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Well here we are at the start of a new season. By the time you read this, the Hogs should have their first win of the 2012 season under their belt. The one thing about history is that the longer something lasts, the more history there is tell of it. So now it's time to back up and remember how it all started.
It was the "Big Bang", November 6, 1869, when Rutgers College first met the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) for a match at College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The initial football game was played much like rugby on a field 120 yards long by 75 yards wide with a round ball that favors today's soccer ball. Rutgers went on to win in a tightly contested game 6-4 (touchdowns were six points then as now, but during the early years field goals counted as four).
From this small beginning, it took 25 more years for American football to find its way to the mountainous, rural campus located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Keep in mind that Fayetteville was not what it is today, it was very small, very remote, and there were no interstates to be found anywhere in the Ozarks.
Skip ahead now those 25 years to the fall of 1894 and you will find a young Latin professor named John Clinton Futrall, who after recently joining the staff at the University of Arkansas, would take on the task of being its first part time coach for 14 inexperienced players that would become the initial University of Arkansas football team. What would they be called? How could a team go on the field of battle without a name? After much deliberation, the name would be chosen from the school colors (cardinal and white). So obviously, they would be known as the "Cardinals".
With that settled, their first game would be played on the gridiron against a Fort Smith team made up primarily of players from Fort Smith High School. These future players must have felt pretty good since they were able to man-handle the Fort Smith crew by a score of 42-0. They felt so good that they scheduled a second home game against the same team and promptly thrashed them again 38-0. They now felt that they were undefeatable and ready to take on the world. So on Monday, November 26, the team boarded a train for their first college game against the University of Texas in Austin. The world was much bigger outside of the Ozarks as they soon found out after being soundly defeated 54-0 in front of an estimated crowd of 1,500 onlookers who had paid a total of $700 to watch the game.
So ended the first season, and began one of the biggest rivalries in college football history with Arkansas versus Texas. Neither the school nor the state would ever be the same again.
In his second year, the Cardinals needed a win after the Texas fiasco. So it was now time to play their one home game for the season, and that was once again against the Fort Smith team which, to no one's surprise, they handily won 30-0. Their one game season had now come to an end. This win coupled with the previous season gave the Cardinals two consecutive back-to-back winning seasons (sort of - with 3 wins against Fort Smith, and 1 loss against Texas). But it was a glimpse of what was to come. Football had finally arrived in the Ozarks.
For Futrall's final year to coach (1896), the Cardinals played Fort Smith twice winning both times 10-0, and 6-2. Next came a game in Springfield, Missouri at Drury College where, as Futrall's last game, the Cardinals would once again lose their collegiate game by a score of 34-0.
Out of these first years came a fullback named Herbert Y. Fishback who became the first campus football hero. During his career, he served as team captain for three years until his untimely death on a train in 1897 while on his way to play in the team's second football game against Drury College in Missouri.
After a non-stellar beginning, John Futrall turned the reins over to another fellow professor, Burton N. Wilson. Futrall would continue as professor and go on to later become president of the university. While serving as president, he was able to see the dedication on June 28, 1930, of the Chi Omega Greek Theater and with it the establishment of another football tradition - the Greek Theater Pep Rallies.
It would not be until Hugo Bezdek (see the 06/06/12 - A Razorback is Born hawg-tales) and the miraculous 1909 season that the Cardinals would come into their own and the name would be replaced by the now famous Razorbacks. Personally, I'm glad that we don't have to "Call the Cardinals" any longer.
It's hard to believe that what began as an idea in one person's mind would grow into what we now celebrate as the Hogs! The game has changed a lot over the years, but the ghosts of Herbert Fishback, John Futrall, Hugo Bezbek, and all of the others that make up the fraternity of players and coaches to wear the cardinal and white can be proud of the legecy that they established for the players of today. It's a foundation based on over a century of being fine tuned and is as solid as the rocks found deep in the mountains of the Ozarks.