While it's unlikely that the Irish, 9-0 and contending for the national title, will return to Dallas on Jan. 2, Brock has frequented his old haunts in South Bend this fall. But he has also run up motel bills and bar tabs in various Pac-10 cities, wooing, in particular, USC and UCLA, one of which won't be going to the Rose Bowl, and he is likely to visit Tallahassee for a look at once-beaten Florida State. In any case, the Cotton Bowl challenger is quite likely to be a Top 5 team with but a single loss.
How does Brock play the match-making game so well? It helps that he has outstanding stablemates backing up the whole Hoss shtick. Other members of the Cotton Bowl selection committee, who fan out to places that Brock, try as he may, just can't get to, include former Baylor All-America and College Hall of Famer Jim Ray Smith and 81-year-old Field Scovell, the Cotton Bowl's patriarch. Scovell is a man who, in the words of Orange Bowl committee member Bill Ward, a former scout, "could walk into any press box in America without an invitation." If you could grill Brits over mesquite, Scovell would be Sir John Gielgud to Brock's Dudley Moore.
Certainly, too, Brock's legendary bar-side manner counts. " Colorado Springs, 1983, the National Sports Festival," says
columnist Charles Pierce, shaking his head. "The bar in the lobby of the Antlers Hotel. He had the order in before I finished walking through the hotel door. No one else has ever bought me a drink at 200 yards."
Hoss considers his domain to be much more than college football. Under "Highlights" on the two-page career bio he'll hand you, he gives top billing to his turn as a U.S. Olympic Committee press aide at various Olympics since 1976, including his work in 1984 in L.A., where he was U.S. basketball coach Bob Knight's right-hand man. That's what he calls it: "right-hand man." None of that "administrative assistant" bull for Hoss. Oh, yes, Hoss also mentions on his bio that he was once sports information director at TCU and an assistant athletic director at SMU.
Hoss-pitality isn't seasonal or sport-specific. You'll see Brock hobnobbing with all the swells at the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the World Series, the Masters. "I'll get to Wimbledon by the time I'm 60," says Brock, who's 54. "I'll sell strawberries on the side."
Fact is, back in Fort Worth many years and many prime-rib dinners ago, Hoss had his heart in things besides football. Baseball was his first love, and he jokes that he made all-city as an outfielder at Poly High because he was the student who sent all the dispatches to the
. "Coach'd get madder than hell," he says. "In an eight-or nine-run inning, he'd catch me pulling out paper and pencil right there in center, trying to keep track of it all."
His career as an amateur welterweight boxer wasn't worth chronicling. A first-round knockout by Dexter Peacock, he of the Peacock clan, "the toughest in town," was witnessed by Shirley Ann Ingle, his high school sweetheart, who was so embarrassed by his decking that when Jim got up off the canvas to hunt her down at the root-beer stand, she refused to speak to him.
It was while attending Texas Christian that he picked up the Hoss monicker. There, too, he went out for baseball, but he quit on the Friday before the first game, telling the coach he had "a better offer." Turns out that Shirley, finally over her embarrassment, had agreed to be his Sweet Pea, a role she has played for some 35 years. They have had their heartbreaks, losing three infant children after premature births. But assessing Shirley, their 25-year-old son Robert ("the Hoss Fly") and Hoss's job, which Brock says is "kind of like that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, heigh-ho-heigh-ho-it's-off-to-work-we-go thing," he judges himself surpassingly lucky.
In Texas it's neither necessary nor common for a man to forsake sports for a woman. But it sure is romantic, and romancing is what Hoss does better than anyone. Before the football season even begins, he sends letters to scores of coaches wishing them luck in the coming season. During late October and early November, the heaviest weeks of bowl-hunting, he must get a sense of where he stands. So he feels out his quarry euphemistically, asking, "If I'm at the corner of Akard and Commerce in Dallas, Texas, the last week in December, think there's a chance we might run into each other?"
Consider his lobbying activities at Notre Dame last fall. If indeed he had been in that student bar at 3 a.m. that Friday morning, he would have hit town on Thursday, a time when most other scouts—dilettantes!—are still selling insurance or taking meetings. Arriving on Thursday gives Brock first crack at the coach, and if getting an audience with the Irish's Lou Holtz means sweet-talking Jan Blazi, Holtz's administrative assistant, taking her hand in his and kissing it until she beams—well, the Horned Frog Prince can be most charming.