Twelfth Night: A&M, AC & Fair Park

I’m a College Station boy.

The 1973 OPEC oil embargo was a boon for Persian Gulf and Texas oil producers, Texas refining, and by extension the Texas economy and state coffers. As the Permanent University Fund (PUF) grew, so too did A&M’s ambitions. No longer content to be a Citadel or VMI, Texas A&M began to transform itself into a South Carolina or Virginia Tech ………. a large, public university committed to academic excellence and serving all Texans of all backgrounds.

The Parrishes arrived in 1974, and thousands of others soon followed. By the end of the decade, enrollment had skyrocketed and tiny College Station was transforming into an actual city.

Little Austin College and Big Texas A&M share a sports history that goes back 120 years. Austin College’s first football game was in 1896 in Sherman against the Aggies; the two schools met 12 times over the next two decades. Roo baseball can count wins against A&M in both Sherman and College Station. One of those victories at A&M occurred just before the sinking of the Titanic.

The history of AC & A&M competition is a great story, and one that will be told. But not yet. This AC / A&M story is different. It’s about history and tradition.

This Roo Tale is dedicated to Dana Byrd Whitmire and Gerrie Fletcher Stence. Dana is an A&M graduate and fan, but had the good sense to marry a Roo and my good friend Wayne Whitmire. Wayne and Dana have had the privilege of watching an Aggie game from the sidelines. I’m still jealous. Gerrie’s son Cooper is a student at Texas A&M. Gerrie is also good friends with my Austin College Roo buddies David Morgan and Tici Birkey Morgan. Gerrie brought over key lime pie just last night people!

This Roo Tale is dedicated to Larry Shillings and John Fedora. Larry is a Bryan Viking and NAIA All-American QB who led Austin College to an NAIA D2 National Championship in football in 1981. John is a College Station native who attended Austin College at the same time as your humble author. John was a receiver for the A&M Consolidated Tigers in 1986 when the first ever football game was played against Bryan High. Although the outcome was poor for the College Station boys, John had a helluva game. Go Vikings! Go Tigers!

This Roo Tale is dedicated to Rob Prall, Josh Busby, and Aimee Ash. Robert, Josh, & Aimee were 7-year-old soccer teammates of mine in 1977 when Robert & I scored pivotal goals with support from Josh & Aimee to take down Neil McNamara’s undefeated Aggies (h/t Julianne McNamara) in dramatic fashion. The Aggies still held on to 1st place, but not without a blemish from the 2nd place Blue Devils.  Robert had a tremendous year rushing for the AMC Tigers in 1987 (over 1000 yards IIRC), and played in an instant classic against Bryan High at Viking stadium to end the season.

This Roo Tale is dedicated to the A&M faculty, colleagues and friends of my parents, Paul Parrish and Linda Parrish. My folks, professors of British literature and Special Education, only recently moved to Austin to be closer to grandkids. While many lament their departure, they are still not too far away…….and no one ever fully escapes the experience of Aggieland. There are too many to tag, but the Parrish family knows who you are. 

And finally, this Roo Tale is to every Brazos Valley kid with whom I probably spent afternoons in the Kyle Field knothole between 1977 and 1987. Back in the day, you could get into the Aggie games for free in the second half after the Aggie band had finished. We’d gather to watch Gary Kubiak & Kevin Murray do their stuff, talk about unimportant junior high topics, and then rush the field to ask for chin straps and wrist bands from our Aggie heroes.

This group includes, but is not limited to, the following FB folks. I’m pretty sure most of them are or were Aggie fans.

Well almost all of them. I see you Rodney Wellmann. You’ll get a TCU “Roo Tale” soon. Go Horned Frogs.

Reed Davis Scott Field Stephanie Wells Jack Hernandez Melissa Wait Simmons Scott Livingston Warren Bruce Jenkins Kristie Scrutchfield Orr Cody Blake Judie Ramirez-Fagan Tracy Feldman Mandy Ahr Jenny Kellough Mace Matthew Berry Kevin Dahlstrom Austin Floyd Kevin Read Michelle Underwood Martin Felicia Smith McKinney Gary Velasco Christos Dallis Gwynne Ash Lance Basham Meleah Steelman Ben Mathis Lance Basham John Poitevent Keri Jones Leinart Kim Bane Parish Nazneen Hyder Askari Angela Shay Beck Leash Yu Sharon Shaver Graf Kira Schlemmer

Kimberly Gay Caperton, Lance Rowell, & the A&M M.B.A. friends of Dianne Hodgins Parrish? More AC / A&M “Roo Tales” to come, with your names on ’em. 😉

Chapter 1: All the World’s a Stage
Chapter 2: The Games Are Afoot
Chapter 3: Fair Play
Chapter 4: Twelfth Night
Chapter 5: Find Thy Centre Out

My Austin College buddy and former Roo defensive back Frank Tooley wanted to experience his first A&M game. Mark & Frank with E. King Gill.

Frank asked Marc to pick an Aggie game. Marc picked the opener against UCLA. Marc picked well. Be like Marc. Aggies win!  

Aggies lose! Go Blue Devils! Nice goal Rob. A h/t to Julianne McNamara.

Chapter 1: All the World’s a Stage

Before the Cotton Bowl, there was Fair Park stadium.

SMU was having an identity crisis. The Dallas school had joined the college football game late….. 20 years after the first Austin College – Texas A&M game in 1896, 7 years after the establishment of the TIAA by AC & A&M, and 2 years after the large schools broke away to form the Southwest Conference.

SMU’s first 3 seasons starting in 1915 were ones of struggle. The school’s ambition was the size of Dallas however, and the decision was made to join the SWC while also remaining within the smaller TIAA. Belonging to both conferences was actually a common occurrence for schools on the bubble. TCU, Rice, & Southwestern were also in both conferences at one time. Austin College also considered doing the same.

The city of Dallas had been attracting quality college football teams to compete at Fair Park for over a decade when SMU joined the SWC in 1918. Civic leaders were clamoring for a new, better place to watch the games, and now they had an additional argument……….to construct a quality home for SMU football.

Work began on Fair Park stadium in 1920, to be completed in time for the fall season of 1921. The stadium was located in the south east corner of Fair Park, just south of the Cotton Bowl today. By October, it was done (see photo). The first game to be played at Fair Park stadium would be an SMU home game against the visiting Aggies of Texas A&M. SMU had dreams of SWC glory that year. Those dreams would not last long.

Chapter 2: The Games Are Afoot

Dana Bible’s Aggie crew easily outplayed the Mustangs, cruising to a 13-0 shutout victory (see photo). SMU never threatened to score, and star QB Jimmie Kitts was ineffective. The Aggies returned to Bryan (College Station was still 17 years away) triumphant, and Mustang dreams of an SWC championship began to fade away. Texas A&M was on its way to its 3rd SWC title in 5 years.

SMU, however, still competed with the smaller schools in the TIAA. After the defeat, the Mustangs began to turn their attention to winning the smaller conference in their brand new home. One problem remained however. Next up at Fair Park Stadium for SMU was the defending TIAA champion Austin College Kangaroos.

Same as it ever was. The Kangaroos had rolled to the 1920 TIAA championship by outscoring its competition 330-72 and recording 6 shutouts. Poor Daniel Baker College (later merged with Howard Payne) endured the worst, losing by a count of 109-0. The Roos were back in 1921 and hungry to repeat. SMU never had a chance.

The Roos dominated SMU at Fair Park, just as the Aggies had done one week earlier. Roo QB “Windy” Jones was appropriately named; Austin College usually won with speed not size. A meaningless TD late in the game by Kitts prevented a shutout. Final score: Austin College 17, SMU 7. The Roos returned to Sherman triumphant, and Mustang dreams of a TIAA championship began to fade away. Austin College would once again be competing for the TIAA crown in 1921.

Highlights from the Aggie victory over SMU at Fair Park Stadium, October 1921..

One week later, Roos win!

Highlights from the Roo victory over SMU at Fair Park Stadium, October 1921…


Chapter 3: Fair Play

It all began in 1920. The popularity of the college game worked its way down to the high school level, and after WWI the Texas Interscholastic League (TIL) was established to oversee Texas HS football and establish a state champion. That first season ended with two co-champions, as Houston Heights and Cleburne battled to a 0-0 tie at Clark Field in Austin, TX.

They were playing some pretty good football in Brazos County in 1921.

As A&M began their march to a SWC title, the “Little Aggies” (later Vikings) of Bryan High School were doing the same at the high school level. Bryan was unscored upon in district play, and rolled its way to the state title game with wins over Nacogdoches, Austin High, Austin SFA, and Dallas Adamson.

Only the championship game remained against Dallas Oak Cliff. That championship would be played at the new Fair Park stadium.

The game was over before it began. Two months after their A&M counterparts, Bryan High easily took care of business against a Dallas squad and returned home triumphant with a state title. Final score: Bryan 35, Oak Cliff 12 (see photo). The title remains the only football championship for the Bryan Vikings, and was the only state title in Brazos County for 70 years until future Baylor Bears star Jeff Watson led the mighty A&M Consolidated Tigers to the Class 4A championship in the Astrodome in 1991.

The Aggies, Roos, and the Vikings had all made Fair Park Stadium their home. But the 1921 season was not done yet.

Chapter 4: Twelfth Night

You all already know this story.

Texas A&M’s SWC title earned them a trip to the Dixie Classic at Fair Park Stadium in January 1922 against Centre College. The Aggies were heavy underdogs.

Centre College in Danville, KY was undefeated and champions of the SIAA (an SEC precursor). Clemson, Kentucky, Auburn, and Tulane had all fallen to the Praying Colonels. But the most impressive win was in Cambridge, MA.

Centre traveled to Harvard and stunned the Crimson 6-0 in front of 43,000. All-American Bo McMillin scored late, ending Harvard’s 25 game win streak. To this day, Centre’s win is considered one of the biggest upsets in college football history. See photo of McMillin’s score for Centre @ Harvard.

Sportswriters did not give the Aggies much of a chance at Fair Park Stadium on January 2, 1922. But inspired play by A&M and two goal line stands in the second half were the difference. A&M would work its way to a 15-point lead before a last minute Centre TD closed the gap to a final score of 22-14. A&M had not only defeated one of the top teams in the country, they had done so handily.

But not without cost. As one after another Aggie went down due to injury throughout the hard fought game, Bible became worried about fielding a full team. At halftime, with the score A&M 2, Centre 0, Bible sought out former player E. King Gill and asked him to dress. Although Gill never played, he stood at Fair Park Stadium ready to go in if needed. The 12th man tradition at A&M was born.

With its upset of Harvard, Centre had famously shown the world that the South could compete with the North in college football. And with its loss to Texas A&M, Centre had also shown that the Southwest could keep up as well.

 Aggies win with Gill ready to go in…

Highlights from Fair Park Stadium…


…of the most famous Aggie win ever…

Chapter 5: Find Thy Centre Out

Fair Park stadium is no more. The Cotton Bowl arrived in the 1930s, and the stadium was torn down. It stood not far from where the Gexa Energy Pavilion is today, and is nothing more than a memory for most.

Centre College remains, however. Like Austin College, Centre has been playing football since the 19th century. Also like Austin College, the school went through a slow de-emphasis of collegiate athletics and has found a home in D3 football.

Centre and AC were conference rivals briefly in the SCAC last decade, and will be once again in 2017. Next season, AC and Trinity will formally become members of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA), joining Centre and other D3 schools in the South. Most of these schools have tremendous athletic history, and it’s not a stretch to call the SAA something of a “D3 SEC”. See article from

If you take a trip to the Texas State Fair this fall and find yourself near the Cotton Bowl, you might take a moment to reflect on 1921…………. a year of Austin College TIAA dominance, a Bryan High School championship, and the birth of the most famous of Texas Aggie legends.

And all in one iconic stadium over a period of 12 weeks.

Gig ‘em Ags, Go Vikings…………and as always…………Go Roos.

The SAA is also the home of Sewanee College. The 1899 Sewanee Tigers were named the greatest college football team in history by the College Football Hall of Fame, in part due to their 5 victories on the road over the course of 6 days (!!!) against Ole Miss, LSU, Tulane, Texas, and … the Aggies of Texas A&M.

Centre College: defeated by A&M in 1922, with many defeats to come at the hands of the mighty Roos…