Many people will be surprised to learn the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College had, at one time, one of the most intense college rivalries found anywhere in the United States.
A crosstown rivalry is almost always a heated affair, but the UCA–Hendrix rivalry came to be so emotion-filled that the two were forced to observe a “cooling off” period and stop playing each other for several years.
UCA began playing football the first year the college was in operation, 1908, and in the beginning UCA was no match for the Hendrix Bulldogs. Hendrix had some outstanding athletes, and UCA simply could not compete with the Bulldogs.
During their first five football games, all of which were won by Hendrix, the cumulative score was Hendrix 259, UCA 11.
Even though the football games were lopsided during the early years, that did not detract from the rivalry. UCA students and players always maintained an attitude that they would win a game from Hendrix and they did, in 1928. In 1928, UCA beat Hendrix for the first time in football under legendary head football coach Dan Estes by a score of 13-0.
As UCA became more competitive and began winning games in basketball and baseball, the rivalry grew more intense. Things came to a head on Oct. 12, 1919, when several Hendrix men were on UCA’s campus for the purpose of calling on UCA women.
This did not sit well with the UCA men, and they walked the short distance to Donaghey Avenue, which at that time was a rock road, and picked up handfuls of rocks and severely pelted the visitors from Hendrix.
The Hendrix students retreated to the safety of their campus and later returned with reinforcements totaling more than 30 men. The UCA contingent was ready, and when the Hendrix crowd got within range, the UCA troops let their rocks fly.
Things became more serious when one of the Hendrix students pulled out a pistol and began firing. Fortunately, he did not hit anyone and the bullets fell harmlessly to the ground.
The police were summoned.
The following is from the Oct. 13, 1919, edition of the Log Cabin Democrat: “Thirty-two Hendrix College students alleged to have caused a disturbance near the State Normal School last night are reported to be under arrest today. Their cases will come up probably on Tuesday before acting Mayor George Shaw Jr.”
Due to that violent event the UCA administration and the Hendrix administration felt it best to cease competition in sports. UCA and Hendrix went ahead and played their traditional Thanksgiving Day football game in 1919 with Hendrix winning 32-0.
Athletic competition between UCA and Hendrix broke off after the 1919 season, and a peace conference was held in 1924 to see if there was a way to patch up the ill-will and hard-feelings that existed at the time.
Both schools missed the intense rivalry, but everyone knew that there had to be a degree of civility observed on both sides.
The two schools met on neutral ground at the First Methodist Church in the fall of 1924. The presidents of both schools believed that both colleges contained enough “civilized” people to allow athletic contests to be held without the threat of violence.
According to the Log Cabin Democrat: “Across the banquet table, the football squads of Arkansas State Normal and Hendrix shook hands in warmest friendliness and celebrated the close of good gridiron seasons, as well as pledging the city of Conway and the two institutions to observe the highest standards of sportsmanship and fair play in the Hendrix-Normal athletic contests.” UCA and Hendrix played football the next year, in 1925, with Hendrix winning again, 30-6. No serious violence was reported when athletic competition resumed between the crosstown rivals.
It became standard practice for UCA men to abduct Hendrix men and for Hendrix men to abduct UCA men before each football game. In the fall of 1934, a UCA student was kidnapped before the game and in retaliation UCA captured several Hendrix men. However, both colleges treated their captives with courtesy and respect.
Basketball was hotly contested as well.
When the two schools broke off relations in 1919, Hendrix was kind enough to allow UCA to play their home games on the Hendrix court since UCA did not have an indoor basketball facility. Hendrix students attended these games in large numbers and cheered wildly for whoever was playing UCA.
Hendrix students also developed cheers for these games, and one of their favorites was: Rooty! Toot! Toot! Old Maids’ Institute!
The longer established Hendrix College was always a good sport and a good friend to UCA. Even though the sporting events were hotly contested, the relationship between the two schools was one of mutual respect.
The faculty members and students at each institution exemplified the values typically held by small southern towns during that time.
During UCA’s early years, the college did not have a band every year. However, Hendrix did have a band and when UCA played Hendrix College, the Hendrix band was impartial and played UCA’s fight song as well as the Hendrix fight song.
The rivalry with Hendrix diminished somewhat when Hendrix and UCA stopped playing football after the 1936 season.
The Bears won the last game, 13-0.
The rivalry in basketball remained intense and continued as long as the two schools competed against one another.
(Jimmy Bryant is Director of Archives & Special Collections at the University of Central Arkansas. Some of the information contained in this article came from Ted Worley’s 1954 unpublished manuscript on UCA history.)