Sports in Texas
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Texas is home of several national sports league franchises among other professional sports, being the second most populated U.S. state. Since the state is located in the South Central United States, most teams are part of the Central / South or West league divisions, with the notable exception of the NFL Dallas Cowboys, which is an NFC East franchise.
Many Texans are passionate about American football and intensely follow high school and college football teams — often they dominate social and leisure activity. Professional football is also intensely popular in Texas, and the state is home to two National Football League (NFL) franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.
The Cowboys, founded in 1960, are one of the most popular teams in the league and have fans in many parts of the United States, leading to the nickname "America's Team". They are also one of the most successful, having reached eight Super Bowls and won five (tied with the San Francisco 49ers for second all-time). The Cowboys play their home games at AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington, into which they moved in 2009 after having spent 38 years at Texas Stadium in Irving.
The Texans were founded in 2002 and play their home games at NRG Stadium, the first NFL stadium with a retractable roof. From 1960 to 1996, Houston was home to another professional football team, the Houston Oilers, who started in the American Football League (AFL) in 1960 and joined the NFL in 1970. The Oilers played their home games at the Astrodome, but the failure of team owner Bud Adams to reach an agreement with the city on a new stadium led to his moving the franchise to Nashville, Tennessee, where it was renamed the Tennessee Titans.
Baseball has a strong presence in Texas, with Major League Baseball teams the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. In 2005, the Astros became the first team in Texas to make it to the World Series. The Rangers followed the Astros in 2010 to their first World Series. Minor league baseball is also closely followed in Texas—especially in the smaller metropolitan areas. The Fort Worth Cats were a team in Fort Worth, Texas that won 3 straight championships, one in the Central Baseball League and the last two in the American Association. College baseball is also quite popular, as Texas A&M University, Rice University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston, Baylor University, and Texas Christian University have all made multiple College World Series appearances.
Basketball is also popular, and Texas hosts three NBA teams: the San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Mavericks. All three have won championships, however the Spurs having won at least 50 games over the past 15 seasons and 5 NBA championships, are arguably the best professional franchise in Texas sports and are considered one of the best NBA franchises in history. Additionally, Texas is home to two WNBA teams, the San Antonio Stars and the Dallas Wings, the latter of which relocated from Tulsa, Oklahoma after the 2015 season. The state had another WNBA team, the Houston Comets, before its demise at the end of the 2008 season. The Comets were the winners of the first four WNBA Championships in league history, from 1997–2000.
From 1905–1915, people in Dallas and Fort Worth turned out by the thousands for horse racing, which was usually tied to the state fair schedule. Dallas established a Jockey Club early on. The Fort Worth Driving Club (for owners of Standardbred trotters and pacers) had 101 members when it opened in 1905. Trotters raced at a park in Fort Worth, but both cities attracted thousands of people for each style of racing.
Ice hockey has been a growing participatory sport in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League (NHL) became the Dallas Stars in 1993. The Stars made the Stanley Cup Playoffs their first year in Dallas and remained competitive through the rest of decade, culminating in a Stanley Cup championship in 1999. The team returned to the Stanley Cup Finals the next year, only to lose to the New Jersey Devils. In addition to the 1999 Stanley Cup and 2000 Western Conference championship, the team has also won two President's Trophies as the NHL's regular-season points champion and seven division titles.
Prior to the advent of the Stars, top-tier professional ice hockey existed in Texas in the form of the Houston Aeros, who played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1973 to 1978. The team was notable for featuring hockey legend Gordie Howe, who was lured out of retirement by the prospect of playing alongside his sons, Mark and Marty. Led by the Howes, the Aeros won back-to-back Avco World Trophies as the WHA champions in 1974 and 1975. The Aeros folded after they failed to gain admission into the NHL, first as part of a merger between the WHA and NHL and then as an expansion team.
Minor league professional hockey has also become popular in the last several decades. The Houston Huskies played in the old United States Hockey League (USHL) and won its championship in 1948, led by legendary NHL coach Toe Blake. In 1994, Houston received a franchise in the International Hockey League (IHL), which was named the Aeros after the city's old WHA side. The new Aeros won the IHL's Turner Cup in 1999. In 2001, the team transferred to the American Hockey League (AHL) after the IHL's demise; it won the AHL's Calder Cup in 2003 and reached the Calder Cup Finals in 2011. The AHL has established two more teams in Texas since that time – the San Antonio Rampage (owned by the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and affiliated with the NHL's Colorado Avalanche) began play in 2002, and the Texas Stars (an AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars based in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park), began play seven years later. In 2013 the Aeros would leave Texas to become the Iowa Wild.
Between 1992 and 2014, the Central Hockey League had fifteen different teams based in Texas and as many as nine from 2002 to 2005. However, by the CHL's final season, only the Allen Americans remained. The Americans would join the ECHL in 2014 and go on to win the championship in their first season in the league.
Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the state. The old North American Soccer League had teams in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and in Houston. The Dallas Tornado played between 1968–1981, while the Houston Stars played for one season in 1968. Houston returned to the league in 1978 as the Hurricanes and played until 1980. Soccer returned to Texas with the 1994 FIFA World Cup with the Cotton Bowl hosting matches.
In 1996, the Dallas Burn was born as one of ten founding member of Major League Soccer, which is the current Division 1 professional soccer league overseen by the U.S. Soccer Federation. The Dallas Burn were later renamed FC Dallas with a new logo and colors, and now play in a soccer-specific stadium called Toyota Stadium in Frisco. A second Texas team, the Houston Dynamo, joined MLS in 2006. The Dynamo won the MLS Cup in their first year in Houston, and again in their second year in 2007. The Dynamo now play at BBVA Compass Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has stated publicly that a third city in Texas — either San Antonio or Austin — is under consideration for a possible MLS expansion franchise. Currently, both of those cities have professional minor league teams — the San Antonio Scorpions play in the second-tier North American Soccer League and the Austin Aztex are on a hiatus from the third-tier United Soccer League while seeking to build a new stadium.
Originally, most Texas Division I universities were part of the Southwest Conference until it dissolved in 1996. The eleven schools whose football teams compete at the Division I FBS level are the Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs, Texas Longhorns, and Texas Tech Red Raiders of the Big 12 Conference; the Texas A&M Aggies of the Southeastern Conference; the SMU Mustangs and Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference, the North Texas Mean Green, Rice Owls, UTEP Miners, and UTSA Roadrunners of Conference USA; and the Texas State Bobcats of the Sun Belt Conference. Texas has the most FBS schools in the United States.
According to a survey of Division I FBS coaches, the rivalry between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin, the Red River Shootout, ranks the third best in the nation. A fierce rivalry, the Lone Star Showdown, also exists between the two state's largest universities, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas. This athletic rivalry has been put on hold after the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012. The SMU Mustangs and Texas Christian University Horned Frogs have a rivalry called the Battle for the Iron Skillet. The Houston–Rice rivalry exists between the University of Houston and Rice University with a large focus on the Bayou Bucket Classic.
Texas is home to many other Division I programs with football teams competing in Division I FCS. These include the Abilene Christian Wildcats, Houston Baptist Huskies, Incarnate Word Cardinals, Lamar Cardinals, Sam Houston State Bearkats, and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks of the Southland Conference and the Prairie View A&M Panthers and Texas Southern Tigers of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Rivalries include the Battle of the Piney Woods between Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin and another between Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern.
In addition, the state has three Division I programs that do not sponsor football—the Texas A&M–Corpus Christi Islanders and UT Arlington Mavericks of the Southland Conference, and the UTRGV Vaqueros of the Western Athletic Conference.
Collegiate teams nationwide see Texas as an American football recruiting hotbed. In 2006, 170 players in the NFL came from Texas high schools.
Most primary and secondary school athletic, music, and academic contests in Texas involving public schools are organized and administered by the University Interscholastic League (UIL). As a general rule, the UIL only governs public schools. Private schools are governed by other bodies, the largest of which is the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS). Both bodies have similar governing scope, although some terminology differs. The TAPPS category of "fine arts" encompasses what UIL calls "academic" and "music" competitions, and also includes competitions for spirit squads (i.e., cheerleading and dance teams), which UIL does not sponsor (other bodies govern cheer/dance competitions among public schools).
Texans also enjoy going to the rodeo. The annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest rodeo in the world. The event begins with trail rides that originate from several points throughout the state, all of which convene at Reliant Park. The World’s first rodeo was held in Pecos, Texas on 4 July 1883. The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth, Texas has a cowboy, and a Mexican and many traditional rodeos. The State Fair of Texas is held in Dallas, Texas each year at Fair Park.
Gymnastics in Texas is very popular and is one of the largest states for the sport in the country. Multiple Olympians and World Champions have come out of the state including; Nastia Liukin (2008 Olympic AA Champion), Carly Patterson (2004 Olympic AA Champion) and Simone Biles (2013, 2014 World AA Champion).
The state is also home to motorsport venues such as the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and the Texas World Speedway in College Station. Dallas and Houston have hosted street races, the Dallas Grand Prix and the Grand Prix of Houston. Auto racing is also the second most watched sport on TV in the state, behind American football. NASCAR races tend to do well in Texas media markets than NBA games.
- Fort Worth Driving Club Records: A Guide, University of Texas at Arlington, accessed March 29, 2008
- Davis, Brian (2005-10-07). "UT-OU : Best Rivalry?". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2006-07-11.
- Talman, John (2006-03-15). "Lone Star Competition". Rivals.com..
- "University Interscholastic League". University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2008-09-28.