A former Nebraska Cornhusker halfback and end with a degree in law, would now come knocking on the door at Fayetteville for the top spot as head football coach and Arkansas' first athletic director. His name was Francis Albert Schmidt who also went by the nickname "Close the Gates of Mercy".
Prior to coming to Arkansas, he had been the head man at the University of Tulsa where he had established himself as a true offensive wizard. He was known for his double and triple laterals, filling the sky with forward passes, and as the creator of the I formation. While at Tulsa he had established an 24-3-2 record while outscoring the opponents 592-27. In a game against the Hogs in 1919, Schmidt and the Hurricanes had defeated the Hogs and coach J.B. Craig by a score of 63-7. Is it any wonder that Arkansas was glad to see Schmidt making the trip from Tulsa to Fayetteville (not as the opposition, but as the top Hog)?
In a 2009 interview, Brett Perkins (author of the biography "Frantic Francis") described Schmidt as operating "somewhere between oddness and madness" and describing him as "he was just a bizarre guy – he probably could have used medication. Everything with him was just overboard." While speaking with a definite drawl, he came across as a Foghorn Leghorn in a three piece suit while spitting tobacco, and spewing four-letter words at will. He was often absentminded and confusing which probably originated from his lack of sleep due to his life style being in overdrive and obssessed by the X's and O's.
His practices were often labor intensive and confusing as he would change plays and movements constantly to inject something new into the offense. Very often the players would be changing their schemes before they had even perfected the ones from the previous day. Schmidt was one who walked the fine line between genius and madman and sometimes it was hard to tell which side of the line he was on. One thing for sure though, he was an offensive genius.
After joining the SWC as a charter member in 1914, the Hogs would find it difficult to win the Conference championship. As 1925 rolled around, the Southwest Conference would be solidified with six Texas teams and a lone, straggling Arkansas team. It would remain this way until 1956 when Texas Tech would join followed fifteen years later in 1971 by the University of Houston finally putting an end to the conference's expansion.
During the seven years that Schmidt was at Arkansas, he would acquire a record of 42-20-3. Although he never won the conference championship, his 1927 and 1928 teams were considered as some of the best assembled in Arkansas history. The 1927 team went 8-1 and ended in third place in the SWC, while the 1928 team went 7-2 and had a second place finish.
In 1928, Francis Schmidt would leave the Hogs and become the head football coach for the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs where he would stay until 1933. Although rare at Arkansas, he would not be the only coach to jump to another team in the same conference. Once again, this would happen in 2007 when Houston Nutt would resign and end up going to Ole Miss, but then again that's another tale.
Out of the '60s comes one of the 45-rpm records which became popular while being played throughout the state on local radio stations. It was a song performed by Cecil Buffalo and the Prophets. I hope that you enjoy it.
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