UCLA’s 66-3 romp over Texas in 1997 was staggering

The audacity of the final score was staggering: UCLA 66, Texas

3.

In 1997, the Bruins romped over the Longhorns in one of the

biggest routs since Davy Crockett and the boys got whipped at the

Alamo.

Texas fans fumed. Some cried. Most were gone by halftime.

The humiliation lasted until November. One season after winning

the Big 12, ”Rout 66” drove the Longhorns into a complete

collapse and a 4-7 season that ended with the firing of coach John

Mackovic.

On Saturday, the Bruins (1-2) come back to Austin. The current

Longhorns (3-0) were hardly in grade school in 1997, but fans and

former players will always remember the day UCLA jammed a big ol’

stick right into the eyes of Texas.

Most would like to just forget it.

”Nooooooo! Not that game!” former wide receiver Wane McGarity

responded when contacted by e-mail to discuss the game.

”Dang, I never saw us look so (bad),” said Texas mega-booster

Joe Jamail, a billionaire trial lawyer from Houston. ”Hopefully we

can return the favor.”

Just that season Texas had named the field at Royal-Texas

Memorial Stadium after Jamail, a colorful character who peppers his

language with curse words.

”I had made a very large contribution to the university, I

don’t know how many millions, and they decided to stick my name on

the field. I was proud and pleased,” Jamail said.

But after the game, when only a few die-hard fans had stayed to

sing ”The Eyes of Texas,” Jamail saw athletic director DeLoss

Dodds and asked him a hard question. He didn’t hold back the

cussing: ”Deloss, how much … money will it take to get my name

off that … field?”

The score reverberated throughout the country.

In Chapel Hill, N.C., then-Tar Heels coach Mack Brown was in the

fourth quarter of a tough game against Stanford when the Texas

score was announced.

”Bad night to be in Austin, Texas,” Brown thought to

himself.

Texas entered the 1997 season expecting great things.

The Longhorns won the ’96 Big 12 championship with a stunning

upset of Nebraska. Quarterback James Brown was being hyped as a

possible Heisman Trophy contender and the Longhorns were ranked No.

11 after a 48-14 win over Rutgers.

But not all was perfect. James Brown hurt his ankle against

Rutgers and realized the score was misleading. He looked around and

saw a young team still living off the championship of 1996 and not

ready for prime time.

”I was like, `Wow, we are definitely not as powerful as we

think we are,” said James Brown. He is now an assistant coach at

Lamar University in Beaumont.

With Brown hurt, backup Richard Walton started. Texas was still

favored to win at home against a UCLA team that had lost its first

two games.

And then all hell broke loose.

Texas had eight turnovers. UCLA romped to a 38-0 lead. Cade

McNown threw a school-record five touchdown passes in the first

half. Texas fans were stunned, then quickly disgusted by what they

were seeing. The booing started early and many were pouring out of

the stadium by halftime.

”They’d have burned the place if they could have,” Jamail

said.

Walton and third-team quarterback Marty Cherry were smothered by

blitzing Bruins. Ricky Williams, who would win the Heisman Trophy

in 1998 and finish his career as the leading rusher in major

college history, ran for just 36 yards.

”I remember sitting back watching Marty take a beating,”

McGarity said. ”They beat us so bad they sent a guy into

modeling.”

Indeed. The UCLA game was Cherry’s last for the Longhorns. He

quit before the season ended to pursue a male modeling career,

eventually landing much softer gigs with Abercrombie & Fitch

and Ralph Lauren.

It was 45-0 before Texas managed to do something right: kick a

field goal.

”They just couldn’t stop us. And they could not block our

defense,” said then-UCLA coach Bob Toledo, who is now the head

coach at Tulane.

McGarity says that’s because Texas coaches changed the offensive

scheme just a few hours before the game, tossing out what they had

practiced all week.

”(Mackovic) felt like we ran up the score on him but we

didn’t,” Toledo said. ”It was just one of those games. We came

back out at halftime and there was hardly anybody there. They were

gone.”

By the time it was over, it was the worst Texas loss since 1904

when the Longhorns were beaten 68-0 by Chicago. But even that game

was on the road. To lose like that at home was complete

humiliation.

James Brown says he could have played that day and wanted to

rally his team. He said he told Walton he was going in. But Word

got to Mackovic, who ordered trainers to take away his helmet.

”He said, `If you put yourself in, that would be the worst

mistake you could ever make,”’ James Brown said.

Mackovic, who lives near Palm Springs, Calif., did not respond

to a telephone message seeking comment.

Fans, frustrated by too many seasons of false hopes under

Mackovic, boiled over and took it out on the coach and the athletic

director. T-shirts and banners that said ”Dump DeLoss, Flush the

John” soon appeared.

Mackovic seemed deaf to the rage roiling around him.

”Last year, we won the (Big 12) championship and everybody

lived with that. They’ll just have to live with this, too,”

Mackovic said.

Texas never recovered. A win over rival Oklahoma only eased the

pain before a four-game losing streak.

”It really let the air out of all those young players, to get

beat like that,” James Brown said. ”They thought we were so good.

They realized we had a long way to go … It made everyone

re-evaluate the whole program.”

Mackovic was peppered by questions about his job all season.

Williams, who was tearing through a 1,800-yard season, was loyal to

Mackovic and threatened to leave school early if the coach was

fired.

The season ended with a loss at Texas A&M. Mackovic was

fired the next day.

Texas’ darkest hour proved to be the starting point of the

program’s recovery. After being mired in mediocrity for more than a

decade, Mackovic’s firing opened the door for Texas to hire Mack

Brown.

The new coach’s folksy charm convinced Williams to stay for his

senior season. Williams won the Heisman in 1998 and within two

years the Longhorns were playing for the Big 12 title.

Mack Brown suffered his share of humiliating defeats – losses of

63-14 and 65-13 to Oklahoma in 2000 and 2003 were the worst. But

those games weren’t at home. And they proved to be only setbacks in

a pattern of growth toward the 2005 national championship.

In 1997, when the Bruins were romping and stomping their way

through Austin, it was impossible to see those days ahead.

James Brown said it’s the one game that his old teammates don’t

talk about.

”Only you,” Brown said. ”Nobody brings that one up,

buddy.”