Playing catch-up with Texas members of the Southwest Conference, 33 Razorback coaches and players have been inducted into the SWC Hall of Fame in less than four years, but there remains a deep pool of the deserving.
No problem; a relentless Bill Montgomery is on the job. Until the former Razorback quarterback took up the cause SWC charter member Arkansas had been ignored by the SWC Hall.
When the Texas Sports Hall of Fame took over the SWC Hall of Honor, more than half of the 314 people in the Texas Hall were grandfathered into the SWC Hall because of their participation in the SWC. Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson were the only ones with Arkansas ties and they were in the Texas Hall because of their connection to the Dallas Cowboys.
Montgomery worked to right the slight, beginning with the October 2013 induction of former coach/athletics director Frank. Broyles. During the next year, former basketball coach Nolan Richardson and former track coach John McDonnell were inducted in ceremonies in Texas.
In November 2014 in Little Rock, nine were admitted in what was originally billed as the first phase of a three-step process to add about two dozen UA representatives to the SWC Hall. The group — basketball coach Eddie Sutton, Lance Alworth, Clyde Scott, Loyd Phillips, Leotis Harris, and Billy Moore from football, Sidney Moncrief from basketball, Mike Conley from track, and Melody Sye from track — possessed impeccable credentials.
A year later, there were nine more inductees of equal quality. And nine more last October.
Along the way, former baseball coach Norm DeBriyn, basketball’s Joe Kleine, and Montgomery were inducted individually in Texas.
Now, Montgomery plans to add another group this fall in Little Rock.
Journalists of a certain age remember writing about such football talents as Joe Ferguson, Bruce James, Dick Bumpas, Steve Atwater, Greg Koch, and R.C. Thielemann, plus basketball’s Ron Brewer and Darrell Walker. Each was All-SWC, a must for induction into the Hall.
Also eligible is former football coach Lou Holtz, who delivered a sampling of his wit while still coach of the New York Jets. A cohort provided Holtz’s home phone number to an AP man in Arkansas pursuing the rumor that Holtz would be Broyles’ successor.
Holtz answered and immediately wanted to know how the writer had come up with his number.
“A friend of yours in Memphis gave it to me,” the writer said.
“If he gave you my home phone number, he’s no friend of mine,” Holtz said before discussing his disillusionment with coaching in the NFL.
Still a Razorback football fan while learning under Orville Henry at The Arkansas Gazette, Fred Marshall, Ronnie Caveness, and Glen Ray Hines are heroes from the mid 1960s who belong in the SWC Hall.
Ditto for Wear Schoonover and Jim Benton, who pre-date even aging journalists.
In 1929, Schoonover was named to a couple of All-American teams — the first SWC player to earn such recognition. That year, he caught 33 passes for 342 yards, a meager total in today’s world. But the year before, Detroit’s Lloyd Brazil set the NCAA one-season record with 997 yards passing.
And, Schoonover’s 13 receptions vs. Baylor remains tied for best in UA history with James Shibest (1984) and Jarius Wright (2011).
Until Chuck Dicus came along in 1968, Schoonover and Benton held all UA receiving records. Also an All-American, Benton was 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, big for an end in 1937.
When he died in 2001, the New York Times published a five-paragraph obituary that described Benton as “a star receiver of the 1940s with the Rams and the Bears, who set a single-game National Football League record for pass-receiving yardage that stood for 40 years …”
Schoonover and Benton are among those who would fit into Montgomery’s plan to pad UA representation in the SWC Hall by inducting five or six athletes posthumously along with the usual group of nine or 10.
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org