April 28, 1997
April 28, 1997

Table of Contents
April 28, 1997

Jock Schools




This is an article from the April 28, 1997 issue

The parking spaces outside the Texas Recreational Sports Center
are virtually all filled, which is not unusual, except that it's
11 o'clock on a Friday night, an hour when most students
normally would have surrendered to the pleasures of Austin's
Sixth Street bars. But on this evening in late January, Texas is
in the grips of its annual Spirit of Sport All-Nighter, a
12-hour-plus sportsfest--with a slightly exaggerated name--in
which 5,000 students are taking part, some until after midnight.

Senior Logan Weems avoided the parking-spot drought: He arrived
early in the afternoon to sign up for the slam-dunk contest and
the indoor soccer tournament, just two of the fest's 34
activities, which also include basketball, racquetball and
volleyball tournaments. "There's always so much going on around
this campus," says Weems after a lead-footed performance in the
dunk contest. "You just have to find what's good for you."

Students at Texas do plenty of searching. In the days
surrounding the sportsfest, they can be found taking in
competitions involving nationally ranked Longhorns teams in six
sports (baseball, men's tennis, men's and women's basketball,
and men's and women's swimming), all within a half mile of one
another. The downside of this activity is evident in the baggy
eyes and grade point average of sophomore Jeff McDonald, a
sportswriter for the school paper, The Daily Texan, and in the
disappointed voice of avid swim fan Indira Allick, a senior. "I
like waking up at 9 a.m. and working on stories until 2 a.m.,"
McDonald says at the paper's underground headquarters, from
which have emerged a number of top sportswriters. Many made
their mark as undergrads covering some of the Longhorns teams
that have won 35 NCAA titles, including 15 in swimming and
diving, four in baseball and three in football. "The 2.5 GPA
hardly matters," McDonald adds. "It's the real-world sports
journalism experience that counts."

"There is always so much going on that it's hard to grasp it
all," says Allick, who is in the swim center watching the
Longhorns compete against Arizona and Florida. She lifts her
eyes from the future Olympians in the pool and scans the sparse
crowd. "It's just hard to get people here on a nice day when
there's so much else happening," she says.

Some four hundred yards away, junior Ray Dennes is sitting
chin-in-hand on a bench at Clark Field, staring glumly at the
games under way on the four outdoor basketball courts. He looks
longingly at court 1, but his chances of playing there are as
slim as those of a blizzard's breaking out on this clear,
82[degree] afternoon. Court 1 is for the best players on campus
and around Austin. Scouts from colleges across the country
sometimes hang out by the green fence, looking for talent. The
starting guards on this year's Longhorns men's team, DeJuan
Vazquez and Kris Clack, grew up playing at Clark.

"The first court is NBA-level, the second NCAA, and it goes down
from there," Vazquez says, with some overstatement. "I went out
there once and [native Austinite and former Michigan Fab Five
player] Ray Jackson was there, and he had brought [former
teammates] Jalen Rose and Jimmy King." So where do casual
players like Dennes fit in? "Most of the students get sent down
to the other three courts," Vazquez explains. "They'll rarely
get called to run the first court."

The previous night at the rec center, Weems didn't mind waiting
for his chance to play in the indoor soccer tournament. His team
had a first-round bye, so he was content to watch two other
five-man sides duel on one of the gym's three basketball courts.
"We might be here until 1 a.m., but it doesn't matter," he said.
"When else do you get to play indoor soccer, much less at
night?" Then he stretched back, gave a nearby teammate a wink
and confessed, "It's not like we're not going to go out partying


COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL SPORTS-LOVING STUDENTS STAMPEDE TO TEXAS; FOOTBALL KEEPS 'EM HOOKED [Man with hands raised in stands of crowded University of Texas football stadium]