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eagle tale

About the author

North Texas fight song composer Francis Stroup ('29) is also a member of the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame. He played on the North Texas basketball team in 1928 and '29 and was an accomplished swimmer, winning the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation state championship in the men's junior division 10-meter diving event. He now lives in Illinois. This Eagle Tale was taken from a longer piece in which he shares memories of North Texas and his ties with 'Fessor Graham and the Aces of Collegeland. Read "'Fessor and the Aces."



N 1939 I HAD BEEN OUT OF SCHOOL FOR 10 years and was teaching and coaching basketball at Prosper High School. I drove to the Saturday night movie in Denton, and during the stage show, ’Fessor Floyd Graham announced a contest for a marching song.

I had been writing songs for 10 years, and a couple of years earlier I had hit on a snappy tune I liked enough to play again and again. It had the same structure as many college songs. To say that I was elated with ’Fessor’s announcement would be an understatement.

I sat down at the old Kranic and Bach upright piano my mother had bought secondhand some 20 years earlier. I played the tune a couple of times and wondered how to start. Naming the school in the first line seemed appropriate.

Let’s give a cheer for North Texas State; Cheer for the green and white.

It sounded like a good start. A little repetition doesn’t hurt, and mention of the school colors seemed fitting.

Now what? Maybe the underdog pitch. How about, “Whatever the score we’re gonna win?”

No way. But reverse the order and put in a few contractions, and you get:

Vict’ry’s in store but what e’er the score.

That does it. The idea’s right, the meter’s right, and with the bonus of an internal rhyme. (I’m a sucker for internal rhymes.)

Like many schools, Abilene Christian used the “Washington and Lee Swing” for its pep song. When they got to the line, “We’re gonna fight, fight, fight for every score,” the student body would join in on the three “fights.” Well, I upped them one fight and got a line everyone could remember.

Our men will ever fight, fight, fight, fight.

I was halfway through and hadn’t had to scratch out a line. What next? In “Stouthearted Men,” Oscar Hammerstein said: “Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder they grow.”

“Shoulder to shoulder, marching along” sounded good. But I remembered my freshman English teacher, Miss Bessie Shook. She told us it wasn’t a sentence unless it had a verb, preferably in the indicative mood and active voice. So in the struggle between Miss Shook and euphony, Miss Shook won. The line became:

Shoulder to shoulder they march along.

And what do they do as they march? My first thought was, “Waving their banners high.” I wrote it down — the only line I had to scratch out. Football players don’t wave flags. But more important, this line would set the rhyme for the last line. What could I say? “Waving their banners high; North Texas do or die”? I didn’t think so. Instead of telling what they were doing, why not describe them?

Men with a purpose true.

Now I could tell what they were doing. That was easy. They were:

Playing the game for the honor and fame.

Ah, another internal rhyme and a perfect lead-in to repeat the name of the school and note those people who were asked to cheer in the first line. Now we could tell them why ...

Of North Texas State and you.

In no longer than it took to tell about it, I had written eight lines that were destined to be repeated more than anything else I would ever write.


On the 50th anniversary of the adoption of “Fight, North Texas,” Stroup assigned the song’s copyright to the university. He helped revise the lyrics after the name of the school was changed to the University of North Texas.

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