, Hobart Collins, James Moore, Jay Weigel, Jeff Smith, Jim Baccus (passed), Joe Meade (passed), John Clendennen, John Menefee (passed), Kelly Hester, Ken Hewett, Kent Streit, Larry Elliott, Lonnie Cooper, Mark Beardsley, Mike Moore, Mike Skinner, Mike Toon (passed), Mitchell Dickson, Neil Crockett (passed), Pat Marushia, R.J. Hagood (passed), Ron Hagood (passed), Richard Bass, Robert Snider (passed), Ronnie Cooper, Steve Hays (passed), Steve Josephson, Teb Baker (passed), Tim Jubela (passed), Tim Miller, Wes Eben (passed), Head Coach Floyd Gass, Assistant Coaches Duane Nutt (h/t Kelly Nutt), Bob Mason, Bill Long, Slats McCord
We’ll tell the story of their 9-game season over 9 days in December:
Sat 12/1: Northwood & Tet/Cronkite/LBJ/New Hampshire
Wed 12/5: Southwestern & Prague Spring
Sat 12/8: Maryville & French Student Protests
Wed 12/12: Nebraska Wesleyan & RFK
Sat 12/15: Sewanee & MLK
Wed 12/19: William Jewell & the Chicago Convention
Sat 12/22: Colorado College & the Mexico City Olympics
Wed 12/26: Ouachita Baptist & the Dallas Cowboys
Sat 12/29: Texas Lutheran & Apollo 8
Even the most traumatic years can have a silver lining. The painful year of 1968 ended with one of the greatest human achievements ever: a visit to the moon. As the astronauts of Apollo 8 were headed home, a telegram from an American who had experienced that entire year was relayed from Earth.
It said quite simply: “You saved 1968.”
Apollo 8 returned safely to earth during the last week of December 1968. We’ll wrap up the story of an amazing Roo season 50 years later during the last week of December 2018. Hope to see you then.