A dream of 29 years, carefully nurtured and given tender, loving care, blossomed into fruition here today when Texas Tech was extended an invitation to become the eighth member of the Southwest Conference.
The dream that had been barren for 29 years, although threatening to bloom on several occasions, finally came true at 10:32 a.m. in the blue room of the student union building on the University of Arkansas campus. It's a day that will be circled in red on calendars throughout West Texas and eastern New Mexico.
The formal announcement was delivered in mimeographed form by Howard Grubbs, executive secretary of the conference, at the press meeting immediately following the breaking up of the faculty representatives session.
Bob Cheyne, Arkansas publicity director, boomed to the waited press that "Mr. Grubbs will make no statement until all have assembled in the press room." Seconds later, the doors to the conference room were flung open and Grubbs, wearing a smile on his face, walked out as flash bulbs exploded.
There was a rush for the press room, then Grubbs passed out this statement, prepared by the faculty:
"By unanimous vote, Texas Tech was invited to appoint a committee to work with a committee of the Southwest Athletic Conference for the express purpose of working out details under which Texas Tech may become a member of the Southwest Conference. A duplicate motion regarding the University of Houston died for want of a second.
The conference also took action which instructed the athletic directors of the conference to make no further commitments for football games for the 1961 or subsequent seasons until further notice by the conference. ...
"This means that it is the express intention of the conference to admit Texas Tech to its membership as soon as satisfactory arrangement of the details can be concluded by the above mentioned committee."
The SWC committee will be composed of Dr. Edwin D. Mouzon of SMU, the conference president, Dr. Henry Hardt of TCU, Dr. H.E. Bray of Rice and Athletic Directors John Barnhill of Arkansas and D.X. Bible of the University of Texas.
The similar committee from Texas Tech hasn't been appointed but Dr. J. William Davis, chairman of athletics at Tech, said he will recommend that the committee be composed of Coach DeWitt Weaver, himself and a third person. Coach Weaver, whose efforts greatly aided Tech's campaign during the short space of five years, wore a smile that threatened to become permanent. He told the press in a short statement:
"We appreciate the support and cooperation of everybody in Lubbock, in West Texas and all of Texas. We're going to do everything in our power to make Texas Tech a worthy member of the conference."
Participation by 1961
It's almost a virtual certainty that Tech will not be able to compete in football before the 1961 season because of schedule commitments by at least one member through 1960. Grubbs said that because of schedules, Tech would not be able to play a basketball schedule in the 1956-57 season. It is possible that Raider teams could compete in spring sports in 1957.
Thus the Southwest Conference, which had not added a new institution since 1922, when TCU came in, again returned to eight members. There had been that number until 1925, when Oklahoma A&M dropped out. Since that time there had been no change in the conference alignment.
It's been a long, hard row to hoe, starting on Sept. 17, 1927, when the Board of Directors approved a motion directing that the college look into applying to the Southwest Conference for membership.
Tech did apply and was turned down that year. Again in 1929 and 1931 Tech applied but was turned down. Dr. D.A. Pennick of Texas told Tech in 1931 that it should get in some conference and in September of 1932 Tech was accepted in the Border Conference.
Tech was a member in good standing until 1939 when the Raiders were expelled for two years, remaining out of action in conference affairs from May 1939 through May 1941. Tech applied for Southwest Conference membership in 1937, 1939 and 1941 anyway, but after the rebuff in 1941, the board voted never to make application to the SWC again.
Subsequently the college hired the deeply respected Morley Jennings of Baylor as athletic director and Dell Morgan, not at Rice, to serve as football coach, believing that they would be able to gain conference membership.
As a result, another effort was made in 1948 when Dr. D.M. Wiggins, then president of Tech, sent a letter to the conference. This was considered not a new application but an extension of the 1941 application.
When Weaver took over he immediately began efforts to help get Tech in the conference. An application was made at the May 1952 meeting, at which Tech came closer but again failed.
Because of pressures the SWC presented, the conference passed a motion that said any expansion in the future would be by invitation only.
In May, 1955 Texas Tech's status came up again. Once more Tech failed to get the necessary five votes, with SMU, Rice and Arkansas dissenting.
Some time during December SMU changed its mind about Tech, although no announcement was made until February.
In discussing plans for Tech's expansion, Weaver said that the first step would be to enlarge the football stadium to a minimum capacity of 55,000.
Within minutes of the time the news was flashed, Weaver and Dr. Davis began to get congratulatory telephone calls. All the members of the SWC faculty representatives came around to congratulate him and wish him well.
It was a time for emotional strain. Even the most optimistic and hopeful of Tech supporters had feared a last minute swap or some other method whereby the vote would not be favorable.
But Tech's Dr. Davis and Weaver remained steady in their belief that this was the time it was going to succeed. They had had assurances from five members that they would have their support. Five college presidents had sworn to Dr. E.N. Jones, Tech president, that their institutions would vote for Tech.
And so, the great West Texas area, long denied the fruits of Southwest Conference membership, has gained representation in one of the nation's most respected conferences. It's a time for rejoicing, a time for solemn preparation for the great years ahead.