State of the Hogs: Celebrating 50 Years

It was 50 years ago today that the news leaked that the five-man panel of the FWAA had voted Arkansas winners of the Grantland Rice Award as National Champions.

It was 50 years ago on Jan. 7 when Arkansas was announced as the 1964 National Champs. It’s the one and only time the Razorbacks have been so named.

Thanks to some scrapbooks loaned to me by team member Jim Williams, carefully and wonderfully prepared by his mother, there is a mother lode of information on the 1964 season. It’s helped in the creation of the series run this fall in Hawgs Illustrated magazine – pulled together by our Matt Jones – to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of that Arkansas team and its rise to champion in a 11-0 season.

There is a story that ran in the Arkansas Gazette that explained the Grantland Rice Award, presented this date 50 years ago. And, there is compilation of an interview of the stars of that team that make for great reading. It made me think of the careers many of these players would have, and wondered how often young men of 19-21 years sounded like this?

It was that day when the famous team photo of that ‘64 team was taken by Johnny Woodruff. There’s a trivia question that goes with it: Who was missing?

Of course, neither head coach Frank Broyles or end Jerry Lamb were there that day. Both were in Hawaii at the Hula Bowl.

In fact, that picture was taken before Broyles (or Lamb) actually knew the Hogs had won the voting from the five-man panel of the Football Writers Association of America that picked the Grantland Rice Trophy winner. Broyles and Lamb were not by a phone that afternoon.

No one knows the exact ballots, just the results. The panel consisted of Fred Russell, Nashville Banner; Blackie Sherrod, Dallas Times-Herald; Si Burick, Dayton News; Steve Weller, Buffalo Evening News; and Paul Zimmerman, Los Angeles Times.

Arkansas won the balloting with 13 points, receiving four of the five first-place votes and one for third. Notre Dame was second, with all five second-place votes. Texas was third, with one first place. Alabama was fourth, with only three votes for third. (Alabama claims the AP and UPI versions, voted at the end of the regular season – before Arkansas beat Nebraska and Texas beat Alabama in the bowls.)

The Grantland Rice Award, sponsored by Look Magazine, had been presented since 1954, soon after the passing of Grantland Rice, the writer and author who became famous writing for the New York Sun and New York Daily News. He was a notable shortstop at Vanderbilt and first went to work as a sports writer (for $5 a week) at the Nashville, Tenn., Daily News in 1901.

The announcement had a 5 o’clock embargo the next day, but word actually got to UA sports information director Bob Cheyne at 10:30 a.m., after a phone call from Sherrod. Eventually, Look officials agreed that it could run in Arkansas newspapers the next day.

“Tim Cohane of Look called Blackie and Blackie immediately called me,” Cheyne said. “Everyone in our building must have been listening because they all started calling the hogs.”

Cheyne’s secretary, Zonola Carter, said they weren’t eavesdropping. She said Cheyne yelled it for everyone to hear. Coaches were dancing in the hallway.

At that, Cheyne tried to find Broyles in Honolulu, but that didn’t work out because of a tour of Pearl Harbor by the all-star teams and coaches. Cheyne did reach Barbara Broyles at the hotel. It would be Barbara who got to break the news to her husband when he returned from the tour a few hours later.

Since there couldn’t be an official announcement for over 30 hours, Cheyne did the next best thing. He got the public relations ball rolling, organizing the famous team picture that afternoon, set for 3:15 p.m. Assistant coach Lon Farrell went to the serving line at lunch to pass the word.

Frank Allen, a UA student stringing for the Gazette, did get to players that afternoon to ask for their reaction. There were 18 players quoted in that story. It ranged from thanking coaches, to teammates and messages to fans.

Dick Hatfield hailed it as “the great breakthrough for Arkansas. From now on, I think the Razorbacks will be considered in the class of schools with such great football tradition as Texas and Alabama.”

Jimmy Johnson said, “Everything that can affect football has been on the highest level this year – the fans, the players, the leadership, coaches, and pride of the Razorbacks.”

Sophomore Harry Jones pointed to the leaders of the team.

“It was the seniors who carried us,” Jones said, “and it’s only fitting that we could receive this great honor for their effort and leadership.”

Mike Bender pointed to the unity and selflessness of the team.

“This proves if you want to win bad enough,” Bender said, “everyone will step aside.”

Bobby Roper said, “The Arkansas fans have been national champions, now the football team has finally caught up with them.”

It’s only words on newsprint, but I can imagine the strength a young Jim Lindsey spoke with in reading his comments.

“Any goal or any award, no matter how great,” Lindsey said, “can be obtained if the desire and heart are there. I feel that we were very fortunate, yet I believe we deserve it. The most important factor in our success was the senior leadership and their never-quit attitude they conveyed to each of us.”

My favorites came from Billy Gray and Fred Marshall, best summing up the Razorback spirit the team played with that season.

“To win the Grantland Rice trophy is a great honor,” Gray said, “but to represent the University of Arkansas, the state of Arkansas, and be a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks is the greatest honor I will ever receive.”

Marshall said, “It’s the greatest honor received by the greatest Razorback team.”

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