The Ouachita Baptist Tigers had had two winning seasons in 16 years prior to Buddy Bob Benson taking over as head football coach.
Benson’s OBU teams did not have a losing season in his first 12 years. In 31 seasons at OBU, Benson’s teams were 162-40-8 and he was Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference Coach of the Year four times. In a legendary career at the small school in Arkadelphia, Benson produced 16 All-Americans and 208 all-conference players.
“He got more out of a young man than anybody could get out of him,” said David Sharp, OBU’s athletic director who played and coached for Benson. “That says a lot because Buddy Bob’s players might be 5-foot-6 and run a 5.2 40. But if Buddy Bob Benson recruited you, it was because he knew what was down there inside. He knew your heart.”“He made sure you were ready to play from the waist down first (conditioning),” said Paul Sharp, David’s brother who coached both under Benson and University of Central Arkansas coach Ken Stephens and went onto a 19-year head coaching career at Southwestern Oklahoma. “Everybody was treated fairly. Even those quarterbacks had to hit the blocking sled. He also made sure he was ready to play from the neck up. Of course, we had only six plays.”
Monday’s month luncheon of the Arkansas Sports Club was a tribute to Benson, who died in 2010. Each year, a summer “Legends Luncheon” by the club celebrates the life and career of a deceased person in Arkansas sports history.
Rex Nelson, longtime radio voice of the OBU Tigers, grew up in Arkadelphia and remember Benson as not only a coach but as a friend and mentor.
“At critical moments in my life, I have thought about coach Benson and the things he taught me,” Nelson said.
Nelson read a moving tribute to Benson, one that he wrote in a blog on Good Friday, the day Benson died.
“Buddy Benson was my ‘Bear’ (Bryant) — a larger-than-life college football coach who influenced me in far more ways than I can begin to describe on this Good Friday night,” Nelson read what he wrote out the time, noting he couldn’t compose now a better tribute to Benson than he did then. ... OBU players were not very big, not very fast and Benson didn’t have a lot of depth. But coach Benson believed winning would take care of itself if he took care of the details.”
George Baker, who played and coached for Benson at OBU and later had a long career as an assistant to “Sporty” Carpenter at Henderson State, arrived at OBU the same year Benson did — in 1961.
“He was young, enthusiastic, square-jawed, strong-willed and a tough disciplinarian,” Baker said. “I loved him. Playing for him, you knew you had a chance to win if you did the things he wanted you to do. We were scared to death of him, but we loved the man.”
Baker then coached against Benson for 20 years. “He drove you crazy with his screens and draws,” Baker said. “I’d watch film two or three times on some running plays and still think they were passes. He came at you from so many different places and always got the ball to the his best players.”
Paul Sharp said Benson’s offense was similar to what Stephens ran at UCA in many ways.
“I’ve often been asked what was the main difference between Buddy Bob Benson and Ken Stephens,” Sharp said. “Their hair color.”
“I would match coach Benson against anybody with equal teams,” David Sharp said.