The tale this month tells the old story about how Arkansas' team became the Razorbacks. It all started 15 years earlier in 1894 when John Clayton Futrall along with 14 players started the first University of Arkansas football team. It was in Futrall's first year as a Latin professor, that he coached the team on a part time basis. While still in his first year, they won two games played against a Fort Smith team made up primarily of Fort Smith High School athletes, and lost to the University of Texas in a game played in Austin by the score of 54–0. The rivalry was now ON. The team was first known as the Cardinals, after having been named after the school colors of cardinal and white. Not very imaginative, but it worked (at least for a while).
Fifteen years later would turn out to be one of the "special" years. But backing up one year, it was now 1908 and the coach was a former University of Chicago fullback named Hugo Bezdek. He had come to the University of Arkansas after coaching only one year during 1906 at the University of Oregon where he had accumulated a record of 5–0–1. As an All-American fullback, Bezdek had learned the game from legendary football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Born in Prague, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), his family immigrated to Chicago when he was five. He was now 24 years old and the coach at Arkansas.
As a coach, Bezdek was a true task master. During his practices you could hear comments made by his players that indicated “playing the other team on Saturday was the easiest thing that we would do all week.”
But, this would not be replayed the following year. Next would come the "special" year of 1909. When 1909 came around, other teams would find it hard to keep up with the speed, kicking game, and defense of the Cardinal football team.
After a November 20 win against Ouachita (now Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia) on the team's return trip from the LSU game in Memphis, Bezdek would end his perfect season (7–0) by playing Washington University from St. Louis in a game on Thanksgiving Day at Little Rock. This would be Arkansas’ first undefeated season. The game was played with an Arkansas win of 34–0.
This undefeated season would not be repeated for 55 more years when it would again take place during another "special" year in 1964. However, in this "magical" season Arkansas had scored 186 points, while the defense had given up only 18 (although 6 points were given to Drury College due to a decision of the officials which was not in accordance with the rules). For the complete season, the offense had scored more than ten times that of the opponents. What a team! What a year for the birth of a Razorback!
Bezdek went on to coach through the 1912 season before returning to the University of Oregon in 1913. For the first time, Arkansas football had finally shown a glimpse of what it could become.
Follow and Like us on Facebook at hawg-tales, and on Twitter at @hawg_tales.