Texas is a vast and contradictory place, impossible to accept or understand as an entity because it is so many different things. It is the blowing wasteland of the movie Giant and the hucksterism of Dallas, the charm of San Antonio and the industry of Houston. It is the dusty little towns on the Mexican border and a thousand miles of beach along the Gulf, the great pine forests of the Big Thicket and the lonely mountains of the Big Bend. But for many Texans the state is really only one place—the lakes and limestone cliffs of the central Texas Hill Country. And the capital of the Hill Country, as well as of the whole state, is a town called Austin.
"It is a pleasant city, clean and quiet, with wide rambling walks and elaborate public gardens and elegant old homes faintly ruined in the shadow of arching poplars. Occasionally, through the trees, and always from a point of higher ground, one can see the college tower and the Capitol building. On brilliant mornings the white sandstone of the tower and the Capitol's granite dome are joined for an instant, all pink and cream, catching the first light." That is how William Bra miner, who lives in Austin, wrote of the city in his prize-winning novel, The Gay Place. Those two structures—the University of Texas tower and the Capitol building—are symbols of what makes Austin, despite the obvious wealth and power of Houston and Dallas, the intellectual and political hub of the state.
The college tower rears itself 30 stories high above the administration building of the University of Texas and lights up orange when the university wins a game in a major sport. The tower is the most prominent visual aspect of the campus, but beneath the Spanish tile roofs of the university buildings there is a great deal going on. Chancellor Harry Ransom actively recruits good young professors to teach the university's nearly 25,000 students. Texas is especially strong in philosophy, languages, law, art, medicine and science, and the university has its own nuclear reactor. "The University of Texas," wrote the celebrated attorney and author Morris Ernst, "is the most underrated campus in America." As might be expected in a state notorious for its wealth, the University of Texas ranks behind only Harvard in the richness of its endowment.
Uninhibited by its intellectual attainments, the University of Texas—and all of Austin, for that matter—explodes with noise on football weekends. At such times one might see a visiting coach on a downtown sidewalk in his pajamas at 7 a.m. begging his own rooters to shut up and let his team sleep. Or a state senator splashing in his underwear in a motel pool at dawn while a party rages around him. Or a faculty member sobering up in the top of an oak tree in Scholz Garten, an old German beer parlor with tables out back, and wondering if he can get down with dignity in time to make it to the game. And from the direction of the stadium come sounds like the Battle of San Jacinto—the drums of the huge Longhorn band, the booming of the cannon in the end zone, the yelling of 65,000 people. Bevo, the university's Longhorn mascot (opposite), is on the sidelines. Later he will be trucked out as thousands push their way toward exits and another night of partying. "Life," says Artist Fletcher Boone, a contented Austin resident, "is just one Texas game after another, with fun in between."
Life for Texas Coach Darrell Royal has been one win after another with work in between. In seven years at the University of Texas his lean, spirited teams have won four Southwest Conference championships, played in six bowl games, twice made him the Coach of the Year. The 1963 team topped all the others by winning the national title. And what has Royal got to look forward to? "I'll tell you," says Royal. "This good friend, a guy you'd think would understand, a good-hearted fellow who knows football, put his hand on my shoulder and said—serious, now—'Darrell, we don't expect miracles. We know there's gonna be those years when we just have to settle for a 7-3 record!' "
Like most coaches, Royal is a fatalist, and he would settle for a 7-3 any year. "That's the perfect record," he says. "Seven-three and turn down the Persimmon Bowl. It's in between enough to keep your folks happy."
Unfortunately for Royal, followers of the Longhorns have a perfect right to expect success because of the very successes he has given them. And while the 1964 Texas team does not look as promising as last year's, it is certainly impressive enough to prevent anyone from smothering the coach with sympathy. Not that Royal expects any. "I know we face some days," he says, "when we better have everything we value screwed on tight. But if two or three kids come through for us, those other folks better have things screwed on, too."
That is precisely what Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles says. "How you gonna score on Texas?" he asks. "They merely have all their ends, all their linebackers and all their defensive secondary back. How you gonna score?"