Wins, Losses, & Ties. December 12, 1981

Wins, Losses, & Ties. Man, do I love the ties. What, you don’t love ties? You should. Wait, just hear me out.

Bill Snyder, the coach who engineered the “greatest turnaround” in college football history, has a new autobiography out. “My Football Life” documents his turnaround at Kansas State, and earlier success at Iowa, North Texas, & Austin College. At AC, Snyder was the Roo swim coach and offensive coordinator (OC) under Head Coach Larry Kramer.

While reviewing his 10 years at Iowa as the OC for Coach Hayden Fry, Snyder wrote the following:

“Under Hayden, his positive approach, and our commitment to constant improvement arrived a lengthy string of success. Iowa posted at least 8 victories each year over a 7-year span. It was the greatest 7 year stretch in school history. That streak ended with our 6-4-3 record in 1988 as we tied Michigan State (10-10), #15 Michigan (17-17), and Ohio State (24-24). I don’t know of any other team in college football history that has had 3 ties in one season.”

Now come on Coach Snyder. You should know better than to say something like that around Marc. *screen fades to black*

It was August of 1987 when my college search came to an end. I visited Austin College that month, made my decision, and told Linda Parrish to put down a deposit. A lasting memory from that visit is watching from a distance as the 1987 Roo football team endured Texas heat “two-a-days” to prepare for the upcoming season.

One of the small joys of picking a college before your senior year of high school is you get to follow a football season before you even arrive on campus. And so, I followed the 1987 Sherman Kangaroos from our College Station, TX home for the next three months. Although the games took place just hours away, it would take me nearly 24 hours to learn of them. This was 1987 after all.

Every morning on Sunday, before attendance at A&M Methodist Church, I’d get up and grab the Bryan-College Station Eagle newspaper. There was no need to linger on the front page of the Sports section; no, I was well aware of those results by then. Instead, I’d flip to page #7 or so, looking for the small section devoted to small Texas colleges. There I’d find the score and a small write up of the previous day’s Roo football game. Right on schedule, just waiting for me like a tiny, reliable, weekly gift throughout the fall of 1987.

And let me tell you something about the 1987 Roo season as read by me down in Aggieland. 1987 was WEIRD. The victories by the 1987 team were weird. The losses by the 1987 team were weird. And the ties. Oh, the ties. By the end of the season, I had one thought. What is in the water up there in Sherman with all of those ties?

Rhodes College left Sherman with a 20-20 tie. AC had two drives inside the 20 that yielded zero points. Down 17-14 late, a final Roo touchdown drive seemed to give AC the win. But a bobbled snap on the extra point left AC with only a 20-17 lead. Rhodes kicked a field goal as time expired to notch the tie.

AC built a 42-14 second half lead in Abilene, and then painfully watched as McMurry scored four touchdowns in a row to tie the contest at 42-42. The Roos then drove down the field with seconds remaining and had a chance to win on the final play of the game. But the field goal attempt was wide left. The game ended in a tie.

Back in Sherman one week later, Otis Amy caught two touchdown passes against Sul Ross to give the Roos a late lead. But the Lobos notched the score at 14-14 with a late touchdown. An interception on a final AC drive ended the game in yet another tie. After 9 games, AC had somehow earned THREE ties. Bill Snyder and Iowa would replicate that feat one year later when I was a freshman in Sherman.

One of the legacies of that 1987 Roo season? The TIAA implemented overtime for the 1988 season. There were an incredible seven ties in TIAA play that year, and the conference wanted to ensure that outcome was never repeated. There was no chance I would witness a tie when I watched the 1988 season in person as a Roo.

Coach Bill Snyder’s final year at Austin College was 1975. That year, Head Coach Larry Kramer and his assistant Snyder battled Colorado College to a 14-14 tie. Kramer ended his career as Snyder’s assistant at Kansas State in 1997. No KSU ties that year, but only because of a rule change. D1 football, following the TIAA’s lead, had implemented overtime one year earlier.

Yeah, I admit it. I love ties. My writing is all about the ties between generations, events, place, and family. But I am even a sucker for ties on the gridiron on occasion. All of those 1987 ties frustrated the members of the 1987 Roo football team, but they were wonderfully fascinating to me. I couldn’t wait to get up to Sherman and watch for myself.

And my favorite AC football game ever? Well, it was also a tie. And it took place 40 years ago today, on December 12, 1981. Austin College, a small NAIA school known for its academic reputation, had somehow fought its way to a conference title, playoff berth, and appearance in the NAIA championship game. Down two scores late in the fourth quarter, a win looked out of reach. And technically, it was out of reach.

But sometimes you win with a tie. When an underdog school nails a 57-yard crossbar hitting field goal to earn a national co-championship, that’s the stuff of which Hollywood movies are made. It’s nearly impossible to watch the 1981 AC football tribute video created 5 years ago and not get a little pumped up about a Roo football game……………that ended in a glorious tie.

Members of the 1981 Austin College Championship team gathered at Homecoming this fall to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their championship. After four decades, their own personal ties remain as strong as that cold day on December 12th, 1981.

Hey, it’s December 12th! You know what that means. It’s an annual tradition. Let’s roll the video…..

Some members of the 1981 NAIA D2 National Champion Austin College Kangaroos:

Jimmy Curry, David Norman, Gene Branum, Larry Shillings, Don Tafelski, Greg Garrison, Van Hargis, Russell Roden, Fouad Faris, Stuart Oliphint, Bill Draughn, Larry Fedora, Jeff Robbins, Eddie Shuttlesworth, Bill Magers, Rossi Felix, Don Parnell, Randy Sims, Rex Baker, Greg Larson, Clayton Oliphint, Mark Richards, Edward Holt, Marty Secord, David Lee Simmons