Texas Cowboys

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The Texas Cowboys is a suspended all-male club at the University of Texas at Austin. As of March 2019, the club is banned.[1] It was founded by Arno Nowotny and Bill McGill in 1922 with the purpose of serving the University of Texas, as well as the surrounding area, with the motto: "Give the best you have to Texas, and the best will come back to you."[2][3] The club has been suspended from the UT campus for a total of 11 years, once in 1995 (5 years) and again in 2019 (6 years), for engaging in hazing violations discovered after the death of two young UT students, Gabe Higgins (deceased 1995) and Nicky Cumberland (deceased 2018). [4] Prior to being banned from UT, the club served as ambassadors of the University of Texas and were formerly present at numerous significant university-sponsored events.

The Texas Cowboys firing Smokey the Cannon.

The Texas Cowboys were also previously responsible for keeping and maintaining Smokey the Cannon, which is present at all Texas Longhorns home football games.[5] Smokey is fired off after the Eyes of Texas, at the end of every quarter, and after all Texas touchdowns, field goals, kickoffs, and two-point conversions.

The University of Texas banned the organization on March 28, 2019 from any association with the University due to the club's latest hazing violations of University regulations.[1]


In 1922, two students at the University of Texas at Austin decided to form a club. These two men were head cheerleader Arno Nowotny and Longhorn Band president Bill McGill. In 1922, forty men from all aspects of campus life were chosen by McGill and Nowotny to be the first Texas Cowboys. Throughout its nearly 100 years of existence, becoming a Texas Cowboy became a high honor to its members, although it remained an exclusively all-male organization. The Cowboys have never admitted women as full-fledged members.

The Texas Cowboys quickly adopted a set of rituals, including using a branding iron to brand themselves on their chests with the organization's logo, paddling, and chasing each other around town to kidnap and then abandon the captured member in the woods, distant roadside, or Town Lake. [6]

In 1954, Smokey the Cannon was presented to the University of Texas by the Texas Cowboys. That same year, the Cowboys began their involvement with and support of The Arc of the Capital Area.

On the Monday following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Smokey fired a 21-gun salute to the fallen President during the climactic moment in a public ceremony in front of the state Capitol building.

Smokey II was created by the Cockrell School of Engineering to replace the original Smokey in 1968. Smokey II served the University well until 1988. The following year, Smokey III, a civil war replica cannon standing six feet tall and weighing 1,200 pounds, was constructed and remains in service to this day.

In 1995, the Texas Cowboys were suspended from the UT campus for five years after one of their New Men, Gabe Higgins, died during a retreat. [7] Independent investigators determined that the Texas Cowboys engaged in eight hazing violations. [7] The organization was already on probation for hazing at the time, and this was the third penalty for hazing in as many years.[8][9] The death of Gabe Higgins, and the ritualized abuse forced on him by the Texas Cowboys, was documented by the young man's mother in a story of his young life cut short by being a Texas Cowboy. [10]

Through the efforts of the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association, the Texas Cowboys were reestablished in 2000 and promised "to represent and serve the University of Texas at Austin with spirit, character and leadership."[11]

Eighteen years after the club was reinstated, another young UT student died while in the hands of the Texas Cowboys. On September 30, 2018 Nicholas Cumberland was being driven back from a Texas Cowboys initiation ritual held at a ranch outside of Austin when the truck they were in crashed. [12] Nicky suffered serious injuries as a result of the crash, and after spending four weeks on life support, died on October 30, 2018. [12] Nicky's family became concerned that the Texas Cowboys' hazing rituals contributed to their son's death. [13] As a result, authorities opened an investigation of the Texas Cowboys.[13][14] They determined that there existed "a widespread, long-standing culture of peer-to-peer abuse, or hazing, within the Cowboys." [15]


Texas Cowboys membership is suspended effective March 28, 2019. [15] No new membership will be considered until the ban on the organization is lifted in 2025.

Distinguished alumni

Political and judicial figures

University figures

Athletes and coaches



  1. ^ a b "University of Texas suspends spirit group six years in wake of hazing investigation". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2019-04-04.
  2. ^ Directory of Alumni[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ of Active Members[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "UT suspends Texas Cowboys for hazing after student's death". ABC13 Houston. 28 March 2019.
  5. ^ Smokey the Cannon "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2004-10-22. Retrieved 2010-08-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Texas Cowboys". Issuu.
  7. ^ a b Communications, Emmis. "The Alcalde". Emmis Communications – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Holmes, Michael. "U of Texas Student Group Banned After Student Drowning". AP NEWS.
  9. ^ "Hazing Death Punishment Reinstated - The Spokesman-Review". www.spokesman.com.
  10. ^ Harten, Ruth (29 March 2019). "The Cowboy's Secret: A Story about Hazing: Gabe Higgins, 1975-1995". Trafford Publishing – via Google Books.
  11. ^ When the Smoke Cleared: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Texas Cowboys "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2010-08-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ a b "UT-Austin student Nicky Cumberland dies after four weeks on life support - The Daily Texan". www.dailytexanonline.com.
  13. ^ a b Haurwitz, Ralph K. M. "Hazing preceded car crash that killed UT student, family says". Austin American-Statesman.
  14. ^ "Family of Texas Cowboys pledge requests investigation following deadly crash - The Daily Texan". www.dailytexanonline.com.
  15. ^ a b Goard, Alyssa (28 March 2019). "Texas Cowboys suspended following student death, hazing allegations". KXAN.
  16. ^ "TU EX-Student Leader Jailed In Slaying; Malcolm E. Wallace Charged in Death of Golf Professional". Valley Morning Star. Harlingen, Texas. October 24, 1951. p. 1.
  17. ^ Jones, Garth (August 14, 1985). "Federal Official's Death Certificate Ordered Changed". The Victoria Advocate. Victoria, Texas. AP. p. 8A. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  18. ^ Dalton, Kyle. "Butler Pitch and Putt in Austin: Murder in the clubhouse, fun on the golf course". www.golftexas.com. Retrieved June 16, 2014.

External links

  • Texas Panhellenic Fraternities http://www.texaspanhellenic.org/
  • Texas Cowboys Alumni Association http://www.texascowboys.org/

See also

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