Maverick Madness

Better late than never, let's hear it for U-T-Yay!

"We held the ladder for him, but he made it up," says Carlon. "There wasn't a dry eye on the court."

Out of its other hat, perhaps UTA can finally replace Texas Hall.

When it opened in 1965 it was the grandest theater west of the Mississippi. Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Jerry Seinfeld and Desmond Tutu have walked its floorboards.

The 4,200-seat joint also doubles as college basketball's most bizarre and ridiculous home gym. On one side of the court are traditional wooden bleachers; on the other cushioned movie seats rising to a balcony. The court, flanked by majestic theater drapes at either end, is literally placed atop the stage, making for an 8-foot drop into the orchestra pit for a hustling, naïve player.

I guarded Spud Webb on the stage during a high school tournament. I walked across the floor upon my '86 graduation. But I've yet to experience the place as a legitimate, credible college basketball venue.

With UTA's stunning success, that immediately changes. The positive residue of March Madness is popularity, publicity and a proposal for a new arena that will no longer fall on deaf administrative ears.

"You can say it's unique, but the truth is it negatively affects recruiting," Carlon says of Texas Hall. "I'm pretty certain we can use this to get some momentum for the building of a new special events center. Our president is watching and willing to listen. Its time has come."

UTA used to be the team that drew only 331 fans for a basketball home game. Used to be the school that prioritized its nursing school over athletic programs. Used to be the gym where fans never dared to dream of March Madness.

Not anymore.

Laughable legacy, exit stage left.

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