Fight Fiercely HendrixJune 9, 2011
By Paul Bowen
Full disclosure. I love Hendrix College. I got my undergraduate degree there. I have served as President of the Alumni Association Board of Governors. I am a member of the Hendrix Warriors Booster Club. It might be a stretch to say that when I am cut I bleed Orange and Black. But it wouldn’t be much of one. And so when the proprietor of this here blog asked me to write about the decision of Hendrix College to resume playing intercollegiate football in 2013 he knew what he was getting into.
I am too lazy to actually do research at the rates I am being to write for BDA, but I beleive Hendrix quit playing football in 1961. They gave it up for two very good reasons. It was expensive and they stunk. Hendrix basketball was another thing altogether. Hendrix enjoyed a great deal of success under Arkansas Hall of Fame Coach Cliff Garrison in the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference in which they competed. Hendrix was like the crazy aunt in the AIC attack. The Warriors played in Grove Gym that was a dump by high school standards when I was there in the late 70s. And yet, everybody knew that about every 3 years Cliff would recruit a bunch of guys pretty much from the stretch of I-40 that ran from Little Rock to Pope County and they would go out and win 25 games.
When the AIC imploded, mainly over-guess what?-football, Hendrix needed a place to land. And so it applied for admittance to the National College Athletic Association’s Division III. Division III is for the so-called “academic schools” like Sewanee, Hamilton, Trinity and so on. They do not offer scholarships. They try to confine play to the weekends, the week being devoted to, like, school and shit.
Up until that time, Hendrix wasn’t really focused on getting from kids out-of-state. They recruited in Memphis and Dallas. But there were a bunch of alums there. I guarantee you that the only reason I was admitted to Hendrix despite my record of utter underachievement in high school was because I could produce a Certificate of Live Birth and the preacher at Mabelvale United Methodist certified that I was, indeed a member in good standing of the One True Church. But once they were “showing the brand” in new venues they had realized that they had to look at good ole Hendrix in other ways.
Hendrix easily had the worst athletic facilities in the old AIC. The facilities were merely embarrassingly bad for Division III and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC). Hendrix could get away with not caring back when it was the crazy aunt in the AIC attack. Not an option any longer. Kids took one look at Grove and said “No thanks.” And now they had Title 9 to contend with which meant that they had to get serious about women’s sports.
So serious they got. They built a first rate baseball field. They followed that by building a equally first rate basketball facility that accommodates both intercollegiate competition, wellness and intramurals. Even if Division III is not the dirty arms race that you find in D-I, Hendrix realized that you can’t compete on the cheap.
So now we turn to football. The Board of Trustees gave the green light to this around 5 years ago. The recruiters that went into Dallas, Jackson, Memphis, hell, anywhere were told kids wanted to a) play football and b) be somewhere they can go to a football game. Predictably, all hell broke loose. This was also about the time that they decided to remove all Native American iconography associated with the Warrior brand. The old football alums bitched without surcease. Good times on Washington Street.
Much of this was overwrought and frankly stupid. Many people thought this would bring a less-um-desirable element to the campus. My nephew Eli was one of them. I asked him how football players could possibly be bigger jerks than soccer players. He conceded that I had made a fair point.
So now they are going to do it. The press release spoke wistfully of taking in a Warrior football game from the comfort of sitting or standing on the sidelines. This is ,of course, bullshit. I have seen with mine own eyes Millsaps’ football stadium. Sets @ 20k. Nice venue. Hendrix knows this too. The press release mentions that the fact that it will need to eventually build a practice facility and a venue for the games. Hendrix is tight with money but it does not do major projects on the cheap. When they have it all paid for it will get built. And while it might not be the envy of certain of the cheating high school programs in the state it will suffice.
Granted, football is a disease. But it is a national disease. Girls from the East Coast want to play field hockey. OK, cool. Hendrix now plays field hockey. Boys and girls from over there want to play lacrosse. Cool. Hendrix plays those sports now. Kids from Texas want to be involved with football. OK. Hendrix will create what Dr. Cloyd refers to ,in his press release, something like providing an enhanced experience for the Hendrix Community. Whatever. He’s an old D-III catcher.
Football is returning to Hendrix because kids want to play football. And the Warriors can’t be the crazy aunt in the antic on this issue.
And I’m good with it.