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Established in 1936, the World’s Champion Duck Calling Contest has annually attracted the finest duck callers and duck hunting enthusiasts in North America to the city of Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The contest is held on the weekend following Thanksgiving Day, just as the college football season is beginning to wind down and the season’s bowl games are on the horizon. In 1957, contest organizers sought to capitalize on the popularity of college football in Arkansas by adding a college football game, known as the Rice Bowl, to the calendar of events.
The Rice Bowl’s goal was to showcase the finest small college football teams in the state of Arkansas. In 1957, Rice Bowl committee chairman Shannon Flowers signed an agreement with the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC) in order to secure its reigning conference champion for the game. This pact called for the AIC champion to “play an invited team” in the 1957 Rice Bowl. All of the Rice Bowl contests were played at Stuttgart High School’s Harmon Field.
The 1957 AIC champions, the Boll Weevils of Arkansas A&M (now known as the University of Arkansas at Monticello), accepted the inaugural Rice Bowl bid. Dominating the AIC in 1957, the Boll Weevils posted a stellar record of 9–1. Opposing the Boll Weevils were the Wonder Boys of Arkansas Polytechnic College (now Arkansas Tech University), who finished a bruising regular season schedule with a record of 5–4.
Due to accusations of potential league violations concerning “subsidization and recruiting” of players, Arkansas Tech, a perennial AIC powerhouse on the gridiron, was currently in the second year of what would be a two-year hiatus from the AIC. While maintaining its AIC affiliation, the school did not contend for the league title in 1956 and 1957. Nor did the school play its typical conference schedule during that time. Fred Petrucelli of the Arkansas Democrat wrote that the Rice Bowl of 1957 should determine the “mythical state championship.”
Instead, poor weather nearly stole the show. Petrucelli described the conditions as “frightful…pelting rain…players were up to their ankles in water…up to their armpits in mud and goo.” Game-time conditions convinced half of the 4,000 people who had bought tickets for the sold-out affair to stay home.
The Wonder Boys were led by the future Little All-American, All-AIC, and National Football League star halfback and defensive back Eddie Meador, and they flourished under the poise and leadership of their quarterback Winkie May. Moreover, the Wonder Boy defense gave little ground to the beleaguered Boll Weevils.
Conditions on the field hindered A&M’s normally fleet-footed running backs and stymied their All-AIC quarterback, Don Sawyer. Even when future Arkansas State University head football coach Larry Lacewell recovered a fumble on the Tech five-yard line in the waning minutes of the game, A&M lost. The Wonder Boys claimed the “mythical” state title with a score of 19–7.
In 1958, AIC officials expressed concern about the conference’s future participation in the Rice Bowl. Of particular concern was the financial burden on the schools. Gate receipts in 1957 provided a payout of $1,400 for each school, which was barely enough to cover expenses. Moreover, in 1958, Rice Bowl officials had invited an out-of-state opponent, adding to the financial burden. Responding to these concerns, the city of Stuttgart provided 1,500 more seats in order to boost potential gate receipts.
Arkansas Tech, again a member of the AIC, was invited to play in the 1958 Rice Bowl. Tech and Arkansas A&M shared the 1958 AIC title, but Tech had defeated A&M in the regular season. Both squads finished the regular season with respectable records of 7–2. Again, the Wonder Boys relied on their star senior, Eddie Meador, who had gained 1,043 yards rushing during the season.
Lining up against the Wonder Boys was a powerful team, the Louisiana College Wildcats, from Pineville, Louisiana. Compiling a record of 8–2, the Wildcats’ only defeats had come against opponents in higher classifications; they had outscored their opponents during the season 274–71.
Wildcat backs Keith “Moose” Munyan and Don Scullane combined for 216 yards rushing, relentlessly hammering the overmatched Wonder Boys. The best efforts of Meador, held to fifty-one yards rushing, made it a long and frustrating evening for the Wonder Boys. The Wildcats won by a score of 39–12, “before some 3,000 shivering fans.”
After two years, the Rice Bowl had not lived up to expectations. Poor weather and meager gate receipts had discouraged AIC officials and contest organizers. In 1959, no game was played. In 1960, however, the Rice Bowl was revived, in an attempt to once more establish a post-season football tradition. Unfortunately, Arkansas Tech, the best team in the AIC in 1960, declined to play in the Rice Bowl. Instead, Coach Marvin “Shorty” Salmon took his undefeated 10–0 Wonder Boys to Grand Prairie, Texas, to play in the Great Southwest Bowl, another upstart bowl game.
Accepting the Rice Bowl bid was the AIC’s third-place squad, the 6–3 Reddies of Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University). Taking on the Reddies were the 6–5 Tigers of East Central State College, now known as East Central University, in Ada, Oklahoma. The two teams did share one common opponent that season, the Austin College Kangaroos of Sherman, Texas. The Kangaroos were victorious over each team, beating East Central 38–28 and the Reddies 14–13.
Henderson State entered the game missing several key players due to injury. These included their starting quarterback and center. Replacing them was the untested freshmen quarterback, Tom Dick Coyle, and a freshmen center, Holbert Hill of Holly Grove (Monroe County). Ranked first in the nation in pass defense, the Reddies were concerned but hopeful. East Central came in at full strength and enjoyed a significant size advantage over the Reddies.
Late in the first half, trailing by a score of 12–7, the Reddies were keeping pace with the Tigers. Then, when workhorse Reddies halfback Freddy Glaze was injured, the team faltered. Soon, the Tigers’ stocky fill-in halfback, Jerry Bettis, took control of the game. Bettis ran all over the Reddies, gaining 122 yards on just twelve carries. Meanwhile, the Tigers quarterback, Doodle Woodson, completed several passes in critical situations. The Reddies lost 25–7.
Only 1,500 people attended the game. After three attempts, the World’s Champion Duck Calling Contest’s foray into post-season college football bowl games came to an end.
East Central (OK)
Henderson State Teachers College
For additional information:“The 1958 Football Season.” The Pine Knot, 1959, pp. 84–85, 93. On file at Norton Memorial Library of Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana.
Adcock, Charlie. “Rice Bowl Faces Test.” Arkansas Democrat, December 4, 1958, p. 7B.
———. “Sooners’ Split-T Foils Reddies, 25–7: In Stuttgart’s Rice Bowl.” Arkansas Democrat, December 3, 1960, p. 6.
———. “Wildcats Bury Tech Under 29–12 [sic] Score.” Arkansas Democrat, December 6, 1958, p. 8.
“All-American Gives Rice Bowl Lustre [sic]: Tech’s Eddie Meador Honored.” Arkansas Democrat, December 3, 1958, p. 23.
Bailey, Jim. “Stuttgart’s Rice Bowl To Match Tech and A&M.” Arkansas Gazette, November 11, 1957, p. 2B.
“Hoskyn, Meador Shine in AIC Statistics.” Arkansas Democrat, December 5, 1957, p. 18.
McGee, Joe. “AIC’s Double Round Robin Experiment Baffles Pickers-But Not Ags, Perhaps.” Arkansas Gazette, September 2, 1956, p. 2E.
“Oklahomans Batter Henderson, 25–7, In the Rice Bowl.” Arkansas Gazette, December 3, 1960, p. 1.
Petrucelli, Fred. “Ags, Tech Poised for Rice Bowl Tilt.” Arkansas Democrat, December 1, 1957, p. 3B.
———. “Champion Weevils Get Red Carpet Treatment.” Arkansas Democrat, December 5, 1957, p. 17.
———. “From the Press Box.” Arkansas Democrat. December 1, 1957, p. 3B.
———. “Wonder Boys Stop Aggies in Muddy Rice Bowl Scrap, 19–7.” Arkansas Democrat, December 7, 1957, p. 6.
“Reddies Meet East Central State in Stuttgart Rice Bowl Tonight.” Henderson Oracle, December 2, 1960, p. 2. On file at the Huie Library at Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
“Reddies Top Pass Defenders: Set for Rice Bowl.” Arkansas Democrat, December 1, 1960, p. 25.
“Reddies without Starting Center During Battle with ECSC Tigers in Rice Bowl at Stuttgart.” Daily Siftings Herald, December 2, 1960, p. 4.
“Rice Bowl Holiday in Store for Techsters.” Arkansas Democrat, December 4, 1957, p. 22.
“Tech, A.&M. Battle in Rice Bowl.” Arkansas Democrat, December 6, 1957, p. 25.
“Tigers Roll Over Reddies 25–7 to Capture Rice Bowl.” East Central Journal, December 14, 1960, p. 8. On file at the Linscheid Library at East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma.
Warren, Dennis. “Reddie Rocket.” Henderson Oracle, December 9, 1960, p. 2. On file at the Huie Library at Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Paul EdwardsBoston, Massachusetts
Last Updated 1/10/2012
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