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Football Traditions

Balton Memorial Award

This is a special annual award for courage that is presented annually by the football staff to the one senior who has best exemplified that trait for the good of the team.

It is named in honor of the late James Crain Balton of Wilson, an ASU alum and avid football fan who was killed in a truck-train collision south of Jonesboro in 1989.

Recipients have been Chris Jones (2004), Casey Venters (2003), Danny Smith (2002), Jonathan Adams (2001), Jack Wright (2000), Victor Henderson (1999), Lennie Johnson (1998), Austin Tinsley and Brent Pettus (1997), Maurice Harris (1996), Jerome McIntosh (1995), Ed Rufus (1994), Marcus Lawson and Wayne Cope (1993), Lee Hunt (1992), Roy Johnson (1991), John Moellers (1990) and Jim Bob Branch (1989).

 

Dimensions

The football playing field measures 300 feet between the goal lines and 60 feet in width. All boundary markers are outside the playing field. Thus, a player who steps on the sideline is out of bounds, and the ball has only to be in possession on or above the opponent’s goal line to score. A 10-yard area known as the end zone extends beyond each goal line.

 

Guard-Around

That was the successful “surprise” play—used most times with success—by Larry Lacewell-coached ASU teams in 1983-89. Those linemen who had the privilege of carrying the ball were Berry King (1983), Farrell Wilson (1984), Ron Richardson (1984), Ray Brown (1985), Kenneth Nelson (1986-89) and Tony Walton (1989).

 

Touchdowns were scored on the play twice—by Wilson (vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga in 1984 I-AA playoffs) and by Nelson (vs. Jackson State in 1987 I-AA playoffs).

 

 

Home Sweet Home

Give the Indians the option, and they’ll play at home. Their success at Indian Stadium is strong. A-State’s success at home since opening Indian Stadium translates to a 88-58-1 record.

 

Included in that run was a string of 17 straight home wins.

In home openers in Indian Stadium, ASU stands 21-8 (.714 winning percentage) in 29 seasons.

 

Homecoming

October 16 has been slated for 2004 Homecoming festivities.

Opposition for that 6 p.m. encounter will be provided by new Sun Belt member Troy State.

 

 

Kays Stadium

This former home of ASU football was located on the southwestern side of the campus. It seated 8,000 and was the Tribe’s home field for over 50 years—until Indian Stadium was finished in 1974.

 

The site was used as a 360-meter running track belonging to the Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation. In the spring of 2004, construction began to turn the track into a parking area.

 

Lights

Arkansas State was privileged to hold the first-ever night game in the state when the "Gorillas" of "State College" defeated Lambuth, 22-0, at old Kays Field in 1929. The school's yearbook explained that huge lights were installed for that specific purpose just before the first game of the season.

 

 

Milk And Cookies

When Steve Roberts came to Arkansas State, he brought a tradition with him which caught on in a hurry with the players. The night before each game, team members gather for milk and cookies. At this time, each player is supposed to sit by and visit with at least three people he has not visited with throughout the week to learn more about his teammates.

 

National Champions

The first undisputed national championship ever won by a football team from Arkansas was the 1970 ASU squad which went 11-0. That bunch won national college division trophies from the Associated Press, United Press International and Washington Touchdown Club.

 

One-A (I-A)

That’s the classification of ASU's football program—Division I-A in the NCAA. It was granted to A-State in May 1992 after the university submitted a petition which proved it had met all the necessary criteria.

 

‘Paint Bucket Bowl’

This was the unofficial name for the annual football rivalry between ASU and Memphis State back in the 1950’s.

 

Officials of the two schools had decided to make the trophy for the winner of this game some buckets of paint and some paint brushes. The losing school also designed a particular area on its campus that the winner could smear with paint.

 

The idea was to eliminate the defacing of each campus and the “kidnapping” of opposing football players during game week. It evolved into the winning school being given a trophy from the other—a paint bucket decorated in the colors of the two schools and inscribed with the score.

 

Memphis State won both of the ‘Paint Bucket Bowl’ trophies before the series was temporarily discontinued after the 1957 game.

 

Perfection

The latest undefeated and untied Division I-A teams, according to the NCAA:

Miami (12-0) in 2001; Oklahoma (13-0) in 2000; Florida State (12-0) and Marshall (13-0) in 1999; Tennessee (13-0) and Tulane (12-0) in 1998; Michigan (11-0) and Nebraska (12-0) in 1997; Nebraska (11-0) in 1995; Nebraska (12-0) and Penn State (11-0) in 1994; Auburn (11-0) in 1993; Alabama (12-0) in 1992; Miami (11-0) and  Washington (11-0) in 1991; Notre Dame (12-0) in 1988; Miami (12-0) in 1987; Penn State (12-0), Bowling Green (11-0) and Brigham Young (13-0) in 1984; Clemson (12-0) in 1981; Georgia (12-0) in 1980; Alabama (12-0) in 1979; Pittsburgh (12-0) in 1976; Rutgers (11-0) in 1974; Arkansas State (11-0) in 1975; Arizona State (12-0) in 1975; Oklahoma (11-0) in 1974; and Penn State (12-0) in 1973.

 

Retired Jerseys

Only four football jersey numbers have been retired in ASU's illustrious 89-year-old history. The latest is No. 56 worn by Harry Larche, retired during the halftime of the season finale in 1998. Larche is the second Indian ever to sign a professional football contract in 1948. Linebacker Bill Bergey, who played with the Indians from 1965-68 before an impressive career with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals, was on hand to see No. 66 retired during the November 22, 1997. Jersey number 49, worn by the late great Calvin Harrell when he was a two-time All-America running back at ASU, was retired in a ceremony November 9, 1996. According to records, ASU's first-ever first-team All-American Richie Woit saw his No. 83 retired in 1954. However, the number is still in use.

 

Ring of Honor

The Ring of Honor, an idea of former athletic director Barry Dowd, recognizes Indian football greatness. Ring inductees include former Indian players Bill Phillips (2003),  Maurice Carthon (2002), Harry Larche (1998), Bill Bergey (1997), and Calvin Harrell (1996), former player, coach and current Director of Major Gifts Bill Templeton (1997), former coach and athletic director J.A. “Ike” Tomlinson (1998), and former head coaches Bill Davidson (1999), Bennie Ellender (2000), and Larry Lacewell and Frank Farella (2001).

 

Sun Belt Conference Football

Since July 2, 1991, ASU has been a part of the Sun Belt Conference after the SBC merged with the old American South. the school’s membership was in all sports with the exception of football.

However, that has all changed. On November 4, 1999, the Sun Belt Conference extended invitations of membership to Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, North Texas, and Louisiana-Monroe. At the time, the 29-year-old league announced sponsorship of NCAA Division I-A football for the first time as a championship sport, beginning in 2001.

 

Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State and North Texas joined ASU, Arkansas-Little Rock, Denver, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Orleans, South Alabama, and Western Kentucky as full members. Louisiana-Monroe competes in football only. Shortly afterward, the University of Idaho announced it will compete in Sun Belt football.

 

The seven-member Sun Belt Conference football league consists of ASU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, North Texas, Louisiana-Monroe, and Idaho.

In addition, in April 2000, the NCAA certified the new New Orleans Bowl Game which will feature the Sun Belt champion as one of the participants. The first New Orleans Bowl was played Dec. 18, 2001, between Sun Belt representative North Texas and Mountain West representative Colorado State.

Utah State and Troy State recently accepted invitations for membership into the league. But, more changes were on the horizon as New Mexico State and Utah State elected to leave the SBC in 2003. Florida Atlantic is now the newest member.

 

After two seasons as an independent, ASU once again returned to a football conference in 1999. On December 18, 1997, Arkansas State University was formally invited and accepted the invitation to rejoin the Big West Conference as a football-only member. Plans were immediately set into motion to accommodate schedules to allow ASU to join other BWC member schools Boise State, Idaho, New Mexico State, Nevada, North Texas and Utah State to begin competition by 1999.

 

ASU previously spent three years as a member of a four-school football consortium before being suspended from the league in May 1995. The other three schools were Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois and Southwestern Louisiana. At the same time, Big West members UNLV and San Jose State left to join the Western Athletic Conference and were replaced as full members by Boise State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Idaho and North Texas.

 

ASU spent six straight seasons prior to 1993 as an independent in football. The Indians departed the Southland Conference in the summer of 1987, opting to become a charter member of the American South Conference (all sports except football) while simultaneously seeking to regain Division I-A status in football and become affiliated with a I-A football league.

 

A-State previously had spent seven years (1975-81) as a member of the nation's highest competitive echelon (I-A) but was legislated down a half-notch by the NCAA prior to the 1982 season.

 

Tailgating

That's part of the Indian fun that takes place prior to any home ASU game—in the Indian Stadium parking lot and surrounding areas.

 

Alums have been known to drive from 2,000 miles away just to see a game. The night before the game, they camp out on the stadium grounds and have all kinds of goodies for cookouts.

 

Lately, the tailgating has become more organized, with sponsors getting involved, prizes for best food or most original costumes, etc.

 

For more information, contact ASU Marketing (870-972-3930).

 

Talent Factory

A-State’s football program has gained the reputation in recent years as proving ground for future pro players. Since 1970 over 100 Indians have signed professional contracts.

 

War Drum Ritual

For 24 hours prior to Homecoming kickoff, all true freshmen on the team (including managers and trainers) take shifts, usually one hour each, beating an Indian war drum in front of Indian Hall.

 

This tradition began in the mid-1950’s.