I finally got to take in my first Hendrix Warriors football game yesterday. Hendrix fielded its first varsity football team in 53 years this year. It competes in NCAA's Division III in the Southern Athletic Association along with the likes of Oglethorpe (who are the Stormy Petrels, which has to be the coolest mascot ever), Millsaps, Rhodes, and Sewanee among others.
As I understand it, Hendrix decided to get back into the football business because kids wanted to play football. That, and the other states where it recruits heavily, like Texas and Tennessee have an ingrained football culture. On the other hand, Hendrix also recruits on the East Coast. So now they play field hockey and lacrosse.
And so, what once was woods is now an athletic complex that is pretty impressive. They have a multi-purpose football facility surrounded by a track, really nice baseball and softball parks and a soccer field.
I marveled at all of this stuff when I took in a baseball game last Spring. Back when I was a kid, Hendrix played basketball, golf, tennis, swimming and did cross-country in what was back then the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC). Women's athletics pretty much existed as club sports although Beth Forney was pretty much the men and women's tennis teams. And though Hendrix did well in basketball and swimming it was pretty lousy in everything else.
But then again, it didn't much care. As long as Cliff Garrison's boys were filling up Grove Gym, everything was hunky-dory on Washington Avenue.
But those days are over, boy.
I read, and reviewed for the local paper, The System by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict. It is a book that serves as an indictment of how money completely drives and corrupts Division I football. It is no exaggeration to say that the football tail wags the institutional dog at many of the university that fields teams.
Even the so-called "academic schools" such as Northwestern, Duke and Vanderbilt have gotten serious about football and all are bowl eligible this season. Hell, even Tulane is bowl eligible. And Stanford is about as good as anybody in the country.
So it can be done and it can be done with a reasonble nod at integrity.
D-III is all about participation and academics. The women's sports are taken as seriously as the men's. You don't hear much about Title IX problems at that level. Nor do you hear as much about off-the-field-stuff in D-III as do in big time college athletics. Then again, D-III doesn't offer scholarships and recruits real students. Real students tend to socialized.
So, what did I think of today's tilt between the Warriors and the Sewanee Tigers? Not much. Neither team was very good. Sewanee was bigger and had more guys than Hendrix did. The Warriors were gamers but just got wore down by the visiting Episcopalians.
By the way, and this is apropos of nothing, but I have visited the campus of the University of the South. It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. You should go. Really.
Back to the game, although the boys in black spotted the Tigers 20 points at halftime they came back fired up in the second and almost made a game of it until getting picked off in the 4th quarter which led to Sewanee's final TD for a 35-9 win.
Still, the Warriors blocked 2 PATs in the first half which I had never seen before and returned one of them back for a safety which I had also never seen before. And there was a pretty good, albeit brief, fight after the interception which led to the ejection of one of the scrappier Warriors. That was fun.
They won 3 games this year. That's more than I thought they would win. They are obviously well-coached. They have a good foundation and nice facilities. If you have to do football, this is as benign as it gets.
What the hell. I may go up to Sewanee when Hendrix plays them up there next season. I hear that guys wear kilts at their games which I can certainly do without. But the University of the South. There are worse reasons to go on a road trip.
And you don't see crazy shit like guys wearing kilts in DI.