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Making Matadors

Spanish style architecture inspires Tech's first mascot

Kyle Clark and Nikki Siegrist

Issue date: 3/13/03 Section: Life & Leisure
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If it hadn't have been for the efforts of one imaginative female, Texas Tech football fans would have been rooting for the Dogies in 1925.

At the urging of his wife, Tech's first coach E.Y. Freeland opted to label the team "the Matadors" because of the Spanish architecture of the university as opposed to the suggestion of Dogies by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The colors scarlet and cream were chosen for the team because they represented a Matador's traditional red cape and black outfit.

While the Matador was officially Tech's mascot for nine years, it is unknown to some students that Tech was ever anything but the Red Raiders.

Mike Finn, a junior public relations major from Bedford, had no idea another mascot name existed.

"I can't imagine it being the Matadors," Finn said. "I think the Red Raiders just makes more sense. If it changed back, I don't know what I'd do."

The beginnings of the Matador dynasty were humbling, as the team did not score a touchdown until its third game of the season.

When the scoring finally came though, it came in a blistering 30-0 shutout of Montezuma on Sept. 17, 1925. In celebration of the Matadors' first victory, the team was given a black-and-white calf with the score branded on the side.

The calf was a hit at Tech games from then on, with rides being offered to fans during halftime. No fan that season was able to tame the calf as every rider was thrown off.

While the calf was a hit throughout the year, it was time for the animal to go at the season's completion, and in true West Texas spirit, it was barbecued.

At the time, there were not many eyes batted at the barbecuing of the star mascot, but when Tech students now learn of the cookout, there are some surprised reactions.

Ashley Richardson, a sophomore undecided major from Bells, was shocked at the thought of grilling a school mascot.

"That's not cool," Richardson said. "Why would they barbecue their own mascot?"

Finch thought the idea was fairly unorthodox.

"That's crazy," Finch said. "I had no clue."

Tech's current choice of mascot isn't as likely a choice to throw on the grill, which gives a more reassuring feeling.

Saddle Tramp president Stephen Stoltz said the horse is safe from the horrors of the grill.

"The horse we can keep around for a while," Stoltz said. "We're not going to go cooking that thing anytime soon."

The hide from the calf was intended to be preserved and hung in the athletics office, but because of poor handling during the slaughter, the hide was unable to be preserved.

Tech's next mascot was a bull named "The Black Invader." According to Saddle Tramp records, the bull "proved to be more of a jinx than a help, and was soon replaced with the horse."

As for Tech's transformation into the Red Raiders, a two-year process began in 1934 when seven teams from different states were signed on to play against Tech.

To spark more attention to his traveling squad, coach Pete Cawthon ordered new blazing scarlet satin uniforms for his gridders. This way, if the team did not attract attention with its skill, then it would with its uniforms.

The uniform change may have cemented the team's identity that season.

While there is no way of knowing exactly why Tech was first called the Red Raiders, many believe the first step was taken while playing one of the team's many road games at Loyola. In a story, a sportswriter from Los Angeles saw a struggling, unknown team and gave them his own brand.

The Matadors were fighting heavy odds in the game, and the sportswriter called the team a "red raiding team" because of its scarlet jerseys and fighting spirit. The idea then caught on as sportswriters covering Tech began calling the team the Red Raiders.

The only other popular belief is that Collier Parrish, then-sports editor of the Lubbock Morning Avalanche, was inspired by the all-red uniforms, and the teams' coast-to-coast schedule and began calling them the Red Raiders.

No matter how it happened, the name stuck, and the Tech students seemed pleased with the name.

Richardson said Red Raiders was definitely the better choice for Tech's team name.

"I like Red Raiders better," Richardson said. "When I hear Matadors I just think of old, midieval times."

Stoltz said with the changing of the times, it was a good transformation for Tech to become the Red Raiders.

"'The Matadors was unique, and it matched the campus at the time, but there is always a changing of the times," Stoltz said. "Red Raiders is a better fit for the university."

The name Matadors was officially changed to Red Raiders in 1936 with the introduction of the Saddle Tramps.

That year, the Saddle Tramps also organized the masked rider. A rider in a scarlet satin cape circled the field before the game on a Palomino stallion named Silver.

That became an official Tech tradition in 1954, with masked rider Kirk Fulton's legendary entrance to the Gator Bowl and was dubbed the official mascot of Texas Tech.

Stoltz spoke of what the masked rider means to the university and its image.

"It's an awesome expression of the university," Stoltz said. "It's the way the campus is designed. Tech is about running toward the future. It's an awesome symbol for the fans.

Stoltz also said his organization was honored by the group played such a key role in the formation of Tech's traditions.

"It's definitely an honor for us to take part in those traditions and be around during that time of formation," Stoltz said. "That's something we talk about all the time. We're one of the oldest organizations on campus. That's something we take pride in."


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Viewing Comments 1 - 1 of 1

anonymous870

anonymous870

posted 7/16/04 @ 9:57 PM CST

If Tech is not "Matadors" then why is the school song "Hail to the Matadors".

Sounds like a very confused situation...I am amazed most alums don't realize Tech once used "Matadors" since that is the school song they sing. (Continued…)

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