UTA basketball teams say goodbye to Texas Hall

Texas Hall was home court for UTA basketball teams until the College Park Center opened it’s doors five years ago on Feb. 1, 2012.

One of Scott Cross’s favorite Texas Hall memories is still tucked away in a drawer in his office.

He grabbed a videotape after a few seconds of searching and popped it into the TV.

“My parents always had this,” he said.

It doesn’t take long for Cross to rewind to his favorite part. It was his junior year against McNeese State in Texas Hall. The old “Arlington TeleCable” logo flashes on the screen. Cross hit “Play” with the Cowboys scoring to go up 67-66 with a few seconds left.

The ball is then thrown to half court as two McNeese players collide trying to catch it. Cross swoops in to pick up the loose ball and drains a running three-pointer at the buzzer.

“It’s a winner! Scott Cross at the buzzer!” the TV announcer yells.

Almost immediately, Cross is piled on at midcourt by teammates, with a packed Texas Hall crowd jumping and screaming.

“It wasn’t half court, either,” Cross said with a smile to dispel the myth the play had been a half-court heave to win the game.

Cross has plenty more memories, all from Texas Hall, but there won’t be any new ones. The men’s team wrapped up its 47-season stay Saturday with a 63-54 win over Stephen F. Austin. There’s still one more UTA basketball game left, as the women take on Texas State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

After that game, UTA basketball will move into the $78 million College Park Center in a doubleheader against UT-San Antonio on Feb. 1.

Senior forward Bianca Sauls, a former four-year volleyball player, is in her fifth season on the famed stage.

“I’ve actually played what I thought was going to be my final game at Texas Hall, and it was a sad moment. I missed Texas hall,” Sauls said. “It’s a very different place, and I’ve enjoyed playing there.”

Sauls started 93 matches for the volleyball team and is one of the top scorers on the basketball team with 7.7 points per game. But despite all she’s done as a volleyball and basketball player, a slip up is her best memory.

“I think my favorite moment was falling off the stage,” she said with laughter. “Everybody talks about people falling off, and it actually came true. It was fun.”

It was fun for Sauls but not others. There haven’t been many nice things to say about Texas Hall since the final games have inched closer and closer. Cross and President James Spaniolo both expressed their excitement at leaving the arena for College Park Center after the Stephen F. Austin game.

“We’re going from the outhouse to the penthouse,” Cross said with a chuckle after the game.

Making due

Cross, who has played and coached at UTA since 1995, will take the good memories with him to the College Park Center. He won’t take the memories of recruits looking shocked when first glimpsing Texas Hall or having to drive across campus from his office at the Gilstrap Building to let a player shoot at the Physical Education Building.

It’s one of the main reasons Cross targets players with big character — not big egos who would scoff at playing in Texas Hall.

“If you look at our guys, none of our guys have egos out the roof,” Cross said. “They’re well-spoken, they get along with people. Guys with big egos, they wouldn’t come to UTA prior to the College Park Center.”

Former men’s head coach Bob “Snake” LeGrand, who coached from 1976-1987 at UTA, said getting a player to come to UTA was the ultimate sales pitch.

“We tried to accentuate the weather and the proximity to the airport,” LeGrand said. “Arlington’s a great place to live and go to school.”

But when Texas Hall came up, LeGrand said he remembers plenty of recruits that high-tailed it to schools with bigger and nicer facilities. Basketball had already played in Texas Hall for 11 years before LeGrand took over.

When asked if Texas Hall had ever been considered an average basketball facility, even when it wasn’t even an older building, LeGrand paused as if he couldn’t believe the question was even asked.

“Hell no!” LeGrand whooped with a chuckle.

Home-court advantage

Texas Hall might have warded off potential recruits, but the building still came in handy when it came to winning games for UTA basketball.

The women’s team has accumulated a 284-160 record at Texas Hall. They’ve also won Southland Conference titles in 2004, 2006 and 2008. The men have gone 338-223 in Texas Hall, winning a Southland Conference Tournament title in 2008.

Cross said the fact the student body could sit so close to the court really created an environment that made it tough for visiting teams to play in.

“That’s the unknown about the College Park Center,” Cross said. “The way Texas Hall was built, it could be an unbelievable home-court advantage with just 900 fans because it gets so loud, and the fans are right on top of you.”

The good memories will last forever, and the banners hanging on the wall represent the success UTA has achieved at Texas hall. However, women’s head coach Samantha Morrow knows the future is College Park Center.

“It’s kind of like when you have your first car,” Morrow said. “You love that car, but it’s eventually time to get a new one.”

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