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Texas Tech, Will Rogers and the legend of A&M

With the last certain Aggie appearance in Lubbock approaching, Soapsuds' back-end will most likely stay pointed in the same direction.

Posted: October 4, 2011 - 3:21pm  |  Updated: October 5, 2011 - 12:22am
Legend suggests the equine posterior of the Will Rogers statue on the Texas Tech campus points toward College Station as a message for the Red Raiders rivalry with Texas A&M. Saturday will mark the final visit to Lubbock for A&M as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
Legend suggests the equine posterior of the Will Rogers statue on the Texas Tech campus points toward College Station as a message for the Red Raiders rivalry with Texas A&M. Saturday will mark the final visit to Lubbock for A&M as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
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If you’ve been in Lubbock long, you’ve heard this: The statue of Will Rogers on his horse at Texas Tech is positioned so the horse’s hind end faces Texas A&M.

The statue is one of the most well-known and revered landmarks on the campus. Its connection to the Tech-Texas A&M rivalry is a source of lore and legend, especially since its position was altered from its original placement. With A&M preparing to bolt from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference in July, the Aggies will make what may very well be their last appearance in Lubbock, at least for the foreseeable future, on Saturday.

While we shouldn’t expect Will Rogers to change directions after the Aggies leave, two things are certain:

1. There is another reason the statue was turned from its original position.

2. The statue, along with the Tech seal and other noted campus landmarks, will be adequately protected from would-be vandals by Saddle Tramp sentries throughout the night Friday and well into the wee hours of game day, a tradition that has been carried out by the student spirit organization for more than 10 years, according to Chris Snead, associate vice president at the Texas Tech Alumni Association.

A little history

The statue memorializes Rogers, a noted actor, author and

humorist during the 1920s and 1930s.

Amon G. Carter, a longtime personal friend of Rogers, commissioned sculptor Electra Waggoner Biggs to create the work after Rogers died in a plane crash at Point Barrow, Alaska, on Aug. 15, 1935.

The replica bronze casting that graces the Tech campus is one of four. The original was commissioned by Carter in 1936 and donated to the city of Fort Worth in 1942. It is in front of the Will Rogers Memorial Center. Another is located at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Okla., with a fourth on the grounds of the Anatole Hotel in Dallas.

In a brief ceremony Feb. 16, 1950, the statue was presented to Tech by Charles A. Guy, then-editor of The Avalanche-Journal. Guy made the presentation on behalf of Carter, publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and a personal friend, who was out of town on a business trip. Carter also was the first chairman of the Tech board of directors.

The statue, titled “Into the Sunset,” depicts Rogers on his horse, Soapsuds. An inscription at its base reads “Lovable Old Will Rogers on his favorite horse, Soapsuds, riding into the Western sunset.”

The repositioning

The statue, near the Broadway and University Avenue entrance to the Tech campus, initially faced a more northwesterly direction, so as to have Rogers and Soapsuds riding off toward the West Texas sunset. But that initial placement had the hind quarters of the horse facing toward downtown Lubbock, much to the consternation of some local officials.

To solve this problem, the statue was repositioned “in the late 1960s or ’70s,” according to Snead. It was moved 23 degrees so the horse’s posterior faces more toward College Station, and away from downtown Lubbock, or so the story goes.

“In reality, it’s 23 degrees south from north,” Snead explained, “and faces in the general direction of College Station. But to be honest, it probably faces closer to Leander and Austin. But that’s OK. The story is still good.”

As to who decided to position the statue as it is currently, few, if anyone, living can recall. One rumor related by Snead was “several members of the football team picked it up and moved it, then got so tired they just dropped it off there.”

“A lot of stuff is based in rumor, and we’ve tried to piece it together based on what we know,” Snead said. “The myth just grows. With that whole rivalry heating up during the last decade, the whole Will Rogers thing has taken on a whole new life. But there’s nothing wrong with that.”

The traditions

The life-size statue weighs 3,200 pounds, and its cost has been estimated at $25,000. The statue stands at 9 feet, 11 inches tall, though some of the tales and real traditions associated with it have stood taller through the years.

The Saddle Tramps started wrapping the statue in red crepe paper prior to every home game in the 1970s, according to Snead.

“It’s an undertaking,” said Snead, who serves as an adviser to the spirit group. “It takes five guys more than four hours and quite a bit of crepe paper on Thursdays. Then they go on Midnight Raider, walking the campus and putting streamers on all of the light poles. If Texas Tech wins, then the streamers get to stay up until Sunday morning. If Tech loses the football game, they have to go immediately and take it down.”

The statue is wrapped and draped in black crepe paper as a way of mourning national tragedies and the deaths of those beloved to the university. It was last draped in black Sept. 11 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. It also was draped in black in August following the passing of longtime Lubbock and Texas Tech sports broadcaster Jack Dale, Snead said.

With A&M’s impending departure from the Big 12, some have wondered whether the statue will be repositioned once more, perhaps pointing the horse’s behind toward another conference foe.

“I think he will probably stay right where he’s at,” Snead said. “It’s a good tradition, one that has been passed on. I just say now that it points to our rivals down south. I don’t reference one over the other. There are lots of rumors and legends that go with that statue.”

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Would like to Think

Would like to think the possibility of futures games are still there regardless of conference importance. Travel costs and rivalry would lend to continuing the contest. But then, you are dealing with aggies.

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No one

No one wants to play a tough non conference game. A loss by either school could have national title implications and bowl implications. It's the same concept that ruined boxing. Every time you fight you could lose your belt. Right now with the BCS system, automatic qualifying conferences have no upside for playing tough non conference schedules. This will be the last home A&M game for atleast 10-15 years.

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Maybe play A&M in the future

I think it might be a good idea to play them every year and turn it into a florida vs. florida st. type of game. Some years it could be bad, but others it could be the win that helps your strength of schedule and ranking. I think it might be a good idea to put them on the schedule. It's not like A&M will have any Texas rivalies in the SEC. This could pick up some national exposure/ attention in the future.

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But

If they were to do that with any school from the Big ?? they will do it with Texas. I agree it would/could be a good deal, it just won't ever happen.

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Tech and TAMU ~ We are Texas!

As an Aggie living in Austin. The rivalry that I will miss the most are the games with Tech. What most people dont understand is that we really won't miss playing the University of Texas. As most people have seen, their arrogance and selfishness ran off the larger schools with options in the Big 12 and took they rest of the confernce to the brink of extinction. I feel they really could care less for the schools that can't venture out on their own due to school size or geography. I read the Austin American Statesman every day and never once has anyone taken the blame for the exodus of schools or a concern for the schools still in the Big 12. Google Mr Dobbs statements, that they are the definition of arrogance and self centeredness. Everyone of the schools in the Big 12 have been outspoken about the Longhong Network which was the cancer that has caused the schools with options to move including statements of disgust from Tuberville last year that he was cencored and fined for by Dan Bebee. Such is college football.

I wish the Aggies could play Tech every year and create a rivalry and leave the Longhorns out. Thanksgiving would be fine. The money and exposure would be great and help our state. Let's let Texas play Notre Dame every Thanksgiving as Dobbs mentioned in the Statesman. Someone just needs to remind him that they'll have to cancel their final game with USC to do this...thats not much of a rivalry.

I have never met finer people than those in Lubbock and will miss our trips to west Texas if this rivalry doesnt continue.

Best of Luck on Saturday and may God Bless Texas Tech University.

Gig'em Ags...

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