21 Oct

When Razorbacks First Competed Against African-American Football Players

1965 Cotton Bowl

The all-white Razorbacks finished their glorious 1964 with a landmark Cotton Bowl showdown.

For the most part, integration of big-time college sports in the South happened in phases from the 1950s through early 1970s. In 1965, for instance, SMU’s Jerry Levias became the first African-American football player in the Southwest Conference. Two years later, Kentucky’s Nat Northington became the first in the SEC.

With Arkansas, like with many other programs, there are multiple pioneers. Little Rock’s Jon Richardson, the first scholarship black Razorback, came aboard in the fall of 1969. In the spring of 1969, though, Pine Bluff’s Hiram McBeth had become the first black Razorback to play in a varsity-level Arkansas football game when he played in the red-white game.

Then there was Darrell Brown, the walk-on from Horatio who played on the freshman team in the fall of 1965 and spring of 1966. He quit after suffering multiple injuries and never made varsity.  This was right in the heyday of legendary Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, and Razorbacks were a force to be reckoned with. Broyles, who coached the team from 1958 until 1976, became an all-time Arkansas legend in 1964.

After finishing his previous three Southwest Conference Championship winning seasons 9-2, 8-3 and 8-3, Broyles led Arkansas to an 11-0 record in 1964, outscoring opponents by 231 to 64. He had an especially strong defense which pitched multiple shoutouts in the second half of the season. Exhibit A: Razorback linebacker Ronnie Caveness, who was selected to the 1964 College Football All-America Team, and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Jimmy Johnson, the future Super Bowl-winning head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, also played for that team. So did Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who got pretty emotional this past summer when he learned he was going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now if his team could overcome their 20/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, I’m sure he’ll get way more emotional.

It’s interesting to note that the Razorbacks’ legendary 22-game undefeated run that included this championship-winning season started with a victory over Texas Tech, a game that was played the day after President John F. Kennedy died in 1963. That was the only SWC game played that day, and the Hogs tried as best as they could to get with business as usual, future Super Bowl-winning coach Barry Switzer told me. That win started an incredible run extending throughout the 1965 regular season when Darrell Brown scrimmaged against the varsity as part of the freshman team.

The high point of the run, of course, was Arkansas’ 10-7 win over Nebraska in the January, 1965 Cotton Bowl. That victory cemented Arkansas as the national champions, according to the two major organizations.  It was also the first time Razorback football players took the field against an integrated football team.

***

While Razorback football players hadn’t officially competed against black football players before 1965, decades before the program had helped a group of African-American Fayetteville natives named the “Black Razorbacks.” I tell that long-forgotten story in my new book: African-American Athletes in Arkansas.

10 Oct

Bret Bielema: “A coach is only gonna be allowed to coach to the level of what his personnel is.”

What Arkansas coach Bret Bielema Said Two Days After the South Carolina Debacle

Excerpts from Monday’s press conference

“I took over a winning program and took it to an even higher level to go to three three straight championships. I came here to a 3-9 program, we went three and nine and we’ve been on a steady ship trying to build this thing up. We were gonna be at the highest win total a year ago—lost two games at the end of the year that were very frustrating and haven’t been able to get back on track yet.”

“We’ve battled a lot with our injuries and with new players and new faces this year, that we haven’t gotten over the hump. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll get it to where it needs to be.”

“The good news is we have good kids who haven’t shown any bad signs of losing [hope], any lack of effort, any lack of discipline, any in fighting or going at one another. It’s more of a message of unity and persevering.”

On whether the problems which plagued the offensive lineman are again hurting Arkansas this year:

“I think the only thing that’s changed on the offensive line from a year ago was the departure of Skip [Dan Skipper] – a guy who played every position but center.

I felt good about where our guys were coming in depth-wise. Obviously, we would like guys to play better at certain time. Hjalte Froholdt is an improvement. Frank has been playing some pretty steady football. Colton [Jackson] does some things very, very well. Johnny Gibson has obviously been a nice continued surprise from where we got him to where we are today….I think he plays better at that guard position than he does at tackle.

It gets frustrating, but again—there are some guys we recruited three or four years ago who haven’t developed into what we want them to be…“My only regret is that four years ago we didn’t make the decision to recruit two more (in the O-line) in each class.”

A coach is only gonna be allowed to coach to the level of what his personnel is. And, again, if we just had a couple more guys depth[wise] that coulda matured and been in a position to play right now. I like the guys’ attitude.”

“I told our guys on Sunday night if I’ve ever been around a team that can change their path in a very short fashion, it’s these guys right here  right now. It’s not like they’re a million miles away — they’ve lost an overtime game, they lost a TCU game that went right down to the wire and [against South Carolina] there were in the third quarter of a game that got completely out of control.

Woulda shoulda coulda – I get it. Everybody’s gonna have commentary – I get it. But they really, truly are a team that is not very far away from being where they need to be.”

24 Aug

“African-American Athletes in Arkansas” Book Signing @ Fayetteville Barnes & Noble

This Saturday, from 1-3 p.m, I’ll do my first book signing in Fayetteville at the Barnes & Noble across from the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

I’m looking forward to meeting fellow authors,* seeing friends and talking about my book African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and Other Forgotten Stories. A large portion of the anthology involves Fayetteville history. Below’s an excerpted example:

thumbnail of Advance Copy July 17 35

thumbnail of Advance Copy July 17 36

Some of the  families involved in this story — as well as the one in the “Black Razorbacks of the 1930s” piece (illustration above) — are the same mentioned in this OnlyInArk.com feature I wrote on the history of the the African-American community in Fayetteville.

The book’s already gotten some good press, with mentions by the likes of sports columnist Wally Hall and Ozarks at Large host Kyle Kellams, but I feel like it’s time to get out and see folks in person. Make it out if you can!

Read More

21 Aug

Frank Broyles On John Barnhill & The Threat of Arkansas State University

Good stuff from a Mike Irwin and Frank Broyles interview back in 2007. The below excerpt is from around the 13-15 minute mark.

Mike Irwin: Now one of the things that I’ve also been told is that when you came in here, you were especially initially very respectful of the traditions that were already here. You didn’t come in and say “Well, that’s nice, but we have to do this, we have to do that.” You listened to what [Barnhill] had to say about why things are done the way they are around here. One of the things he told you was “We don’t play Arkansas State here.” There were just all these traditions and reasons why things are done the way they are and you, may have put your own stamp on the program, but initially you were very respectful of.

Frank BroylesHe had built—where Arkansas wasn’t very successful—he had built [a wall] around the state. He had gotten the eastern Arkansas people interested by starting to play more games in Little Rock. And we’ve developed a fan base from one border of the state to the other, which we had to have if we were going to be a national power. We had to have the fan base, where other schools had it close by, ours was going to be 250, 300 miles away—some of it… The one thing I learned from him is “We are not successful without a fan base from all over the state.”
They could support other universities and other colleges at that time. But when the Razorbacks played, everybody stopped and listened. And he had developed that and it was a wonderful opportunity for me. I took the job with the intention of staying. So It’s been 54 years.
Mike Irwin: Jeff Long still has that same philosophy. I mean he’s the A.D. now, but he didn’t change that. I mean you know there’s been constant pressure and constant talk about “When are you gonna play other schools? Other schools do this, other states do that.” The policy is still the same.
Frank Broyles: …The wonderful thing is that the [state] legislature has let us decide that… Right now our philosophy is that we don’t play so fans can support both of us—or three of us, or four of us. Whatever schools they want to support, they support us and them. And that’s why we’ve been successful.
21 Jul

That Time the Arkansas Razorbacks Football Team Went On Strike: Part 2

football strike

Below is Part 2 of a two-part series. Click here for Part 1.

Within days of The X-Ray’s release, Tillman expelled all 36 editors. In response, most of the university’s 724 students quickly signed a petition pledging to attend no classes until the 36 were reinstated. Only seven students attended class the next day, according to Tackett.

Those students’  names aren’t known, but it’s highly improbable more than a few of them would have been football players. Even in an era in which a roster could be around 16 players*, it’s logical to infer most if not all of the football team participated in this strike. Furthermore, we know that Hugo Bezdek**—the head football coach himself—officially endorsed the students’ Progressive agenda. Bezdek, who would ultimately become a college football Hall of Famer after stops at Oregon and Penn Sate, was also the athletic director and baseball coach.

The stalemate between students and administrators lasted almost a week. “There were some tense moments for those who were expelled, who didn’t know whether they were going to have to finish their college careers elsewhere,” Fayetteville historian Charlie Allison told Brady Tackett. “Even those who were struck weren’t what would happen.”

As the week rolled on, the tide of public opinion shifted in the students’ favor. Local Fayetteville merchants, for instance, capitalized on the unrest. Some put up posters displaying their support for the students, Allison said. Local theaters even offered free admission to students during the strike.

On March 2, 1912, only a week after The X-Ray’s publication, Gov. George Donaghey (then chairman of the board of trustees) arrived for a specially convened board meeting with UA faculty and students. There, the student’s representatives argued for the reinstatement for the 36 on the grounds that the The X-Ray’s mission had been to improve the school’s overall quality. Their arguments impressed Donaghey. So the governor decided to repeal the 1905 law and reinstate the 36 students with a promise that faculty would investigate their complaints.

The students, in turn, acquiesced to Donaghey’s request for no celebratory parties or parades. Instead, student-faculty relations were to be quietly mended. Indeed, on March 4, a student representative submitted a formal request for extra class work to make up for time lost in the protests, Tackett wrote.

Although the Mizzou and Arkansas protests differ in so many ways, one strong tie is the amount of stress they caused for their respective university presidents. In 2015, Missouri President Tim Wolfe announced his resignation in the immediate aftermath of the football Tigers’ strike. But back in 1912, before the onslaught of instantaneous news coverage and video, it took a little longer. President Tillman quietly announced his retirement at the 1912 commencement ceremony.

*The 1912 team was 16 players, which was a typically thin roster in the Hugo Bezdek era, according to A Story of Arkansas Football by Orville Henry and Jim Bailey. According to Phil Huntley, who played on the 1909-1911 Razorback teams, the talent and overall team attitude took a dip in 1911 and 1912, a time when the roster had too many “prima donnas.” 

Huntley recalled traveling to Austin for a game against the University of Texas in 1911, “a game we should have won.” Instead, Texas won 12-0. “The Texas coach came by afterward and said, “‘You know something, Hugo? Five of your men damn near beat my 11.’ He knew.”

PS: The 1911 opener featured the biggest blowout win in Razorback history: a 100-0 home shellacking of SW Missouri. The 2017 Razorbacks are expected to win their opener against the consistently woeful Florida A&M, too, but don’t expect quite the same margin of victory. It should be greater than the 31.5-point line in the Rice-Stanford opener according to major sportsbooks

**According to “The X-Ray Incident,” written by Chris Branam, in the Winter 2012 edition of the Washington County Historical Society’s Flashback.

03 Mar

Talking Fayetteville’s Lost Black Razorbacks with the Local NPR

Kyle Kellams

I recently discussed Fayetteville’s forgotten “Black Razorbacks” of the Great Depression era on Ozarks at Large, a daily news and culture show through KUAF National Public Radio 91.3 FM. I always enjoy talking with the show’s host Kyle Kellams, who I’d gander has one of the most inquisitive, roving minds in the tri-state area.

Check out our 11-minuteish interview here:

 

And here’s a preview of the story itself:

Razorback linebacker Brooks Ellis had lived in Fayetteville his whole life, but had never heard of the Black Razorbacks. Not that he’s to blame. Hardly anyone, after all, remembers the group of young African-American men who donned old Razorback and Fayetteville High jerseys during the Great Depression and played football across Fayetteville and the region. These northwest Arkansas locals represented their region against other all-black teams from Russellville to Joplin, forming a kind of regional “Negro Leagues of football” all but forgotten by Arkansans today.

They also upend common modern conceptions of athletic segregation in the Old South. Not only did this team scrimmage against white players from a then-segregated Fayetteville High School, but they did so on the grounds of the segregated University of Arkansas itself — under the watch and tutelage of white Razorback football coaches. Moreover, the white players often visited Fayetteville’s all-black neighborhood to play there. “That’s awesome to hear about,” Ellis said as he sat in the Razorbacks locker room in August 2015. His alma mater, Fayetteville High School, stood less than a mile away.

Ellis noted Fayetteville High School had in 1954 become the first high school in Arkansas to publicly announce its desegregation — “I take a little pride in that” — but the fact African Americans were regularly playing against the all-white Bulldogs decades before that was news to him. He added, “It would be cool to learn more about, obviously.”

Let us begin, then.

Much of the Black Razorbacks’ story comes to us from accounts of their games buried in the archives of the Northwest Arkansas Times, a newspaper run by civic leader Roberta Fulbright — the mother of future U.S. senator U.S. senator J. William Fulbright. The most detailed known retrospective comes from Arthur Friedman, a white Fayetteville resident who attended Fayetteville High School in the early 1930s.

He often watched the Black Razorbacks’ scrimmages and games, and considered those times “the highlight of my growing-up years and school,” he wrote in a 1985 Northwest Arkansas Times article. Indeed he considered the African-American players, many around his age, as friends.


To read the rest of this story, and other long-forgotten stories about Arkansas’ sports heritage, reserve a copy of my forthcoming book African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and Other Forgotten Stories.

 

29 Dec

James Shibest: “I can remember how chunky ol’ Austin was when he was young”

James Shibest

The Virginia Tech special teams coach recalls meeting Austin Allen while coaching at Arkansas

James Shibest and Bobby Allen are at the center of Razorbacks-Hokies football coaching cross-pollination. Allen, a former Virginia Tech player, has been on the Arkansas staff for nearly 20 years. Shibest, meanwhile, is a former Razorback player and coach. He’s in his first year at Virginia Tech, coaching special teams and tight ends for Hokies coach Justin Fuente.

They will both be on the sidelines for today’s Belk Bowl, in which Arkansas is a touchdown underdog to Virginia Tech according to the latest betting odds.

Shibest, who coached at Arkansas 2000-07, yesterday recalled Allen training his two sons in and around Razorback Stadium. Those boys, Brandon Allen and Austin Allen, have combined to hold the Hogs’ starting quarterback job for the last four years.

“Almost every free minute he had he was working with them boys and obviously that worked,” Shibest told sports show host Bo Mattingly and sportswriter Clay Henry on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. “Whether it be football, baseball, whatever it was, has paid off. God I’m just so happy for them guys. I used to remember how chunky ol’ Austin was when he was young… He’s an unbelievable competitor, let me tell you. I know all the Hog fans know that boy but I’ll tell you what, he is a good player.”

Here are some more choice excerpts from their conversation:

Bo Mattingly: … What was that period of your life like when you  left Arkansas when coach Nutt took the job at Ole Miss? Then when it didn’t work out at Ole Miss, you had some stuff to figure out…

James Shibest: No doubt. I have really been unbelievably blessed. Ever since I’ve gotten to this level I was very fortunate. I came from junior college and coach [Houston] Nutt hired me. God what an awesome person to work for and learn from. You love your alma mater so much, you want to stay there. It was tough.

Then when we went to Ole Miss went ahead but you got to go feed the family. Really the first time I really ever had to look for a job is when I got connected with coach Fuente at Memphis there. It didn’t take long, it was a couple of weeks. It wasn’t like I had to sit out a year. It’s a tough road a lot of times in this profession. I’ve been extremely lucky. Always having to be at a great place and then with great people to work for.

On coaching junior college football:

James Shibest: Let me tell you it was really a great training. First of all you learn how to go be a coach. Them guys kind of were on their second chance especially the Division I type guys through academics or various reasons. They needed you more. I don’t know if I’ve ever been closer to my players more than in junior college. It was obviously a little bit smaller but them guys really needed your help. There was some deep, deep satisfaction when you could get them to that … back to division one or whatever, to that next institution.

Clay Henry: I’ve written stories about the Arkansas wide receivers of late and I keep pulling up these top 10 lists. I keep finding you in there —

James Shibest: Didn’t do much as a freshman and then, of course, it was a little nerve wracking there. I came in with hopes and Coach [Ken] Hatfield was … Of course all you heard was the Flexbone. I didn’t really know what that was as far as being a receiver, how I would fit in that. It’s amazing how it turned out to be a great blessing. Them safeties have to play the dang triple option in there, and I was out there by myself one on one most of the time and-

Clay Henry: You ran those crossing routes. It’d take a little while. The safety would clear than then ere came Shibest, about eight seconds later.

James Shibest: All right now, I was a lot faster than what y’all say I was.

Clay Henry: Okay, sorry, sorry.

James Shibest: [Laughs] It was pretty cool. You know Brad [Taylor] was still there so we kind of had to throw the ball that first year and end up having a pretty good year. It all worked out just like the way it should have.

The Shibest File
Experience: 27th season, 1st at Virginia Tech
Hometown: Houston, Texas
High School: MacArthur
College: Arkansas (1987)
Playing Exp: Arkansas (1983-87)
Family: Wife – Dianna; Son – James John III, Daughter – Jordyn Grace

Coaching History

Year School Position
2016 Virginia Tech Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
2012-15 Memphis Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
2008-11 Ole Miss Special Teams Coordinator
2006-07 Arkansas Special Teams/Tight Ends
2002-05 Arkansas Special Teams/Wide Receivers
2000-01 Arkansas Special Teams/Tight Ends
1996-99 Butler County CC (Kan.) Head Coach
1994-95 Garden City CC (Kan.) Offensive Coordinator/QBs/WRs
1993 Independence CC (Kan.) Defensive Backs
1992 Independence CC (Kan.) Offensive Coordinator
1990-91 Oklahoma State Graduate Assistant
24 Sep

Jeff Long on Cheating, Texas A&M & Scheduling Woe from the Wolverines

Jeff Long

Heading into tonight’s game against No. 10 Texas A&M, Arkansas has excelled in close games since last September — to the oint where ESPN now deems the Hogs as the SEC’s  “Drama Kings.” Arkansas has won five of its last six games decided by eight points or fewer, including three straight overtime contests.

It’s been quite a turnaround from the first 25 months of the Bret Bielema era, when the Razorbacks lost nine straight games by eight points or less. And within that stretch no team has stuck in the side of the Hogs’ program more than the Aggies. In 2014, an unranked Arkansas lost 35-28 in overtime to No. 6 Texas A&M.

Heading into last year’s clash, Texas A&M had slid to No. 14 nationally while Arkansas was still unranked. Rinse and repeat on the heartbreak:  the Hogs led 21-13 late in the fourth quarter but eventually lost in overtime 28-21.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long knows this year’s go-around, again in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is big. The winner, after all, will be in the front seat to challenge Alabama and LSU for the SEC crown.

Below are excerpts from Long’s recent interview on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. We start with Long laying out the advantages of playing this series in the DFW metro as opposed to a home-and-home:

 

Jeff Long: It’s a big win for us to play down there, in many many ways.

First of all, we all know the recruiting that goes on down there. For Arkansas to have that place. We also know how important it is to play in the world’s most fabulous stadium, Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. AT&T Stadium. That’s huge for us. It’s also where we go to recruit students. We get a high number, high level, a high quality students. It’s our second largest alumni body outside the state of Arkansas. There are many many reasons why it’s a big positive for Arkansas.

I think we’re very fortunate to have the long term contract down there because it does allow us to do so many things. So much presence for Arkansas in the state of Texas.

Bo Mattingly: We talked about how big the TCU win was. What’s the importance of this game. What does it do if you win the game? What kind of impact is it beating a Top 10 team in that stadium?

Jeff Long: The focus on Top 10, I get it. To me, it’s just beating an SEC team on a neutral site. Again, huge for us. Huge for the conference rights, but also in the eyes of the college football playoff eventually. When we, hopefully, we’ll get to that point where that’ll matter. Playing that game in a true, neutral site, is a even bigger bonus for us.

Bo Mattingly: Where are you on replacing the Michigan game? What happened there? Did they just call you and be like, “Hey, we’re out.

Jeff Long: We had heard some rumors that they might have something going. Kept waiting to hear from them. Heard from a number of other people first. Finally heard from them. Their deal was already done with Notre Dame by the time they let us know and just informed us that they were going to buy out of the contract, which they have a contractual right to do, but it does leave us in a bind. Struggling is a kind word to say. We’re struggling to fill that opening.

Bo Mattingly: As an athletic director, you’ve been approached about other jobs. Did you get a call on the Florida job?

Jeff Long: I’m not sure why people continue to ask me. The last guy had the job for 50 years. Why do you guys think I’m ready to run out of town?

Bo Mattingly: I didn’t ask if you were leaving, I asked you if they called you. Tom, check the phone records.

Jeff Long: We’ll say it for fans because you already know my answer: I don’t comment on searches of other institutions. That wouldn’t be appropriate.

Bo Mattingly: Why have you decided to stay at Arkansas when you could get interest from others? You could seek interest from others. But you’ve, you’re going on your ninth year here. Some people thought you sold your home and maybe you were leaving.

Jeff Long: Seriously, you all know. Some of you have lived here your whole life. Those who’ve been out to other places, this is a very very special place. Northwest Arkansas. University of Arkansas. The natural beauty. The friendliness of the people. It’s a great place. Plus, you know, I think we build our athletic program into one that can compete against anybody.

I’ve said before too, and I hope people don’t take this the wrong way, we are from a small state. We don’t have all the advantages of some of the larger schools or the more populated schools. We don’t have the alumni base. I’m not well with me. I’d respond better as an underdog than I do as the favorite. I’ve always thought of myself as a fighter. I want to fight with Arkansas to win on the highest level. That can be football, basketball, all of our sports.

Bo Mattingly: … Does it feel better [to] win in Arkansas than in some other places?

Jeff Long: I think it does. I know for personally, it does me. When we beat Alabama or we beat LSU, we beat Ohio State. These other schools that maybe have more resources or more things going for them in some respects, yeah, it means more to me. Like I said, I’m always felt like I was an underdog. Again, I got to be careful how I say that. I think we built a program that is not really an underdog to very many people, but the fact that we’re in a state than less than 3 million people, and our University has just recently grown to 27,000 [students], we don’t have that huge alumni base to draw from. But we’re growing and we’re getting better.

On one hand, I’m really proud that we built a program that I think can stand toe to toe and compete against the perceived big boys, but there’s still a little chip on our shoulders that we want to get it done. When we do get it done at Arkansas, doing it the right way, it’s a little more special.

Interviewer: Do you ever feel like people aren’t doing it the right way? Does it bug you?

Jeff Long: Absolutely does. Absolutely it bothers me. Yeah.

Interviewer:  What do you tell your staff? What do you tell your coaches when they come up and they go, ‘Hey, so and so school doing this. Look at the success’?

Jeff Long: Turn them in. I’m a big believer, if you’ve got information on people cheating let’s not just talking about it. Of course, there are always rumors. Anybody who has a great recruiting year, they “cheated,” right? So I don’t mean that stuff, that’s coffee talk.

But if you’ve got something on someone doing something inappropriate, I want to know. I’m gonna share it and we’re gonna hopefully get it stopped at that institution…

 

The above excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity 

07 Sep

The Razorback Football Travel Coordinator’s Hilarious Annotation

Bielema big guy
This photo almost says it all.

Tanya Webb, a University of Arkansas travel coordinator, appears to get along well with the school’s head football coach. She notes that when it comes to seating, former lineman Bret Bielema needs his space for good reason.

Ample proof is provided through her comment at the bottom of this travel reimbursement claim Bielema and former offensive line coach Sam Pittman made to the university. It appears they might have been on a Hawaii recruiting trip relating to Reeve Koehler, a former 3-star lineman who did sign with the Hogs.

Hawaii 1

This scanned receipt is probably the funniest thing I saw in a 121 compilation of Bret Bielema-related expense claims provided to me by the UA. I did this in collaboration with Vice.com, which has an upcoming series looking at college coach expenses across the nation. The editor of that series told me the UA, which only took less than a week to reply, provided one of the quickest responses of any of the programs to which he made FOIA requests.

He also appreciated the UA, unlike other schools, didn’t try to nickel and dime us for ridiculous scanning costs. They simply provided what was requested without fuss.

Read my upcoming AMPPOB.com piece for a deeper (as in stomach-deep) look at some of the more interesting charges Bielema has made while working on the UA’s behalf.

Here’s a scanned receipt dump of some of the expenses I discuss on the new Arkansas Money & Politics website. Click on the image second to the top below to see details of a $2,343.35 charge made during the Arkansas-Texas A&M game in 2014.

Jerry's World 2 Jerry's World 1 Theo's Incipience Hawaii 2 Ella's $105.08 Doe's 245.06 Hawaii 3 Theo's Incipience 2

 

24 Jul

Oldest Arkansas Razorback Jersey Known to Man

vintage hogs

An Arkansas baseball uniform dating back to William Taft’s presidency

 

Today, precious, precious few Arkansas Razorback artifacts older than 100 years old are publicly viewable.  College sports simply weren’t that popular in Edwardian Era Arkansas. It didn’t catch on here like it did in more densely populated metro areas in the northeast, where folks had more expendable income and time to travel and see the likes of Yale and Harvard clash.

So, exactly how unpopular were UA sports?

“We had no bleachers. If you had 50 people to look at you, you felt fortunate,” Will F. Thomas said* of his time as Arkansas’ quarterback in 1901. “They’d pay 25 cents for a tag, which served as a ticket. If they could sell enough tags, they drove stakes and put up rope, and sent marshals out to keep the crowd back. Most of the students didn’t care much about football then, and people downtown didn’t show much in it, either.”

Given these dark ages, you can imagine my surprise when I recently came across a Razorback jersey which the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame claims is 106 years old. The museum usually can’t verify the age of its donated artifacts, but no question this uniform looks legit old.

vintage hogs

Its owner, Boyd Cypert, played third base while also quarterbacking the football squad. Cypert later graduated from Harvard Law School, played for a brief spell in Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Naps, practiced law in Little Rock, got caught up in some creationism/evolution controversy and served as the business manager for the UA’s athletic department.

Besides this Razorback jersey of outrageous yore, I found other awesome memorabilia on my recent visit to the  Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, on the ground floor of Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. To wit:

A Veritable Shrine to Clyde Scott

All-everything back Clyde Scott might have been the most impressive dual-sport athlete to ever play for the UA football program. He set a UA record in the 100 meters (9.4 sec) and won a silver medal in the 110-yard hurdles in the 1948 Olympics — in the middle of his college career.

clyde scott

 

He did a lot of impressive things on the football field, too. Former UA athletic director John Barnhill said: “Clyde Scott meant more to the Arkansas program than any other athlete. His coming to Arkansas convinced other Arkansas boys they should stay home.”

His #12 is only one of two Razorback jersey numbers retired.

Apparently, the cleats below were worn by Scott during his four NFL seasons with Philadelphia and Detroit.

clyde scott NFL

Here’s a fun little anagram collage — a kind of 1940s equivalent to the heavily Photoshopped tribute images modern college football programs blast out to pump uptheir stars up for postseason awards.

clyde scott arkansas

 

Lance Alworth’s Razorback jersey

lance alworth

Lance Alworth ranks alongside Scott as one of the program’s most electric players pre integration. This future pro and college Hall of Famer, who become known as “Bambi,” led all colleges in punt return yardage in 1960 and 1961. Like Scott, he starred in track, running the 100 and 200-yard dashes (in 9.6 seconds and 21.2 seconds). He also long jumped. 

This is the jersey from his last game — a 10-3 loss to undefeated national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

 

1965 Media Guide

arkansas football national champions

This is obviously one of a kind, as 1964 is the only season to which Arkansas football can lay claim to a national title. What are the chances Arkansas again wins the championship this year? Nowhere near as good as their chances of routing Louisiana Tech in the season opener, according to these college football lines.

 

Football used during the “Great Shootout” of 1969

frank broyles

Terri Johnson, director of Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, told me this football was taken by an Arkansan ball boy right after the No. 2 Arkansas lost to No. 1 Texas in an epic showdown in Fayetteville. That teen and his children played with the ball throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He did, however, get Frank Broyles to sign it at a speech.

You’ll notice Broyles also scribbled “Go Hogs Go” onto the leather.

Later, the man tracked down Texas’ legendary head coach Darrell Royal and got him to sign it as well. Royal obliged and told him it’s the only thing he ever signed with a “Go Hogs Go” on it, Johnson recalled with a chuckle.

The man, whose name I didn’t request, recently donated the ball to the museum.

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*This quote is attributed to an article in an unspecified newspaper in 1974. The quote is on an Arkansas Sports HOF banner.