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Vernon McDonald

 
Coach Mac Authors Book on Milton Jowers

Playing for a Winner—Remembering Coach Milton Jowers  by Vernon McDonald was published May 9, 2009.


DVD Version Now Available  – Playing for a Winner: Remembering Coach Milton Jowers

By: Vernon McDonald 

To purchase send $25 to 601 University Drive, JC Kellam Building, Suite 960, San Marcos, Texas 78666.

Please make checks payable to TxState Development Foundation, designated for the Coach McDonald Endowment. 

Mac as Player

All-Conference Guard,1950-52
The pantheon of Bobcat athletics includes, among others, of course, Vernon McDonald and Milton Jowers. Octogenarian McDonald, whose involvement with the program spans some sixty years, is an institutional elder statesman and a vast repository of unrecorded history.

Mac enrolled at Southwest Texas State Teachers College in the fall of 1949, a transfer from TLC, then a junior college, recruited by Jowers, at that time in his fourth year as head basketball coach. Following graduation, McDonald coached at Eagle Pass High School for one year before returning to SWT permanently as a coach and eventually as assistant athletic director. He retired from the University in 1988 but has since remained a loyal and exuberant Bobcat fan.
MacDoand as Basketball Coach

Basketball Coach, 1953-1977

Vernon's tenure at SWT, as student and assistant coach in the period 1949-1961, coincided with the glory years of Bobcat basketball and the high-water mark of Milton Jowers' extraordinary coaching career.

Now, writing a book was not one of the projects on McDonald's retirement "to-do" list; however, team-mates, students, and friends had been pestering him for years to write down the Jowers' stories which he had long told with such wit and aplomb. Finally, several months ago a group of former students sat him down in front of a recorder and the story telling began. Soon, yarns about Jowers were pouring in by email from ex-players across the State and the collection grew to book size.

The finished manuscript is neither a biography of Jowers nor a history of his era, but it is, rather, a collection of brief reminiscences by dozens of former student athletes who shared in the exhilarating achievements of the 1950s and early '60s. Jowers was tough and demanding, taciturn and frequently rude, and single-minded in his quest for excellence. He had an uncanny ability to get remarkable performance from players of limited natural ability. The resulting success created a cohesiveness and an esprit de corps among his teams that have lasted a lifetime.

And, Jowers was very successful, indeed, both as an athlete and as a coach. Born in McMahan, a small community east of Lockhart, in 1914, he enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1931. He was all-conference in both football ("known for his ability to catch difficult passes") and basketball ("an uncannily accurate one-hand push shot"). After graduation, he coached in high school for six years—three at Teague, one at Shiner, and two at San Marcos, compiling a cumulative 223-20 record. His 1940 San Marcos Rattlers went 45 and 1 in winning the State Basketball Championship, one of only two in the school's history. He joined the Navy in 1941, where he rose to the rank of Commander.

After World War II, Athletic Director Oscar Strahan hired him as head basketball coach, a post he held from 1946 until 1961. His record was extraordinary. During this fifteen-year period he won six Lone Star Conference Championships, took the Bobcats to the National NAIA Tournament in Kansas City six times, won that National Championship in 1960, and compiled an overall 287-105 (73 percent) win/loss record.

By the late 1950's, Bobcat football was struggling, and President Flowers persuaded Jowers to resume leadership of that sport which he had coached briefly in the early '50s. Jowers agreed, providing that McDonald would take over the basketball program. After a rebuilding year in 1961, Jowers won 26 and lost 2 in the next three years, including a perfect 10-0 record and a Lone Star Conference championship in 1963. This undefeated season is one of only three in Texas State football history. From 1964 until his death in 1972 he was full-time Athletic Director.

 

SWT End 1933 Jowers at SMHS 1941 Basketball Coach 1953 Jowers 1963
SWTSTC End 1933 San Marcos High School 1941 Head Basketball Coach 1955 Head Football Coach 1963

 

The 1952 SWT basketball team, below, may well have been the best team among the many good ones that Jowers coached. The Bobcats reached the semi-finals of the NAIA tournament with a 29-0 season record, were tied by Southwestern Missouri in the final second of the first overtime, and were defeated 70 to 67 in the second overtime. They then beat Portland University decisively to finish third nationally. Over the completed 30-1 season the Bobcats outscored opponents on average by thirty points per game.
1952 Bobcat Basketball Team

 

The 1960 team, however, is more often remembered because it did, in fact, win a national championship, the first in any sport in the Texas State's history. Off to a slow start with three losses early, the Bobcats finished the regular season with a 29-4 record and a conference championship; then they went 5-0 in the NAIA Tournament. They outscored all opponents by an average of twenty points per game and Jowers was named NAIA Coach of the Year and was selected to coach the NAIA entry in the Olympic trials in Denver.

1960 National Champions

 

McDonald in 1960

Asst. Coach McDonald 1960
The relationship between Vernon McDonald and Milton Jowers was multi-faceted and enduring—player to coach, protege to mentor, colleagues, friends. "I spent many, many days, weeks, and even years with this man. Our offices were side by side." Thus, McDonald watched day by day as Jowers compiled one of the more remarkable achievements in Texas sports: a lifetime coaching record of 587 wins, 146 losses, and 3 ties (80 percent).

This success attracted attention, of course, and led to opportunities to move to several bigger, more prestigious schools. McDonald tells a story about Jowers hanging up on Bear Bryant, Athletic Director at A&M, who made a recruiting phone call while Jowers was trying to prepare his team for one of the games in Kansas City. Jowers "just wanted to coach at Southwest Texas which was his home."

In one of his anecdotes, McDonald recalls Jowers coaching the NAIA All Star team, which included three Bobcats, to a victory over NCAA champion, Ohio State, in the Olympic Trials in 1960. He concludes this snippet with what well may be his considered final judgment of Jowers, "What a career and what a coach."
Jowers in 1960

Head Coach Jowers 1960