The most recent football game played between a Conway-based institution of higher learning and the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) was played in the fall of 2012. The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) Bears, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team, lost to Ole Miss, a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team, 27 to 49. Even though the Bears lost, UCA played well and was leading the upper division team at halftime.
The only institution of higher education in Conway to defeat Ole Miss in football is Hendrix College. During the 1913 football season, Ole Miss, coached by Bill Driver, brought a team of 18 players to Conway and was defeated by the Hendrix Bulldogs by a score of 8 to 6. The Troubadour (the Hendrix College yearbook) listed 16 men on the 1913 Hendrix football squad, but the 1913 team photograph showed 23 men in uniform. The “Bull Dog” (the Hendrix College newspaper now known as The Profile) reported that 14 Hendrix football players were used in the Ole Miss game. The Bulldogs were coached by W.M. Headrick, who was referred to as “our new coach,” in the 1914 Troubadour.
A great deal of pre-game anticipation was experienced by not only Hendrix College, its students and supporters, but also by virtually all of Conway’s residents. Newspaper articles about the game appeared regularly in the Log Cabin Democrat on several occasions before the event. The first article that discussed the big game was carried in the Log Cabin Democrat on Oct. 20, 1913. That article focused on the past success, tradition and power of Ole Miss, and the relative inexperience of the Hendrix Bulldogs. While no prognostication was made for the score in the game, it was apparent that Hendrix was not expected to win the contest.
According to the Log Cabin Democrat, “Ole Miss, the gridiron team which is dreaded by all southern colleges, will arrive in Conway Saturday, Nov. 8, for a battle with the Hendrix College football aggregation. The record on the scalping path made by Ole Miss this season as well as past seasons, is a source of much pleasure to their fellow-students, while, on the other hand, they invariably leave many mourners behind them…With thousands of students from whom the coaches select the varsity’s squad, it is certain that a team will be chosen which can ably defend the uprights of their alma mater.”
The comments in the same article were not nearly as positive about the prospects of the Hendrix Bulldogs. According to the Log Cabin Democrat, “Hendrix continues to go through practice antics every afternoon, but there is a noticeable lack of pep and ginger among the squad, said to be caused from a dearth of scheduled games. Only one game has been played by the Bulldogs, while other teams in the state have played several.” In order to acquire more playing experience before the Ole Miss game, Hendrix scheduled the University of Arkansas Reserves, who were called the “Razorpiglets” by the Log Cabin Democrat writer. Hendrix defeated the Razorpiglets by a score of 27-0 on Nov. 1, 1913.
The sports writer for the Log Cabin Democrat exaggerated just a little in regard to the number of students enrolled at Ole Miss during the 1913-1914 academic year. There were not “thousands” of Ole Miss students, just a few hundred. According to the Ole Miss Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, there were only 370 students enrolled at Ole Miss at that time. By comparison, Hendrix College had an enrollment of about 250 students during the 1913-1914 academic year. For yet another comparison, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville had 674 students enrolled during that time.
By the time Hendrix played Ole Miss, the Bulldogs had played four games. Their record was 3 wins and 1 loss. Hendrix College had beaten what is now Arkansas State University, 32-0, Arkansas College (now Lyon College), 46-0, and the University of Arkansas Reserves, 27-0. Their only loss was to the University of Arkansas Razorbacks during the first game of the season, 26-0.
The Ole Miss game was played on Nov. 7, not Nov. 8, as was mentioned by the Log Cabin Democrat. As time grew nearer for the big game between Hendrix and Ole Miss, the articles in the Log Cabin Democrat became more and more colorful. The day before the game, the Log Cabin Democrat carried this vivid description of the much-anticipated gridiron clash: “The most stupendous football game played in Arkansas this season will be staged tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 o’clock on Hendrix field between the elevens representing the University of Mississippi, of Oxford, Miss., and Hendrix College of this city. Never before in the history of the gridiron pastime has there been more enthusiasm among the people — not only of this city, but over the state — than has been displayed already over tomorrow’s engagement.
On every corner, in every store, in every nook — and, in fact, at every place where there are as many as two persons, the sole topic of conversation concerns tomorrow’s football game. The subject is on the tongue of every man, woman and child in Conway, and most of them will see the battle. The students of Hendrix are putting in all their extra time practicing their yells and songs, and it is expected this will assist the Bulldogs very materially in winning the game, as the team will play better when it is known their fellow-students are behind them. The college band will also be on hand to lend any possible assistance.”
One of the main concerns that Hendrix football fans had about the game was the size of the Ole Miss players; they outweighed the Hendrix football players by an average of 15 pounds per man. At the time, that was seen as a very significant advantage for Ole Miss. According to the Log Cabin Democrat, “Coach Bill Driver and his crew of 18 gridders arrived this morning, every man being in fine fettle for the contest. The bunch will outweigh Hendrix about 15 pounds to the man, which is a very severe handicap. However, as Hendrix has the advantage of playing on her home lot, as well as almost all of the rooters, this obstacle will be somewhat less than it might otherwise be.”
Hendrix and Ole Miss played a total of five football games, and all games were played in Oxford, Mississippi, with the exception of the first game of the series that was played in Conway. The Ole Miss team traveled by train, which was the practice during those days, and arrived in Conway on the morning of game day. Upon entering the contest with Hendrix College, Ole Miss had a record of 3 wins and 2 losses.
Hendrix’s victory over Ole Miss was published in a rather large article in the Arkansas Gazette which closely chronicled each quarter of play. According to the Arkansas Gazette, “Hendrix College today defeated the University of Mississippi football aggregation, 8-6. The entire game was played with the closeness the score indicates. Mississippi had the advantage of the Bulldogs in weight, but in knowledge of the game and aggressiveness Hendrix was Ole Miss’ equal, if not her superior.
Each team scored one touchdown and each failed to kick goal. The play that won for the Bulldogs was made during the third period. Mississippi kicked to Hendrix and on a series of line bucks and end runs, Hendrix pushed the pigskin to Ole Miss’ 20-yard line. Ole Miss punted, but Left Tackle Young slipped through the line and blocked the kick, the ball falling behind Ole Miss’ line. Evans of Mississippi downed the ball, the play counting as a safety, making two points for the Bulldogs.”
The Friday afternoon game did not begin until 3:30 and there were no lights at Hendrix field. During the last few minutes of play darkness set in making it difficult for fans, or anyone else, to see the football. As time was running out, Ole Miss was driving toward the Hendrix goal, making progress on each play. When Ole Miss reached the Hendrix College three-yard line the referee called time, ending the game. A resounding cheer went up from the Hendrix fans and the Hendrix players were carried off the field by the Hendrix students to the Bulldog clubhouse.
A long held Hendrix College tradition, known as Shirttails Serenade, began after the Hendrix victory over Ole Miss on November 7, 1913. According to the Hendrix College website, “Started in 1913, Shirttails is one of Hendrix College’s biggest traditions. What began as a spontaneous celebration in the streets after a football victory has grown into the enormous event it is today — a dance competition between the new students of each residence hall. While the tradition has evolved over the years, the uniform is almost the same: tennis shoes, shorts, and of course, a white, long-sleeve Oxford button-down shirt.” The following paragraphs describe the events from which Shirttails Serenade sprang, and were written with information provided by the Hendrix Bull Dog.
Later that evening after the great Hendrix victory over Ole Miss, there was a gathering of about 200 Hendrix men, accompanied by the Hendrix band, who marched through downtown Conway. The Hendrix students were dressed in pajamas and bedtime apparel appropriate for men during that time period. According to the Hendrix Bull Dog, “The line halted twice in the center of the business district where the band played and cheers were given. Then it proceeded, singing the Bull Dog song, to Central College (a college for women located where Central Baptist College is today). There, forming four abreast in front of the college building, they received addresses of congratulation and encouragement from Dr. Conger, president of Central, Mr. Utermoehlen, musical director, Miss Wise, instructor of Latin, and Miss Stevens, athletic director.
After music by the band and lusty cheers for Central, march was resumed in the direction of the Normal. The line was drawn up in front of the main steps of the girls’ dormitory, and after music and yells, listened to a speech from Dr. Doyne, expressing the loyalty of the Normal and the esteem in which Hendrix men are held both by the girls of the dormitory and Dr. Doyne himself.”
The Hendrix procession made its way back to the Hendrix campus, and on the way visited the homes of several Hendrix professors. One of the stops was at Professor John I. McClurkin’s home. Professor McClurkin had made himself ready for bed, but put off retiring to address the Hendrix students. According to the Bull Dog, “Prof. McClurkin, preparing to retire, appeared in his under-most garments and, finding no ladies in the assembly, delivered a stirring oration on the results of the game.”
While Hendrix College students and fans celebrated their victory over Ole Miss, their Mississippi counterparts complained loudly about the officiating. In fact, the Ole Miss coach and his players blamed their loss entirely on the officials. Ole Miss had suffered eight penalties for 145 yards during the game, and Hendrix had only one penalty for five yards.
The head referee for the game was J.G. Dawson, Athletic Director from the Arkansas State Normal School (now known as the University of Central Arkansas). Some publications reported that Dawson was an official from North Carolina. However, Dawson had played college football at the University of North Carolina, but was employed by the Arkansas State Normal School as athletic director. Both the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette reported that a Mr. Cunningham from Hendrix College was the umpire, but no other information about him was given. A third official, the head linesman whose last name was Buchholz, was said to be from Utah.
The Ole Miss football captain, R.F. McCall, was quoted by the Arkansas Gazette as saying, “Harvard could not win a game with a high school team with such officiating as was evident in today’s game between Mississippi University and Hendrix. One touchdown was not allowed after the umpire had called a penalty on Hendrix. After the penalty was refused by Mississippi, he called a penalty for offside on both teams.” The Ole Miss football captain made other comments customary with those who believe they have been wronged by officials in a sporting contest.
Coach Driver of Ole Miss was quoted by the Arkansas Gazette as saying, “Poor officiating lost us the game. Penalties amounting to 145 yards were called on us, and only five on Hendrix. All I want is a square deal.”
When Coach Driver commented to a reporter from the other state newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat, he was somewhat less bitter about the officiating and stated, “Yes, we were beaten, and I don’t blame you for being surprised: I’m surprised myself. You can say for me that we were over-confident, and this resulted in our defeat. No, I cannot say that we left any of our best players at home — we were just beaten, that’s all, but we will show you at Little Rock on Saturday the 15th, what Ole Miss can do on the gridiron.” Eight days later, Ole Miss defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks in Little Rock by a score of 21-10. Ole Miss ended the 1913 season with 6 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie.
Hendrix College has competed with Ole Miss in a total of five football games, winning 1, tying 1 and losing 3. The last time the two schools were opponents in football was in 1927, in a game that ended in a 0-0 tie. Hendrix College ended the 1913 football season by barely squeaking by their cross town rival, the Arkansas State Normal School, 87-0. The Bulldogs enjoyed a 5 win, 2 loss season in 1913, and gave up 39 points while scoring 200.
Author’s Note: Sources for this article include the Bull Dog, The Troubadour, Log Cabin Democrat, Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat, Rob O’Connor – Director of Hendrix College Communications, Ole Miss Office of Institutional Research and Assessment – olemiss.edu, Hendrix website – hendrix.edu, Ole Miss Sports website – olemisssports.com, UCA Sports website – ucasports.com and the University of Arkansas Office of Institutional Research – http://oir.uark.edu/home/index.html.