clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Myron Cope & Memories of 1963

 height=Myron Cope, an ink-stained wretch turned gravelly voiced announcer, passed away Wednesday just outside his beloved Pittsburgh, PA. Cope is best known as the color announcer for the Pittsburgh Steelers and as the purveyor of the "Terrible Towel" a yellow cloth that became the good luck charm for the Steelers during their Super Bowl years. Cope was credited with naming the Pittsburgh defense the "Steel Curtain," and of course for bringing the Terrible Towel into existence.

Cope was hired by the Steelers the same year that Terry Bradshaw was a rookie QB, and Cope lasted a helluva lot longer with Pittsburgh. Cope worked for the Steelers for 34 years, the longest tenure in NFL history for a broadcaster with a single team and that led to his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005.

But that's not why Longhorn fans should remember Cope. For those who can recall the Horns first National Championship back in 1963, Myron Cope was the personification of the effete eastern media snobs that mocked all things sacred to Texans, especially college football.

No, Myron is best remembered as the writer who galvanized the Longhorn Nation before the 1964 Cotton Bowl clash with Navy by pissing off everyone even remotely connected with the program. In 1963 the Eastern Media had a favorite team and a Cover Boy who graced just about every magazine this side of "Better Homes and Gardens" -- and it wasn't anyone from Texas.

 height=Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach and the Naval Academy were the darlings of the East Coast. The Midshipmen were 9-1, and that only loss was in the Cotton Bowl, to SMU 32-28 on the Friday night before the Texas-OU contest.

Unbeaten Texas had already been handed the top three National Championships honors -- AP, UPI and the MacArthur Bowl Trophy. But that didn't stop the press from making fun of Texas, or predicting a Navy win.

Time magazine had an article that called Darrell Royal "The Barry Goldwater of College Football," and said he was so conservative that "he looked both ways before crossing a one-way street." (Royal just shrugged it off with the comment that is was plain old common sense to look both ways.)

But it was Myron Cope who really stirred up a hornet's nest before the contest. Cope told fans to "Tune in your TV to the Cotton Bowl and you'll laugh yourself silly. Texas is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the football public...Texas plays the kind of football that was fashionable when players wore perforated cowhide helmets...Duke Carlisle executes a handoff like a construction foreman passing a plank to a carpenter."

Myron saved his best for last.

"Take a close look at the Texas linemen. They do not look like linemen. They have skinny legs like centipedes or girls and high rear ends."

Tommy Nobis takes exception to being called a centipede.

Navy bought into the idea that handing all the hardware to Texas before the Cotton Bowl was premature. During the televised introductions of the teams, Navy Coach Wayne Hardin stated, "When the challenger meets the champion and the challenger wins, then there is a new champion."

When it was Texas turn to be introduced, a tight-lipped Royal simply replied, "We're ready."

Yes they were.

On Texas first possession, instead of acting like a construction foreman passing a plank, Carlisle acted like an NFL QB passing downfield. Navy played a 5-4-2 base defense, relying on its corners to play the power sweep or recognize a pass and drop back. Texas flared HB Phil Harris out of the backfield, Navy corner Pat Donnally lost a step, and Carlisle hit Harris for a 58-yard touchdown strike less than three minutes into the game.


Early in the 2nd quarter, the duo teamed up again, this time for a 63-yard score to make it 14-0. Carlisle ended the day with 7 pass completions for 213 yards, and added 54 yards rushing for a Cotton Bowl record 267 yards of total offense.


As for Staubach and the Navy offense, they were shut down until the game was decided. Staubach had thrown for almost 1,500 yards and rushed for over 400 yards (unheard of for a dropback passer then) during the regular season. But Texas kept him bottled up until the Horns had a 28-0 lead.

Staubach did complete 21-31 for 228 yards, but Scott Appleton, George Brucks and Tommy Nobis led a fierce rush that punished Staubach to the tune of -47 yards on 12 carries.

"I got knocked on my tail, and that's all there is to it," said Staubach. "Texas must have really scouted us."

As a matter of fact, they did. Royal revealed years later that his coaching staff had picked up some of the Navy signals off of the game film exchange. After every play, the Navy film crew would film the down marker, and a lot of the time, the assistant flashing in signals to the huddle would be standing there. Texas picked up enough to help diagnose what might be coming, but of course holding Staubach at bay was essentially the line keeping containment to the outside and funneling all the action back to the middle.

TheFootball Writers Association and the Helms Foundation had withheld naming a national champion until after the bowl game, and Texas added their honors to the trophy case.

There was one holdout. The Washington Touchdown Club named Navy as its National Champion.

No wonder Texans still hold a distrust of the federal bureaucracy.