Dell Morgan’s contract was set to expire at the end of 1948 when Dr. William Davis was appointed as head of the Athletic Council. He immediately gave Morgan a two year extension. This upset a good part of the Raider fans as Morgan’s record was getting worse each year. “Dr. Whyburn (Tech President at the time) told me to take charge and don’t let downtown take charge.” Morgan, however, saw the writing on the wall and at the end of the two year extension, announced his resignation.
Here is where it gets odd again. During that two year period, Dr. Whyburn moved on and Dr. Paul Wiggins was named President at Tech. At Morgan’s resignation, Dr. Wiggins announced HE would take charge in finding the new football coach. Dr. Wiggins and Dr. Davis attended the NCAA meeting in Dallas after the 1950 season to find a new coach but they were unsuccessful. They did meet a young assistant coach by the name of DeWitt Weaver who at the time was at Tulsa under former TexasTech great, Buddy Brothers. As time went on, Dr. Wiggins became increasingly busy with legislative tasks and gave up the search, forwarding it on to Dr. Davis. Ultimately, Weaver was hired, but only after meeting with several prominent Lubbock leaders to insure that the program would be properly funded.
Not the best record ever at Tech, but notable is the tenure of DeWitt Weaver. His 47-44-4 record was certainly not a standout, but the time spent in Lubbock certainly made the history books. The one thing that Weaver should be most remembered for is his relentless efforts to get Tech into the Southwest Conference. It took him six years to do so, but once in the conference, Texas Tech was never the same. His best year was 1953 where his team went 10-1, losing only to Texas A&M. Many of you have heard of this 1954 Gator Bowl team, a much celebrated group and several members of that team still live in the Lubbock area. Bobby Cavazos was named second team All-American as a running back and both Jack Kirkpatrick and Jerry Walker earned Honorable mention All-American status They ultimately posted a 35-13 victory over a powerful Auburn team.
Between the end of the 1953 season and the 1954 Gator Bowl, Weaver – ever the promoter – sent a message to Joe Kirk Fulton to come see him. Fulton was a junior majoring in animal husbandry. Weaver explained that many of the top schools in the country had a mascot or symbol for their team. He went on to outline his idea for a masked rider atop a black horse who would ride at the games. Fulton enthusiastically embraced the idea and the Masked Rider was born. The first ride was at the Gator Bowl in 1954.
The opening game in 1955 pitted the University of Texas hosting the Red Raiders. Some 6000 tickets were sold in Lubbock for this game in Austin. A crowd of 47000 watched in amazement as the Red Raiders won 20-14 and gave Texas their first opening day loss in 60 years.
In May of 1956, it was announced that Tech had been accepted into the Southwest Conference. The work of Weaver and Davis had finally paid off. One of the requirements of joining the conference was to enlarge the seating capacity of Jones Stadium. Immediately following the final game in late November 1959 (Lubbock High vs. Monterey), earth moving equipment moved in and lowered the playing surface 28 feet. In a marvel of engineering, the east stands consisting of concrete and steel and weighing some 12,500,000 pounds were lifted and placed on three double tracks of Santa Fe rails and moved 200 feet to the east. The rails were set on not normal railroad ties, but on 6 foot by 6 foot pine blocks. Under each set of rails were 24 in steel rollers. Once the entire section was in place, a single winch truck was used to “roll” each of the seven sections of stands.
Coach Weaver can be remembered for recruiting and signing E J Holub, who would become Tech’s first first team All-American. However at the end of a long 1960 season which saw the Raiders post a 3-6-1 season, Weaver stepped down. While he continued to follow the Raiders, his son, DeWitt Junior, became a PGA professional and eventually recorded two tour wins.
DeWitt Thompson Weaver Sr. was born in 1911 in Nashville, Tennessee and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He was All-Southeast Conference at the University of Tennessee. He commanded a Navy troopship prior in 1941 thru 1944. Following the war, he coached at Mississippi State before going to Tulsa University. Weaver passed in 1998 in Daphne, Alabama.