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Gridiron History of the UTA Mavericks (Mavs)

This article appeared in a special edition of The Arlington Citizen-Journal, published on February 25, 1976, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town of Arlington, Texas.

More than a half century of university football in Arlington, under a variety of different school and team names have produced many memories for those connected to UTA football.

The Maverick football program, as we know it today, actually began some 57 years ago under conditions that would make some sandlot games of 1976 seem like New Year’s bowl games.

Since then, though, the 57-year record has accumulated a mark of 277 victories, 224 losses, and 24 ties. Through their years as a senior college, UTA has marked a record of 77 wins, 93 losses, and one tie.

And the names of the teams have changed almost as much as the school name has. A senior college since 1959, UTA’s footballer’s have played under six nicknames: the current Mavericks title (from 1971), in addition to Rebels, Blue Riders, Junior Aggies, Hornets, and Shorthorns.

Likewise, the school name has changed from Grubbs Vocational College, North Texas Agricultural College, Arlington State College, and now, The University of Texas at Arlington. But as far as intercollegiate football is concerned, the story began in 1918 (when the college was Grubbs Vocational College).

On that first team in 1918, captained by Russell Moore, the draft and military status were factors for fielding a team. As a story in the 1919 Shorthorn, Volume I states: “About 30 men reported for practice in football and among those 30 were five who had had some previous experience. Practice was irregular and many changes were made in the personnel of men who played on both the first and second teams. However, prospects were good until the Armistice was signed and several of the best players left school.”

That first team went 2-2 for the year, downing Texas Military College of Terrell and Powell University Training School of Dallas. They lost their games to Wesley College of Greenville and John Tarleton Agricultural College of Stephenville. Since those days, Arlington college teams have gone on to post .500 or better marks in 35 of their seasons. Twenty-nine teams have had winning records, six were right at the .500 mark, and 23 teams have posted losing records. There have been 10 conference championships, one team went undefeated and six others made it through the season with only one loss.

UTA’s lone undefeated season came during the fall of 1957 and was under the tutelage of none other than head coach Claude “Chena” Gilstrap, a legend at the school and wellknown personality in the world of collegiate athletics throughout the state and nation. Gilstrap came to the college in 1953, and within four years had the team at the top of the junior college football world, winning back-to-back Junior Rose Bowl titles in 1956-57. After the ‘57 victory, and the undefeated slate, Arlington State College Rebels were named as the nation’s No. 1 junior college team. Now, Chena recalls of his ‘57 team, “Their toughest games were the scrimmages on Tuesday.”

Gilstrap guided the school’s transition into the senior college ranks in 1959 and following the 1965 season, he stepped down from the coaching ranks to take over the school’s athletic directorship. He remained in that position until 1975. His career coaching record at UTA was 85 wins, 40 losses, and 3 ties.

The two teams that posted 10-1 seasons came in 1938 and 1967. The ‘67 outfit of coach Burley Bearden also took its talent to a bowl game, whipping undefeated North Dakota State 13-0 in the Pecan Bowl at Abilene. Other teams that turned in winning records included 1927 (9-1), 1956 (9-1-1), 1952 (8-1-1), and 1953 (8-1). NTAC teams won Central Texas Conference titles in 1934-35-36-38 and ASC squads collected the Pioneer Conference crown in 1952-53-56-57. The Rebels, as a senior college, took Southland Conference in 1966 and 1967.

Among the pros who have played their college ball in Arlington were Buddy Parker, former head coach of the Pittsburg Steelers; Mai Hammack, from the St. Louis Cardinals; John Symank, a 10-year veteran with Green Bay and St. Louis; Mike Barnes, St. Louis; and Jimmy Thomas, San Francisco 49ers; and Dexter Bussey, currently with the Detroit Lions.

Scores of all-conference players, as well as numerous ones named All-American players, have come from the college in Arlington.

Editor’s note (The following is from Transitions—A Centennial History of The University of Texas at Arlington, 1895-1995, by Gerald D. Saxon.):

At the start of the 1971 football season, UTA not only had a new mascot (Mavericks), but also a new football stadium. All games were moved off campus to Turnpike Stadium, later known as Arlington Stadium. After having been off campus for nearly ten years, football returned to the campus in the fall of 1980 to the newlycompleted Maverick Stadium. However, having played only five years in the new stadium, football, which had been played consistently since Grubbs Vocational College days (1918), was eliminated by President Nedderman at the completion of the 1985 season, due to poor game attendance and resulting financial problems.