Tate held pioneer coaching position in Uvalde
by Charley Robinson,   Uvalde Leader News - August 5, 2004

Cy Tate was truly a pioneer in Uvalde High School athletics. He came to Uvalde in 1926 and coached three years. In those early days you coached all sports and usually you were the only coach. Coach Tate had come to Uvalde from Devine, where he was athletic director for the county. "We had an athletic meet (track & field) in Uvalde and there developed a controversy over whether a girl was eligible to compete or not and I contended that she had to meet certain regulations." related Tate.

"Well, Mr. (Guy) Dean, Uvalde superintendent, didn't agree with me and he called the UIL in Austin and they sided with me. That evening we were eating in the Stevenson Cafe and Mr. Dean came in and I figured there would be a fuss, but he said I've been noticing your work and I'm very pleased with it and if you ever need a job, let me know." ''Well, when the time came and l needed one l contacted him and that's how I wound up in Uvalde," related Tate.

After coaching for three years he tried his hand at running an automobile agency but then returned to what he loved doing, coaching, but he had to move to Crystal City. There he became a legend and they named the baseball field after him. He served the Crystal City ISD in many capacities including superintendent for many years. Just before his death I had called Mrs. Tate, the former Imogene Raine of Uvalde, to see if I could visit with him. We set up a couple of dates but both times she called to say he wasn't up to visiting. So, she would make notes at times when he felt like reminiscing, making corrections occasionally. The result was an interesting commentary about the athletic program at UHS in the 1920's.

Recollections

Baseball was the only organized sports activity in Uvalde until l916 (actually 1912) when Uvalde fielded its first high school football team. Baseball remained the popular sport until about 1920 when football began to crowd it out in popularity. Early baseball was played Town Teams and it was not until after the turn of the century that Uvalde High School began to participate in the sport. Uvalde Town Teams were constantly good ball clubs. A lack of good ball clubs at the high school had caused the sport to be discontinued but was resumed in 1927 when Coach Tate reinstated it. Uvalde High School continued to field baseball teams off and on in the 1930's and 40's but it returned as a popular and permanent sport in 1950.

Football made its debut around 1912, then lapsed a few years and came back in 1916 with a two game schedule against Hondo and Brackettville. The first good Uvalde team was 1920 when UHS lost only one game. Uvalde had beaten Hondo but lost the return match. The highlight that year was an 89-0 win over Del Rio. First proof had come to Uvalde as to what good coaching could do for a team. So few of the schools participated that it was not uncommon to play a home and home game with a football opponent.

The coach for UHS during 1920, '21 and '22 was William D. Watson, the Gulf Oil consignee for Uvalde, who had coached at Washita Baptist College in Arkansas. He was the first coach in Uvalde history to have had previous playing and coaching experience. The coach for the 1919 team had been the Reverend Goodrich Fenner, minister of the Episcopal Church. It is rumored that the good Reverend gained the complete allegiance of his players when in one game he mixed a few well chosen but mild curse words with the flaying of arms in protest ing an official's ruling. Among the early day standout players were Albert Racer, Harvey Gulley and Sam Yates.

Conditions and circumstances for playing were considerably different in the early days. Dexter Stephens, who played in the early days (1919-1921) said that players had to buy their own equipment, which for so long as it remained serviceable, was passed on to succeeding players. Helmets were not much more than straps of leather as were shoulder pads, if available at all. Pants were made of canvas and jerseys made of wool and when they became wet with sweat their weight increased considerably. All players wore high top shoes and it was not until 1950 that one player was allowed to wear low top shoes for the first time.

The early day football itself reminded one of a basketball rather than a football as we know one today. It got rounder as the season progressed because the same ball was used for practice and it lasted all year. Boone Crisp, another living player of the 1919-21 period tells of how the players had to promote the games and sell tickets in order to bring in a little money for badly needed equipment. There were no bands or cheering sections and transportation to the games in other towns was by privately owned automobiles or trucks.

Tate recalls that in 1927 an 18 man squad left Uvalde at 9 a.m. and did not arrive in Crystal City for their 1 p.m. scheduled contest until 3 p.m. The team had to push their mode of transportation, a flat bed truck, out of numerous mud holes. But once they arrived, having eaten only two soft boil eggs prior to leaving Uvalde, the team played Crystal City to a scoreless tie. The game ended as darkness set in.

Rules and customs of football have changed over the years. Until 1927 the goal posts were on the goal line. In the early days players did not huddle before each play. The backfield took up a box like formation with the quarterback nearest the line flanked by the two halfbacks and then the fullback in the deepest position. The quarterback called the plays with an occasional assist from the coach by means of a substitute. Since there was a shortage of players, the best 11 usually played both ways and most of the game. When the ball wound up near the sideline, that's where it stayed. There were no hash marks. The rule was that if you ran out of bounds than the ball would be moved back to the middle of the field. Some times you would expend a down and run out of bounds just to get the ball back to the middle of the field. Until 1926, both football and baseball were played on the south side of the red brick school building on West Main. The site of the West Main School also served as the site for track and field events with a 440-yard track running the perimeter of the building grounds.

Early day basketball was also played at the West Main School on an outdoor dirt court. Basketball moved to the old Getty Street School on the corner of North Getty and Oak Streets where games were played for the next several years. The nearest thing to grass on this hard packed dirt playing field were many of the Texas devil horn sand burrs. A large oak tree, which is still in place today, stood on the six yard line at the east end of the field. In 1926 football and baseball moved to the City Park where the Civic Center is now located. There were no seats for the spectators in the early days so they were free to roam up and down the sidelines, following the action of the game.

Because of this situation, one of the favorite trick plays of the era came about, the "hide-out" play. Following a play the offensive team would line up immediately with one end hugging the sideline hopefully going unnoticed among the spectators. The quarterback would take the snap and the "hide-out" end would go racing down the field for a pass. At times it worked to perfection. The so-called grudge opponents in the early days for Uvalde were Sabinal, Hondo and Del Rio. Throughout the history of Uvalde High football Hondo and Del Rio have consistently remained two of Uvalde's toughest football opponents in football.

Track had its beginning in the 1920's and in 1928 Uvalde virtually fielded a one-man track team. Emil "Mule" Rutherford, star offensive and defensive tackle on the football team and an outstanding guard on the basketball team, won first place in the high jump, 110 yard high hurdles, discus throw and javelin during the district meet. Rutherford was probably the greatest athlete in Uvalde history up to that time and possibly could rank among the greatest of all time.

People sometimes ask how Uvalde acquired the nickname "Coyotes." Uvalde High teams were referred to as the Honey Bees early in their history. According to Tate, Uvalde took the nickname "Coyotes" in 1924 following a school-wide campaign to select an appropriate mascot for the school. "Ike" Moore - Bio, a 1927 UHS graduate, who lost his life during World War II, suggested the name and it was chosen by the majority vote of the student body. When the school colors of maroon and white were adopted was quite clear, according to the Tate's. Mr. Tate says the early color of the jerseys was red but as the years past by it became more of a maroon color. Some claim the school colors were officially changed to Maroon and White because of the dominant Aggie (Texas A&M) influence in the community.

Writer's Footnote:

The hideout play or any simulation thereof is no longer legal in Texas schoolboy football. Texas is the only state in the nation that plays by NCAA (college) rules. All other states play according to Federation Rules. Uvalde sprung their version of the "hide-out" play against Del Rio at the Honey Bowl in a 1966 season finale. The way Coach Marvin Gustaison worked the play was to call a time-out and keep 10 players on the field in the huddle. In 1966 no player could come to the sideline for a conference. Then when the official marked the ball ready for play Coach Gus would send in a player (which actually became the 11th man) and one player would leave the huddle, take his headgear off as if he was leaving the game, but when he got to the sideline he would put his headgear back on and become a legal wide receiver.

There was nothing illegal about the play and when Del Rio came to town in 1966 the Coyotes had not beaten the Wildcats since 1959 (six years). During the pre-game conference with the officials Coach Gus did not divulge his intentions to run the play to the officiating crew led by referee John Barnett. Barnett was a Del Rio native and still had many friends in the Queen City but through the years had established himself as a fair, impartial and very competent official.

Well, just before the half, Coach Gus decided the Coyotes needed some impetus to take into the dressing room. The Coyotes called time out and one of the players left the huddle leaving only 10 players on the field. When the ball was ready for play a substitute goes racing to the huddle and out comes Ish Cook, takes his headgear off and saunters toward the sideline. Meanwhile quarterback Eddie Carnes has the Coyotes breaking the huddle and heading toward the line of scrimmage. Ish Cook is all alone as he puts hit headgear back on near the Uvalde sideline and when the ball is snapped he sprints down the west side line of the Honey Bowl heading toward the North end zone and there's no one around him. Carnes hits him in stride and referee John Barnett studies the situation for a moment then heaves a flag high into the air for all to see. As Barnett confers with the other officials they convince him that there wasn't anything illegal about the play. When Barnett picks up the flag and signals a toucWown for Uvalde the visitor's side of the field and grandstands go berserk. The play happened just before half and put Uvalde ahead going into intermission.

The dressing rooms (Coyote & visitors) under the West stands at the Honey Bowl was separated only by the coach's office with those half-doors that would open to each side. Well, Del Rio coach Bob Matzig was irate and his assistant, Walter Leverman, who use to coach in Uvalde, was going bananas. The officials, who dressed in the coach's office, were stormed by the Del Rio coaches. You could hear every word. Barnett and the other officials were consulting the rule book and trying to explain to Coach Matzig exactly what happened on the play. Del Rio players did not get any half-time words of advice on this night because the Wildcat coaches continued their argument even as they were taking the field for the second half. When Barnett came into the Uvalde dressing room to get the Uvalde second half option he asked Coach Gus, "Why didn't you tell me you were going to do something like that?" Coach Gus remarked, "Because I knew you wouldn't agree to it!"

The Honey Bowl was overflowing on this particular evening and when the teams returned to the field it was evident that at least most of the crowd on the visitor's side was hostile. Uvalde didn't quite pull off the upset though because a 6'10" quarterback named Gene Salmon, one of the greatest all around athletes in Del Rio history, either passed or ran for all 24 Del Rio points in a 24-23 victory. Salmon also played safety on defense and intercepted a Uvalde pass in the end zone late in the game. Uvalde had to wait until the following year to break the draught when they beat Del Rio 14-12 in Del Rio on two conversion kicks by Jack Cowan.

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