With March Madness and the entire sports world coming to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Daily Texan created a tournament of its own. Divided into four quadrants, the bracket has matchups between 16 of the top Longhorn athletes of all time, broken down by members of the Texan sports staff.
Earl Campbell vs. 4. Clarissa Davis
It’s only fitting that Clarissa Davis is on this list this year, considering that her No. 24 jersey was retired just one month ago. A two-time All-American, Davis led the 1986 Texas women’s basketball team to a National Championship and won the National Player of the Year Award in 1989.
But Davis is going up against another Hall of Famer in Earl Campbell. Everybody knows not only how great Campbell was, but also the legacy he’s left on the University. Heisman winner, unanimous All-America honoree and one of the best power running backs in NFL history, there’s no denying Campbell is one of the Texas greats.
So, given an impossible first-round matchup, Davis fails to pull off the upset, and Campbell advances.
— Nathan Han
Kevin Durant vs. 3. Colt McCoy
Ok, let’s re-emphasize the fact that the objective of this bracket is to find the Longhorn with the best collegiate career. This wouldn’t be a competition if we started comparing Kevin Durant’s MVP season, two NBA Finals MVP awards and 10 All-Star appearances to that one time Colt played more than 10 games in a season in 2011.
It may not seem fair, but we are looking at McCoy’s illustrious four-year career at Texas and Durant’s one-year pitstop at the Frank Erwin Center.
In this instance, McCoy’s 45 victories, pair of All-America honors, 2009 Maxwell Award, three bowl wins and the BCS National Championship appearance easily knocks out Durant and his freshman season, as impressive as it was.
— Alex Briseño
Vince Young vs. 4. Tommy Nobis
Recognized in the College Football Hall of Fame, Tommy Nobis and Vince Young are two of the best athletes to come from Texas’ football program.
Young grew up in the Fourth Ward of Houston. He wasn’t expected to make it out of Houston, let alone lead Texas to the National Championship in the 2006 Rose Bowl and earn multiple national honors along the way.
Young embodies what it means to have “Texas fight,” and for that, he gets the first round victory over Nobis.
— Yazmin Dominguez
2. T.J. Ford vs. 3. Jordan Spieth
It’s an intriguing matchup here in our region as we have two young phenoms who excelled during their brief careers on the Forty Acres.
T.J. Ford was a star point guard who won National Freshman of the Year in 2002 and led the Longhorns to the Final Four in 2003, while Jordan Spieth was a stud golfer who led Texas to a national championship in 2012 during his freshman year before turning pro.
The slight edge here goes to Ford for leading two incredible NCAA Tournament runs. Although Spieth won a national title for Texas, Ford sticking around for a successful season — and just being a really fun player to watch — is enough to push him into the next round.
— Matthew Boncosky
West Campus Region
Roger Clemens vs. 4. Aaron Peirsol
The West Campus region opens up with an intriguing 1 vs. 4 matchup between Roger “Rocket” Clemens, who would go on to pitch for 24 seasons in the MLB, and Aaron Peirsol, who would win 36 medals in international competition.
While Peirsol was the NCAA backstroke champion in both 2003 and 2004 and still holds the world record for the 200-meter backstroke, Clemens’ résumé on the collegiate baseball stage is just too much to overlook. Leading Texas to two-straight College World Series appearances and winning the title game over Alabama in 1983 makes Clemens a legitimate contender in this tournament.
— Robert Treviño
2. Kamie Ethridge vs. 3. Cat Osterman
This battle between Kamie Ethridge and Cat Osterman is a fierce one.
It’s a choice between two legendary Longhorn women whose names are etched all over the Texas record books. Ethridge, who played from 1982-1986, still holds the Texas women’s basketball record with 776 career assists. Osterman quite literally has her own page in the softball record books as a three-time USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year.
But these women didn’t just break records — they broke barriers. Osterman was the first softball player to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated back in 2002. But the edge in this category and matchup goes to Ethridge after she, albeit long overdue, became the first Longhorn woman to have her jersey retired on Sept. 7, 2019.
— Marcus Krum
South Mall Region
Ricky Williams vs. 4. LaSalle Thompson
The first matchup in the South Mall region sees two Longhorn legends go head-to-head. LaSalle Thompson inserted his name into the record books on the hardwood. His career on the Forty Acres is nothing to sneeze at. Well, unless you’re Ricky Williams.
Amongst his many accolades, Thompson is the only Longhorn to ever lead the nation in rebounds. However, he’s going up against Williams, who was nicknamed “Little Earl,” after fellow Longhorn legend Earl Cambell.
Thompson is remembered as a great, but almost nothing will compare to the legend of Williams’ Heisman trophy, rushing records, minor league baseball career and most notably, his appearance in song lyrics.
— Daniel Yznaga
2. Ben Crenshaw vs. 3. Sanya Richards-Ross
There’s an upset brewing in the South Mall region.
Olympic gold medalist and third-seeded Sanya Richards-Ross takes down the second-seeded and slightly favored Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw in a battle for the ages. It’s a true slugfest between the two members of the Longhorn Hall of Fame, and they match up incredibly well on paper –– Crenshaw has two green jackets, Richards-Ross has two Olympic medals. Crenshaw won two collegiate national championships, Richards-Ross was an 11-time All-American.
And Crenshaw’s hair. It’s nearly impossible to forget about Crenshaw’s Ron Burgundy-esque haircut that dominated the ‘70s.
But, come on. We’re talking about one of the top-20 athletes in the world in 2012, and one of the top-five track stars in college track in 2003-04. Crenshaw keeps this matchup close, but Richards-Ross pulls away late to advance to her first South Mall Regional Final.
— Stephen Wagner