UT Gets Its Hall of Fame

UT Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte likes to tell a story about his first week on the Forty Acres. As he tells it, when he first stepped on campus, he wanted to enrich himself with UT sports culture, so he asked President Greg Fenves where the hall of fame was. Turns out, UT didn’t have one. Trophies were at old coaches’ houses, in offices around campus, and in three storage spaces in Georgetown.

That was less than one year ago. This afternoon, Del Conte, Fenves, and members of the Denius family cut the ribbon on The Frank Denius Family University of Texas Athletics Hall of Fame, a 24,7713-square-foot facility located in the north end zone of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

At a dedication preceding the ribbon-cutting, Denius’ son, Wofford, BBA ’74, Life Member, thanked Red McCombs, ’50, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, for sharing the Red McCombs Red Zone with his family. The $17.1-million project was funded by many UT donors, with the lead gift coming from the Denius family, the patriarch of which fought at Normandy in WWII and attended 72 straight Texas vs. OU games.

Fenves called Denius, LLB ’49, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, “an extraordinary individual,” and noted that the longtime UT champion rarely missed a football practice and made friends with the kickers and punters on decades-worth of Longhorns teams, as Denius was once a punter himself.

When you enter the hall, you’re greeted by an 8-foot-tall, 1,200-pound statue of Bevo. A station nearby allows patrons to enter their cell phone numbers, take aerial selfies in front of the statue, and have the pictures texted to them.

From there, it’s, as Fenves said at the ceremony, “enough to give any Longhorn a chill when they walk in.” There are Southwest and Big 12 Conference trophies; individual national awards, like Kevin Durant’s Oscar Robertson Trophy; and 55 national championship trophies. There is a room just for Longhorns in the Olympics, like Ryan Crouser and Michelle Carter. There are twin gargantuan statues of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, both dwarfing their Heisman Trophies below. There is a visual timeline of all 15 Bevos. Even Smokey the Cannon is in there. For the first time in the 100-plus-year history of athletics at The University of Texas, all the accolades are together, in their rightful place.

What makes the Hall of Fame more than merely a museum, though, are the modern displays of current athletes. There’s the spot for the 2019 Sugar Bowl trophy, flanked by an image of Sam Ehlinger in the Golden Hat and a quote by Breckyn Hager. There’s Micaya White, current volleyball senior, poised to finish her Longhorns career in style. And it appears there is space both to celebrate the past and update into the future.

There’s even a bit of cheekiness, with a shot aimed at Texas’ onetime rivals. On one wall in the back of the hall is a picture of Justin Tucker kicking a field goal in the waning seconds of the 2011 Texas vs. Texas A&M game. “AND IT’S GOODBYE TO A&M” reads the space above another image of Tucker being hoisted by his teammates at the conclusion of the final matchup between the two teams.

It’s hard to believe the north end zone used to be mostly empty, with the exception of a few stray students looking for a cheap sandwich or a caramel macchiato between classes. Del Conte also likes to tell that story, of tearing down an old food court to make way for a living celebration of everything UT athletics.

No offense to Starbucks or Subway, but Longhorns have much more to look forward to this fall—and beyond—in the north end zone.

Photographs by Matt Wright-Steel


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