Longhorn Women’s Basketball Greats Return to Say Goodbye to Erwin Center
By Brandon Jenkins
Some of the pioneers of Texas women’s basketball came to the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday to say goodbye one final time to the home of the Longhorns for the past 46 years.
A crowd of 12,506 watched the Longhorns defeat Oklahoma State in their regular-season finale. Depending on whether the Longhorns host NCAA tournament games later this month, Saturday’s game could have been the last played in the Erwin Center, and emotions ran high for those who coached and played in the arena.
“It really generated emotions,” said Jody Conradt, who coached the Texas women from 1976 to 2007 and was there when the Erwin Center opened. “I thought it was going to be just fine because we all are looking forward to moving to the new arena, but this place is special.”
“We have been here for over 40 years and it is just hard to think about Frank Erwin not being a part of Austin or being a part of all of our lives,” the Hall of Fame coach said.
The Longhorn men played their final game in the Erwin Center on Monday. Next season, both teams will move to the Moody Center being built between Interstate 35 and Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Conradt said her emotions stemmed not just from the building, but from the relationships and experiences she had in the arena.
“There are so many good moments that have happened in front of big crowds like today, but there are a lot of moments that have happened in the locker rooms and during practice with our players in this building,” Conradt said. “All of those moments are special. I guess when you boil it all down it is about the relationships that we have made in our careers. I have been so fortunate to have relationships with so many outstanding young women who have played here, represented the university well, and have gone on to be successes in other parts of their lives.”
Celeste Taylor, a two-year starter for the Longhorns before transferring last season to Duke University, returned to Austin to visit her former teammates and to say goodbye to the building where her college career began.
“I had a great experience at the Frank Erwin Center during my freshman and sophomore year,” said Taylor. “I enjoyed playing in this arena and having the fans and the culture surrounding me. I am excited to be back and to see my teammates as well.”
Charli Collier, the first pick in last year’s WNBA draft, returned Saturday as one of the greatest women’s basketball players to step foot on the Erwin Center court
“Just coming back to see the fans, my former teammates, and my coaches is amazing,” said Collier. “The legacy itself with me playing here is awesome. These girls are going to help pave the way for future generations.”
Still, Collier sees many positives in the move to the new Moody Center.
“I think it is wonderful,” Collier said. “The Erwin Center will always be legendary, but this is something new and hopefully down the road I will get a chance to come back and see my girls play again. The Moody Center will be a milestone in college basketball and we need that change.”
But Saturday’s emotions showed that Erwin Center, which will be torn down to make way for an expanding medical center, won’t be forgotten.
“We will move on and I think we are going to get to the new arena and be happy with it,” Conradt said. “But if you do not have sentimental feelings about the Erwin Center, then you have not been in Austin and have not represented the University of Texas.”