Texas Men’s Hoops Say Goodbye to Frank Erwin Center


Last night at the Frank Erwin Center, shortly after earning the first tip, the Baylor men’s basketball team encountered a Frank Erwin bloodthirsty crowd for the first time in forever – and the last time to the story.

Bears senior guard Matthew Mayer’s mullet hissed sideways as he quickly threw an airball and Texas fans immediately surged, swelling to a crescendo as Texas guard Marcus Carr made a jumping in transition. The place exploded. The ground shook. My ears were ringing. It was beautiful.

But this atmosphere, unlike any other for so long, also had the unintended effect of signaling a glaring absence. Where was this noisy crowd hiding?



On Monday, February 28, against Baylor, the Longhorns played inside their home since 1977 for the last time. Although No. 3 Baylor ultimately prevailed, outscoring Texas 68-61, the atmosphere was different than I’ve known in nearly a decade of coverage and attendance at men’s basketball games. inside The Drum.

This continued throughout the game as Texas maintained a slim lead. Former Texas and NFL wide receiver Quan Cosby played (and lost) a knockout game. TJ Ford, a member of the last men’s team to make a Final Four, piloted the T-shirt cannon. A Chihuahua did a 360 slam dunk on a mini hoop. More, Peril! winner Jaskaran Singh swelled the crowd.

Peril! winner Jaskaran Singh swelled the crowd as Texas held a halftime lead.

Chris O’Connell/MySA

From the whistleblower to the buzzer, the crowd was engaged, loud and on their feet. As the game progressed, it was clear that defending national champion Baylor was affected by the loud, sold-out (and nearly full) crowd at the Frank Erwin Center.

It cannot be overstated. Texas hasn’t made the top 25 in NCAA Division I attendance since 2011, drawing fewer fans to home games than mid-majors like San Diego State and New Mexico most seasons. While first-year coach Chris Beard and his team have made strides in making the fan experience more conducive to home-court advantage, the hit there for years has been his rows on rows of empty seats, men’s and women’s games. .

Not last night. For the first time since I can remember, the Erwin Center looked like a threatening place for the opposing team. It’s a shame it took the threat of dynamite to do that.

In April, the Erwin Center will cease to exist. The Texas men’s and women’s basketball teams, which played home games inside the concrete oval on Red River Street, will move down the road to the Moody Center. Texas fans are divided at the end of the Erwin Center, just as they were on Erwin himself.

Malon Reed of Slocum TX walks into the Frank Erwin Center for the Slocum vs Nazareth UIL 1A basketball tournament semi-final game on Friday March 12, 2010 in Austin.  (Michael Paulsen/Chronicle)

Malon Reed of Slocum TX walks into the Frank Erwin Center for the Slocum vs Nazareth UIL 1A basketball tournament semi-final game on Friday March 12, 2010 in Austin. (Michael Paulsen/Chronicle)

Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle

Who was Frank C. Erwin Jr?


When UT Regent Frank C. Erwin Jr. died on October 1, 1980, his funeral was held at the University Special Events Center, built in 1977. Erwin was a strong supporter of the University of Texas as a monolithic entity, expanding the footprint of the system. , and making sure there were always at least a few cranes on Forty Acres at all times. The UT brass adored Erwin, who was in state at the nearby LBJ Library after his death, an honor previously given to the former president himself.

Students, however, especially those with leftist views, were another matter. Erwin oversaw the arrest of students – megaphone in hand – who were protesting the Creek space bulldozer in 1969. He made sure classes weren’t canceled when students wanted to protest the shooting in Kent State the following May. In 1974 he tried to shut down The Daily Texan, The UT student newspaper, saying sadly, “We don’t fund what we don’t control.”

AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 24: Texas mascot Bevo performs before the game between the Texas Longhorns and the Kansas Jayhawks at the Frank Erwin Center on January 24, 2015 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, TX – JANUARY 24: Texas mascot Bevo performs before the game between the Texas Longhorns and the Kansas Jayhawks at the Frank Erwin Center on January 24, 2015 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Likewise, the building bearing his name has remained a divider. A bulbous, brutalist mass, it resembles an unfrosted gray-beige birthday cake. Some call it the Flan Erwin Center. The innards of the Erwin Center may be aesthetically worse, if that is to be believed. A circular maze of white brick and windowless multi-purpose rooms with the clumsiest folding chairs there is. (Like any writer, I judge a place by its amenities available to me.)

Other complaints littering the internet from basketball fans and spectators include poor acoustics, rotten concessions, cramped seating, expensive parking. The list continues.

But fans are really divided on whether or not they will miss the Erwin Center. Recently, at a birthday party, I overheard two friends arguing. The design of the Erwin Center was thought to have actually aged well, in a city of sleek glass skyscrapers. The other wouldn’t hear it, calling it “awful”. Some even have an inner confusion, eternally parked at this intersection between reality and nostalgia.

The future at the Moody Center

The Moody Center, created when UT’s Dell Medical School Phase II indicated it needed the space where the Erwin Center resides, and will undoubtedly be a better experience for Longhorn fans. But once The Drum is gone, it’s gone – an empty void where people grew up watching the Longhorns or Disney on Ice or the Dalai Lama literally removed from this Earth.

As Baylor took a decisive lead with less than a minute to go, fans streamed regretfully towards the exits, orange and white balls appearing under their feet as they exited the arena for the last time. Unless they come back for Monster Jam on March 12.

Fans enter the Frank Erwin Center for the Slocum vs. Nazareth UIL 1A basketball tournament semi-final game Friday, March 12, 2010 in Austin.  (Michael Paulsen/Chronicle)

Fans enter the Frank Erwin Center for the Slocum vs. Nazareth UIL 1A basketball tournament semi-final game Friday, March 12, 2010 in Austin. (Michael Paulsen/Chronicle)

Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle

After the game, in which the crowd couldn’t have wanted the Longhorns to shoot better than 17.4% from beyond the arc, Beard acknowledged what fans will miss when they knock this spot down in less than two months. Even though the new joint offers chic suites and gourmet delights, the Erwin Center will be gone, but never forgotten. The coach joked that he tried to help the Longhorns bring the arena to life in their homes as well as in their minds.

“I tried to do this Wrench Night,” Beard said. “Where everyone could take a few seats.”

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