Pound for pound, it may be the biggest road trip of the season.
ACU coaches and administrators fanned out across Texas last week for the fourth annual Wildcat Caravan, a series of high-energy, if not high-calorie, get-togethers at some of the state’s best eateries with Wildcat alumni, fans, families and friends to collectively cheer on the upcoming athletics season.
The fun began with barbecue on Sunday night, July 13, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco; continued Monday at legendary Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth for lunch and Blackfinn Ameripub in Austin for dinner; and concluded Tuesday at Rudy’s Bar-B-Q in San Antonio and Guadalajara Hacienda in Houston. We weren’t always hungry, but we took one (and sometimes two) for the team, hearkening back to a classic line uttered by former Wildcat letterman and ACU’s 2008 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Lance Barrow (’77): “Sometimes you gotta eat hurt.”
We came bearing gifts. In addition to doling out football helmets, T-shirts and items from The Campus Store, San Antonio’s Stacy Canavan – whose daughter, Kyla, will be a freshman in 2015 – won a trip for two to the Wildcats’ season-opening football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Coaches recalled their favorite moments from ACU’s first season in Division I and previewed future opponents. The Wildcats’ record-setting quarterback John David Baker (’13) shared the story of being recruited by various teams and how ACU head coach Ken Collums’ pitch centered on what the football program would do for him – as a player and as a man – rather than what he could do for the program. And athletics director Jared Mosley (’00) gave an update on fundraising efforts for the two new on-campus stadium projects and other athletics program initiatives.
But the Caravan is always less about what is said than it is a celebration of the great moments that have defined ACU’s sporting history and the legacy that continues to be handed off to the next generation.
For example, try to follow this bouncing ball. In Frisco, we were joined by Rob Orr (’52), one of four brothers who in the summer of 1950 helped convince a young Wildcat football player – unsure if he wanted to play for a new coach, Garvin Beauchamp (’41) – to return to Abilene for his sophomore season. The Orrs successfully steered Wally Bullington (’53) back to campus where that fall he helped the Wildcats go undefeated. Bullington would go on to become ACU’s head coach and win a national championship in 1973 thanks, in part, to all-Lone Star Conference defensive lineman Dub Stocker (’74), a member of the ACU Sports Hall of Fame who attended the Caravan event in Fort Worth. One of Stocker’s teammates on that title team and fellow Hall inductee, Greg Stirman (’75), a third-generation Wildcat football player whose father, Fred (’50), played alongside – who else? – Bullington. Sitting back-to-back with Stirman at the Caravan event in Houston Tuesday night was Dr. Dave Fuller (’98), whose father, Clifton (’73), was one of Stirman’s classmates 40 years ago. Along with Fuller and his wife, Dr. Amy (Berry ’95) Fuller, were their grade-school kids, J.D. and Zoe, decked out in Wildcat apparel, listening to the stories and perhaps catching a vision for one day wearing the Purple and White themselves.
The Long Purple Line got a little longer last week as the Wildcat Caravan rolled along. It left our hearts and our stomachs full.