Austin College & Texas A&M met on the football field in Sherman on Thanksgiving Day, 1896. That same afternoon, the University of Texas Longhorns were squaring off against a Dallas football club in Austin. At the time, football was a working class club game played by laborers. UT, A&M, and AC were the only three Texas colleges that participated in this new game of “American football.”
Soon after the holiday, the Mexican government expressed interest in two American colleges playing this new sport in Mexico. The Longhorns were interested; AC & A&M, lacking the funds of a UT, were decidedly not. UT went looking for another squad, and found one in an old opponent from 1894…..Missouri. At the invitation of President Porfirio Diaz, Texas & Missouri played the first college football game in Mexico just weeks after the AC/A&M game. According to the Mexican press, the game was a novelty, more brutal than a bullfight, and unlikely to attract much permanent interest south of the border.
The dictatorship of Diaz lasted from 1876 until 1910. It was a time of political stability and economic growth. It was also a time of repression and social injustice. Mexico was a ticking time bomb, and that bomb went off in 1910, the 100th anniversary of the “Grito de Hidalgo” that kicked off the Mexican war for independence against Spain.
The Mexican revolution which followed was chaos. From the election of Francisco Madero in 1911 to the assassination of Alvaro Obregon in 1928, the country was a non-stop parade of instability, political violence, and regionalism. American intervention in Veracruz and Nuevo Leon didn’t do much to help. But American intervention did have a lasting impact in Mexico. Just as Union soldiers had brought the game of baseball to the Confederacy, American soldiers brought the game of football to Mexico for good. Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines to occupy Veracruz in a show of support for the Huerta regime. It didn’t help Huerta. But the Marines played football in Veracruz, and the locals took up the game after the departure of Uncle Sam.
One by one, violence took the lives of leaders of the revolution: Madero, Zapata, Villa, Carranza, and finally Obregon. By the time Pete Cawthon was leaving Austin College in the 1920s to coach at Texas Tech, the revolutionary leaders that remained in Mexico City got together to put an end to the chaos. They establish a political party to rule with an iron fist: the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI).
From 1929 to 2018, the PRI dominated Mexico continuously, either directly (up to 2000) or allied with a political party of a similar ideology (the PAN, since 2000). Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian author, called the PRI “La Dictadura Perfecta” (the perfect dictatorship). The PRI, and ONLY the PRI, would govern. And govern indefinitely. In exchange for this unsolicited authoritarianism, the party would perhaps shift priorities from time to time as the political winds demanded.
The years before the PRI also gave birth to Mexican college football. The largest public university in the country is the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) in the capital. Two brothers and students at UNAM, Alejandro & Leopoldo Noriega, spent the mid-1920s studying abroad at Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. There, they fell in love with Knute Rockne, the Fighting Irish, and college football. Upon return to Mexico, the brothers began the work of establishing an UNAM team.
The Noriega brothers brought back with them the Notre Dame colors of blue and gold, as well as the famous Notre Dame fight song. Both are still used by UNAM today. “Fighting Irish” did not translate well into Spanish, so the first UNAM team instead adopted the “Osos” (Bears) in honor of George Halas’s Chicago franchise nearby. Arthur Constantine, an American colleague and partner of car manufacturer Henry Ford living in Mexico, helped to finance the team.
By the end of World War 2, the PRI had a stranglehold on Mexican politics. The party was committed to economic development by way of public investment in health, infrastructure, education, and industry. The investments contributed to the “Mexican miracle”, a three-decade period of 4%-5% annual economic growth. It also contributed to the rise of large, public Mexican universities, and by extension college athletics. The most popular sport on college campuses between 1945 and 1968 was not soccer. It was American football.
A lack of opponents in Mexico eventually sent UNAM looking towards the colossus of the north, and the school found a rival in small north Texas town called Sherman.
Presidents Taft, Diaz & dignitaries. 1909. Taken by Will Stuart. He had studio next to Alexanders. Copyrighted picture & Feldman copied and started putting them out so Stuart made him pay.
Chapter 2: 1950s
The first meeting between Austin College and UNAM occurred in 1952 at the Cotton Bowl. It was Ray Morrison’s last season as coach of the Roos. Morrison was an All-American QB at Vanderbilt when the Mexican revolution began in 1910. He won a SWC title at SMU in 1923 and returned to coach at his alma mater in Nashville alongside Roo Henry Frnka soon thereafter. After nearly a decade coaching at Temple (PA) during and after WW2, Morrison ended his long coaching career in Sherman with Frnka once again by his side.
By the 1950s, interest in the game was growing dramatically in Mexico. UNAM coaches reached out to small colleges throughout the Southwest, including AC. From “A Sesquicentennial History” by Dr. Light Cummins:
“The college football program established in the 1950s a unique tradition that continued for many years thereafter. The Kangaroos began a series of international games played with football teams from Mexico, some played south of the border and others on the Sherman campus. [Assistant Coaches] Harry Buffington and Joe Spencer were intrigued with the notion [of playing UNAM] and decided to play the Mexican team in the fall of 1952.”
Monday, October 6th, 1952 was Mexico Day at the State Fair in Dallas. Residents came out to see Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, enjoy the international exhibits, and watch the Pumas (“Osos” had been replaced) & Roos go at it. Football was a huge draw all week at the Cotton Bowl. One day earlier on Sunday the 5th, fans had been able to enjoy the AFL’s Dallas Texans take on the San Francisco 49ers. The October 11th game pitted the Texas Longhorns against the Oklahoma Sooners, as usual.
It was AC’s third trip to the Cotton Bowl. The Roos had lost to McMurry in 1936, and had fallen to East Texas State in 1950. Billy Bookout, a Sooner transfer and a future Green Bay Packer, was the star halfback for Austin College. UNAM was coached by Roberto “Tapatio” Mendez, today considered a football legend in Mexico.
UNAM struck for three first half touchdowns, and cruised to a 21-7 victory over the Roos. The turnout for the game, however, was high. Thousands showed up at the Cotton Bowl to take it in; large crowds would become a fixture of AC games against Mexican colleges through the years. AC & UNAM agreed to play three more times between 1953 and 1955.
The Roos had won their first ever road game against Fort Worthy University in 1898 by a score of 25-0, and had taken a train to get to Tarrant County. In 1953, the opponent was the Pumas of UNAM at Olympic Stadium in Mexico City, and new head coach Harry Buffington took Austin College football on its first ever airplane flight. Olympic Stadium had been constructed just one year earlier in 1952; Austin College was one of the first American colleges to play at the iconic venue. In Mexico, the presidency of Miguel Aleman had come to an end, and the Mexican economic miracle was in full swing.
AC was down 30-18 at the half, but freshman sensation Gene Babb led a Roo comeback. By game’s end, the Roos had racked up 538 yards rushing and 681 total yards. Both are still AC records. AC beat the team it had lost to in Dallas by a score of 38-30, and finished the season at 7-3-1. It was Austin College’s best record since WW2. “Se Vengó el Austin College,” screamed Guadalajara’s El Informador. “Austin College gets its revenge.”
UNAM had the misfortune of squaring off against AC during the Babb years. The Pumas visited Sherman in 1954, but were no match for the Roos and their future Dallas Cowboys star. UNAM returned to Mexico on the losing end of a 41-14 score at Bearcat Stadium. In addition to finding the end zone on more than one occasion, Babb even booted the extra points. AC finished the year with another winning season. A Mexican newspaper mentioned that the game was “el primer juego que la oncena local haya efectuado contra un equipo extranjero en su campo” (the first home game for the Roos against an opponent from abroad).
By 1955, college football had become a huge attraction in Mexico City. AC returned to the capital for the fourth of four games against UNAM at Olympic Stadium. The Roos stayed at the luxurious St. Regis hotel, on Reforma avenue just up the road from Chapultepec Castle. 25,000 fans showed up to watch, the largest crowd to ever witness an AC football game at the time. Babb once again was unstoppable, scoring two TDs. The Roos struggled with the Mexico City elevation, and held on for a close 28-27 win. According to Coach Joe Spencer, if not for the altitude “we would have beat the thunder out of them.” The next week, AC beat East Texas State 12-7. In terms of impact, the 1955 upset win over ETSU rivaled the 7-3 win over Baylor in 1924.
1955 was the first year for Head Coach Joe Spencer and the last year of football scholarships at AC. The decision was a controversial one. According to President John Moseley, it was “either give up scholarships or give up athletics.” AC decided on the former. Schools such as Hardin-Simmons, Midwestern, St. Mary’s, Texas Wesleyan, Southwestern, St. Edwards, University of Dallas, and others had opted in part for the latter. With the focus on budgets, AC opposition began to change and the trips to Mexico briefly came to an end.
Every school needs a rival, and one emerged for UNAM in Mexico City. The Burros Blancos (White Donkeys) of the Instituto Politecnico Nacional (IPN, or Mexico Poly) launched a football program in the late 1940s to match the success of the Pumas at UNAM. The rivalry gave rise to “El Clasico,” an annual meeting between the schools that was the highlight of the Mexican football season. For much of the early post WW2 period, the national championship in Mexico was either won by UNAM or IPN.
Like UNAM in the 1950s, IPN also had an increased interest in competition with American colleges. The Burros Blancos contacted AC about an annual tilt, and AD / Head Coach Floyd Gass said yes. Gass was a former OSU Cowboys player and future OSU Cowboys head coach. The first contest took place in 1964.
“The [Mexico] Poly coach, Manuel Rodero, became a special friend to the Austin College coaching staff. For that reason, Austin College played Rodero’s Polytechnic team several additional times in the 1960s.”
The 1964 game between Austin College and the Burros Blancos of IPN was such a huge event that Televisa decided to broadcast nationally in Mexico. The Roos boarded a flight at Love Field, arriving early to acclimatize. An incredible 52,000 fans showed up at Olympic Stadium to watch the game; hundreds of fans had even showed up to a Kangaroo practice two days beforehand. Legendary Roo QB Jerry Bishop passed for five TDs, an AC record that still stands today. Hall of Honor RB Mike Maloney had just under 100 yards rushing. AC came from behind twice and won 38-27.
Austin College alumni and fans organized a group trip to Mexico City to see the game. In addition to the matchup at Olympic Stadium, Roos also took in the U.S. embassy, the Mexico City Ballet, and Chapultepec Castle. Both the team and alumni boosters stayed overnight in the swank Hotel Continental Hilton on Reforma Ave. The hotel was so badly damaged during the famous 1985 Mexico City earthquake 21 years later that it had to be imploded. The Roos finished the season at 6-3.
IPN was at Louis Calder Stadium in 1965 for the Jerry Bishop show. Bishop, a senior in 1965, broke the AC record for career passing yards in the game against the Burros Blancos. Officials stopped the game long enough to permit former AC QB Bo Miller to present the game ball to Bishop. It just happened to be Miller’s record that Bishop had broken. Jerry Bishop finished his career in 1965 with 5,992 total yards passing, and led the Roos to a 7-2 record. IPN returned home on the losing end of a 42-8 score.
1965 also saw witness to the most dramatic game in the history of Mexican college football. Just weeks after Bishop’s star shined bright in Sherman against IPN, the Blancos Burros squared off against their historic rival UNAM at Olympic Stadium in “El Clasico.” By tradition, the fans of the winning team would burn torches as the game was nearing an end. UNAM fans lit their torches with IPN down one score and deep in its own territory with just seconds remaining. It was all but over, and the Burros Blancos needed a miracle.
IPN’s Omar Fierro caught a seemingly harmless screen pass, but proceeded to break a tackle, then another, then another, picked up a block, and was off to the races. He scored a 70-yard TD with just a few ticks left on the clock. IPN fans, delirious with celebration, lit their torches. UNAM fans, still in shock, snuffed theirs out.
UNAM fielded the IPN kickoff and almost pulled off a miracle of their own. One broken tackle after another allowed the returner Jorge Mercado of the Pumas to nearly score the winning TD on the final play of the game. But Mercado was finally dragged down just short of the Burros Blancos goal line. The IPN torches remained lit, and their fans celebrated the most dramatic “El Clasico” win to date. In Mexico, the game is known as “La Noche de Omar Fierro” (the night of Omar Fierro).
Austin College was back in Mexico in 1966, and AC Head Coach Floyd Gass talked about the game in the Texas papers. “This is quite a trip for our boys. Not very many football teams ever make a trip like this. We feel like it helps our recruiting.” AC was back in the five star Regis Hotel, the same Roo accommodations as the 1950s. “Man, it’s great. They feed us at the hotel. You know what we had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day on our last trip? Steak, man, three times a day.” Gass explained the contests in Mexico as “an experiment that has worked.”
Mexico had been awarded the 1968 Summer Olympics, and renovations were already underway at Olympic Stadium when the Roos & IPN met in 1966. 22,000 fans showed up. With the Mexico mountains in the background, six legendary AC coaches jokingly posed for a photo before game time: Gene Babb, Duane Nutt, Bob Mason, Floyd Gass, Slats McCord (h/t Martha Kate McCord), and Bill Long. The combined AC service as player or coach of these six individuals is older than Austin College itself.
The AC team was escorted into the stadium by armed Mexican police; political tension, which would boil over two years later, was already high in 1966. By game’s end, fires were being set by students in the crowd, and security forces were squaring off against the students. The Kangaroos were forced to fight their way back into the dressing room and team buses after the game came to an end. In Mexico during the 1960s, there was a growing student resistance to governmental autocracy. Football, much more than soccer, was political.
Hundreds of younger kids had mobbed the Roos at game time, wanting souvenir “cheen strops.” RB Mike Maloney tied an NAIA record and set 3 school records; he also got a marriage proposal. Maloney celebrated the records and declined the matrimony. One of the records included a 98-yard TD, the longest in AC history. AC won 57-8, and the Roos finished 1966 at 6-3.
IPN was back at Calder Stadium in 1967, but the result was the same. Maloney had 2 TDs and over 100 yards. AC dominated in a 37-6 win, finished the year at 6-3, and looked forward to yet another trip to Mexico in 1968.
The year that rocked the world. The political battles of 1968 included fights against ethnic injustice at home and militarism abroad. Rejection of authoritarianism on campuses of higher education in Europe and North America was a common sight. Mexico included.
In spite of the economic prosperity that 7% growth brought to the country, Mexican citizens, especially the youth, had grown frustrated and weary with PRI authoritarianism. The student activism began on the campuses of UNAM and IPN, and made its way to the game of American football. Soccer, less popular than football in 1968, was considered a game of the governing establishment. Football games were where those fighting for more democratic freedom would congregate. The administration of President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz knew this, and was concerned that summer about student unrest disrupting the Olympics.
Student protests had been confronted on the UNAM and IPN campuses throughout the summer and fall, but they continued to grow. The largest protest was planned in early October at the Plaza de Tlatelolco, not far from the city center. The Diaz Ordaz administration decided upon an overwhelming show of violent force to end the demonstrations once and for all. As students gathered and spoke on October 2nd, Mexican armed forces descended upon the plaza. By the time the massacre was over, hundreds had been killed and thousands injured. It was a Mexican Tiananmen Square.
Football was cancelled at college campuses across the country. Neither UNAM nor IPN would play in 1968. The AC game in Mexico was scrapped.
Although the Summer Olympics took place without any interference from Mexican students, international politics still took center stage. Protest against racial injustice by Americans Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos made global news, as did Vera Caslavska’s famous “head turn” to protest the Russian invasion of her Czechoslovakia homeland. Bob Beamon set a new record in the long jump, and Texas Aggie Randy Matson won the gold in the shot put.
Years later, Randy’s son and my brother’s friend Cole would permanently bend the basketball rim at our College Station home, forcing me to adjust my long range three pointers forever. 😉
The iron fist of the Diaz Ordaz regime had accomplished its short term goals. PRI rule continued, the democratic opposition had been silenced, and the 1968 Olympics had thrust Mexico into the center of the sporting world. But it came with a cost. In Mexico, it’s common to hear the phrase “2 de Octubre, no se olvide” (October 2nd will not be forgotten). The long struggle for a healthier and stronger democratic state in Mexico would slowly recover, and would find an outlet in numerous civic organizations, non-PRI parties, and eventually a true opposition.
In Mexico, college football would return in 1969 as the center of the Mexican political world began to slowly shift north. The center of the Mexican football world would as well.
College football quietly returned in 1969 to Mexico, and AC games down south were back on again. However, the authorities in Mexico weren’t taking any chances. Football was political and anti-PRI, and UNAM and IPN were prohibited from forming unified teams. Instead, the schools were forced to each field numerous teams. Doing so would dilute the political power of each college, and would result in smaller crowd sizes at games. Government security forces (“Los Porros”) actively patrolled every college football game, looking for even the slightest sign of activism.
AC traveled to Olympic Stadium in 1969, and took on one of the three new UNAM teams. 2018 Hall of Honor inductee Keith Johnston acquired Moctezuma’s revenge and missed the game. AC won easily anyway, 47-15. According to Johnston, Head Coach Duane Nutt initially thought Johnston was hung over, but became convinced otherwise when half the team got sick on the flight back or after arriving in Sherman. Wesley Eben tied an AC record by throwing for 5 TDs. “Clara victoria de los Canguros (Easy win for the Roos),” shouted a Mexican newspaper. A 1970 trip to Sherman by the Cheyennes, a new IPN team, produced a similar result. Byron Boston caught two TDs and AC won 32-16 at Louis Calder stadium.
Luis Echeverria was President when AC headed back in Mexico in 1971. With the exception of the cancelled season of 1968, it was the 8th year of AC competition against Mexico in a row. The 1971 game was held in the largest stadium in the country: Azteca Stadium. Bo Brown, Billy Core, Gary Allan Schroeder, and the Roos defeated the Pieles Rojas, another IPN team, by a score of 47-14. It was the last game of the year for AC, and Butch Gladden ran wild. According to Brown, the trip was one of the most enjoyable experiences of his AC football career. The team arrived early, had plenty of fun, and played well in front of 35,000 fans. In a sign of things to come, the Pieles Rojas at the time were tied for first in the Mexican Football League with an upstart team from outside the capital: the Borregos Salvajes of Monterrey Tech.
Azteca stadium saw the Cowboys & Oilers play in front of an NFL record 112,000 fans in 1994; your humble author was one of them. I lived in Mexico in 1992, and watched the Dallas Cowboys march towards a Super Bowl title alongside Mexican friends and fans. When I returned in 1994, the Cowboys were defending Super Bowl champions, the Houston Oilers (Petroleros) were a potential Super Bowl contender, and Mexico had NFL fever. So the league organized a preseason game in August of that year at Azteca Stadium between the Cowboys and Oilers. My brother and I were living in Mexico City, and attended. Alongside 112,376 fans from Mexico. Had you asked me at that game if Austin College had ever suited up in Azteca, my response would have been a quick “of course not.” I would have been wrong.
Matchups with the Pieles Rojas of IPN briefly resumed in 1975 with Coach Larry Kramer at the helm. At Louis Calder stadium, Danny Buck and the Roos dominated IPN 40-7. Texas Tech WBB coach Larry Tidwell threw for 3 TDs. IPN returned to Sherman in 1976, the first year of non-scholarship conference TIAA play. Newly hired coach Sig Lawson led the Roos to a 28-14 win. According to Claude Webb, one member of the IPN team had a bit too much post-game fun and ended up spending the night unannounced at Luckett Hall.
By the late 1970s, the PRI had put the disastrous year of 1968 behind it. Significant public expenditures financed by increased oil revenues helped to mute political opposition for most of the decade. An increased interest in international sport also occurred as the Lopez Portillo administration took office in 1976. The first NFL game was played at Estadio Azul in August 1978. One month later, AC was playing Gustavus Adolphus (MN) at the same stadium in a miserable downpour.
The NAIA selected Austin College and #6th-ranked Gustavus Adolphus (MN) to play at Estadio Azul. In a driving rainstorm, the Roos fought the Lions tooth and nail for four quarters, coming up just short by a 14-9 score. Price Clifford, Steve Clifford, Wilson Renfroe, Brent Hollensed, and the horrible weather limited Gustavus Adolphus to zero yards passing, kept it close until the end, and almost pulled off the upset. After the game, the team made their way back to the Mexico City airport. The weather had muddied their bags so much, customs pretty much let them through without hassle. Estadio Azul is currently being torn down in the summer of 2018 after 70 years of service.
As the 1970s drew to a close, the PRI hoped that high oil prices would allow the government to spend its way out of political crises forever. But the bill came due in 1982.
The Roos were ranked #2 in the nation at the start of the 1982 season, right behind #1 Concordia. AC began their campaign at Louis Calder stadium, against Los Tigres Autenticos de La Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL). It was a tough, tough game. The teams combined for 386 penalty yards. The game was the first as a starter for Bill Magers. Because of an injury, it was the last for Clayton Oliphint. 2018 Hall of Honor inductee Greg Cason (h/t Jonica Cason) battled for hours. A Greg Garrison TD was the difference as the Roos took a 6-3 lead to the 4th quarter. A Jim Vice-to-Russell Roden touchdown pass put the game away.
That same day, the 1982 Roos got some news. Maybe it came as they were walking off the field. Maybe at dinner that evening. Or maybe while enjoying some cervezas at the pachanga with their new friends from Nuevo Leon.
#1 Concordia had lost. With the win over Nuevo Leon, Austin College was #1 in the nation. All by itself.
Back home in Mexico, the steep drop in oil prices and an inability to finance debt created a national balance of payments crisis. Western lending agencies demanded that the PRI adopt monetary austerity and rollback public goods in return for funds. The PRI autocracy, speaking on behalf of a voiceless Mexican populace, complied. The end of the economic growth of the Mexican miracle only served to increase political opposition. That opposition showed up in 1988.
PRI candidate Carlos Salinas was expected to win the 1988 election easily, using the same tactics as candidates before. But early returns showed the opposition with a clear lead. That’s when the electoral computer system “fell” (se cayo el Sistema). The electoral machinery went dark due to a government declared power outage. When restored, the PRI candidate was declared the winner with just over 50% of the vote. Ballots were burned, and PRI officials later admitted there was no outage at all. It was all a lie.
The fiasco of 1988 was devastating to the party, but it recovered by way of an alliance with an historic party of the political right, the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN). By allying with the PAN, the PRI could usher in a period of democratic rule without dramatic change. With assistance from the PAN, the PRI retained power in 1994, the year I lived and worked in Mexico.
The rise of the PAN as a political force was a Northern Mexico phenomenon. Governorships from Nuevo Leon to Baja California were won by a candidate from outside the PRI for the first time since the Depression era. The PAN ascendancy coincided with a transfer of power in the Mexican football universe from Mexico City (UNAM & IPN) to Northern Mexico. UANL, the team which fell to the Roos in 1982, emerged as a top team. La Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila in nearby Saltillo began to compete as well. But no Northern Mexico football program compared to the rise of Borregos Salvajes of Monterrey Tech. At “El Tec”, a dynasty was born.
As the PAN won the presidency and made gains in Congress in 1997 and 2000, Monterrey Tech was climbing to the summit of the Mexico football universe. The Borregos Salvajes won 11 straight ONEFA championships between 1998 and 2008. In 2009, they headed north of the border for contests against American colleges. Ross Hasten and Austin College were on the list. On October 3rd at Louis Calder Stadium, Monterrey Tech took advantage of Kangaroo turnovers to defeat AC 35-21. It was the first victory for a Mexican college against the Roos since the 1952 win at the Cotton Bowl.
AC can take some consolation, however, in the outstanding performance of Monterrey Tech during their road trip. Blinn Junior College in Brenham was also on the Borregos schedule, and Monterrey Tech won that preseason tilt against Blinn by a score of 35-14. Blinn QB Cam Newton responded to the loss by leading the junior college to the NJCAA national championship that same season. He followed that performance up with an NCAA championship season at Auburn in 2010.
Spurred on by their success, Monterrey Tech petitioned to joined the NCAA at the Division III level in 2013. The petition was narrowly defeated. The next attempt might not be.
In his work “Austin College: A Sesquicentennial History”, Dr. Light Cummins mentions that the football relationship between AC and Mexico was part of a broader internationalization of the small school:
“The times that Austin College teams went to Mexico City were especially happy events that attracted a number of students, parents, and faculty members who traveled on special charter flights with the team. The Kangaroo contingent often spent their spare time visiting museums, the fabled markets of Mexico City, and enjoying tourist life.”
“The Mexican connection forged by the Austin College football program harmonized with a larger international perspective that took root at Austin College in the 1950s and 1960s. Students and faculty increasingly placed greater emphasis on a worldwide perspective.”
The competition with Mexico on the athletic field coincided with a greater priority for an international education on the academic side at AC. This era witnessed the rise of the National Model United Nations (NMUN), an annual competition where AC regularly won distinguished delegation awards during the tenure of Dr. Shelton Williams. Regional MUN competitions also became commonplace. The school developed a multi-disciplinary “International Studies” (IS) degree which focused heavily on foreign language and a year abroad. Students who were not IS majors were still encouraged to spend time abroad during one of their Jan-term semesters. Opportunities with the Peace Corps and Fulbright scholarships were encouraged after graduation.
Operation Crossroads Africa, Experiment in International Living, and other global programs took root. A “Summer Symposium on Foreign Policy” in Washington D.C. was administered by Dr. Williams for the benefit of students from both AC and all over the globe. Its legacy is seen today in the Osgood Center for International Studies run by Dr. Williams.
From “Austin College: A Sesquicentennial History”:
“By the early 1970s [international education at AC] had become an Austin College success story. Numerous college students went abroad as individual travelers, as part of organized programs, or by taking the school’s own summer courses that were taught abroad on a regular basis.”
My personal decision to become an International Studies major came when I learned of a 1990 Shelly Williams Jan-term in Tbilisi, Georgia. By 1992, I was a C/I leader for Williams in a class that participated in a Regional MUN in Atlanta, Georgia. Only at AC could one receive course credit and life experience in BOTH GEORGIAS. 🙂
Was it odd that a rivalry developed between AC football and Mexico? Given the school’s focus on the globe, it would be odd had it not.
I like to say that the story of Austin College is survival. The same can be said for Mexico. Mestizo nation that she is, Mexico is complex. Mexico is inspiration, and disappointment. Mexico is hope, and despair. Above all, Mexico is survival. The country is constantly attempting to overcome its divisions within and intervention from abroad, one country in particular. 😉 The outcome is always in doubt.
Relations between the United States and Mexico are strained. The strong bonds of international trade established a quarter century ago between the two countries are under attack, and the draconian immigration border policies of family separation and political asylum denial have provoked outrage on both sides of the border. Today, there is talk of “muros” instead of “puentes.” Much like the past.
The United States is Spanish. There are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. than Spain; only Mexico has more. Texas itself has more Spanish speakers than Nicaragua. What’s the oldest city in the United States that is a state capitol? Boston? Nope. Santa Fe. American culture is embraced and beloved in Mexico. Music, movies, and all things USA are a part of everyday life. The Mexican principle of “no intervention” only applies to American politics.
This love of culture also includes sports. Mexicans are addicted to American football. Mexican college football continues to grow in popularity, and interest in competition with American teams remain. It’s likely a matter of time before AC suits up against a Mexican team again. There’s just too much history. For both countries and for AC football.
Congratulations to 2018 Hall of Honor inductees Kola Alade, Greg Cason (h/t Jonica Cason), Barrett Jenkins, Keith Johnston, and Veronica Stephens. Also, congratulations to Joe Spencer Award winner Claude Webb, Kedric Couch Award winners Gilbert Villarreal and Polly Thomason, and honorary inductee Coach Robin Potera-Haskins. Wish I could make it in 2018; will see y’all in 2019.
Hope you enjoyed this Roo Tale. It’s time to start work on the next one. If you are proud of AC history, I think you’ll enjoy it. We aren’t the biggest, but we are often the “first.”