RUNNING THROUGH THE ‘A’
Outland Trophy winner Lloyd Phillips played for Arkansas more than three decades ago, but his memories of running through the “A” remain as fresh as the morning dew.
“The butterflies are flowing and you are [running], but it doesn’t feel like your feet are even touching the ground,” said Phillips, who played on the Hogs’ 1964 national championship team and won the 1966 Outland Trophy.
The Razorback Marching Band concludes each home pre-game performance by transforming its 280-plus members into a giant “A.” The band marches the length of the field, bringing the top of the “A’” to rest in the end zone nearest the Arkansas locker room. Then, with the band playing and the crowd cheering, head coach Houston Nutt follows in the tradition of his predecessors and leads the team through the “A” and onto the field of battle.
“Just to be able to run through that ‘A’ and hear the fans cheer for you is unbelievable,” said Jim Mabry, an All-American offensive tackle for the 1989 Razorbacks. “To sit in the stands now, I still get chill bumps every time the bands starts playing and I see the guys running out through the ‘A.’ It is a tradition that has been special for years around here.”
The wild razorback hogs that roamed the Arkansas countryside in the early 1900s bore only slight resemblance to the typical farm-grown pigs commonly found at a county fair. The untamed razorback hogs were lean, ill-tempered beasts that commonly fought, and defeated, whatever crossed their path.
Hugo Bezdek, the first Arkansas coach hired by the school and not the students, apparently was familiar with these animals, for Bezdek is credited with sparking the change of Arkansas’ mascot from the Cardinals to the Razorbacks.
The 1909 season, Bezdek’s second as head coach, was significant because Arkansas went 7-0 against a schedule that included other major colleges. In fact, Arkansas outscored its opponents 186-18. The tough and gritty play of that squad inspired Bezdek.
After beating Oklahoma 21-6, the team traveled to Memphis for a regional showdown against Louisiana State. A win would give Arkansas a 5-0 record and all but assure an undefeated season. So when Arkansas blitzed the Tigers 16-0, a crowd of students and other fans gathered at the train station to welcome their team home. Bezdek delivered an impromptu speech, telling the crowd that the team had played “like a wild band of razorback hogs” in the victory over LSU.
Bezdek’s spark turned into a flame. The name was an instant hit among the student body, which voted in 1910 to change the school’s official mascot from the Cardinals to the Razorbacks – one of the most unique mascots in all of college athletics.
Except for some sightings in the Outback of Australia, true Razorbacks now exist only in the form of Arkansas’ players and fans. Tusk I, a Russian boar that closely resembles Bezdek’s razorback hogs, currently serves as the official live mascot and takes leave from his local home to attend all Arkansas home games.
The live mascot tradition dates back to the 1960s. A number of hogs have proudly represented Arkansas through the years. In addition to their presence on the sidelines, some also gained a reputation for their activities off the field.
Big Red III, for instance, escaped from an animal exhibit near Eureka Springs in the summer of 1977 and ravaged the countryside before an irate farmer gunned him down. And Ragnar, a wild hog captured in south Arkansas by Leola farmer Bill Robinson, killed a coyote, a 450-pound domestic pig and seven rattlesnakes. Ragnar died in 1978 of unknown causes.
Arkansas also has a family of uniformed mascots, led by the original Big Red, the “Fighting Razorback.” Sue E, who is known for her costume changes and her dancing skills, is popular among the younger fans, as is the kid-sized Pork Chop. Boss Hog, a 9-foot-tall inflatable mascot, joined the team at the end of the 1998-99 season.
CALLING THOSE HOGS
Although historians aren’t exactly sure of the exact date, a group of Arkansas football fans at some point during the 1920s is believed to have been the first to “call the Hogs” during a game. In the years following, it has grown into one of college sports’ most endearing traditions, as well as a rallying cry among Arkansas fans.
Spontaneous “hog calls” have been known to break out in airports, malls, restaurants and hotels all across the country, especially when Arkansas is in town for a football bowl game or a basketball tournament game.
In fact, during Arkansas’ first trip to the SEC basketball tournament in 1992, action nearly came to a stop and a hush consumed the fans of opposing teams when the Razorbacks walked into the arena to watch a game that was in progress. The reason? More than 10,000 Arkansas fans saw them enter and spontaneously called the Hogs.
The words to the Hog call are simple:
“Woooooooooo, Pig! Sooie!
“Woooooooooo, Pig! Sooie!
“Woooooooooo, Pig! Sooie! Razorbacks!”
But correctly calling the Hogs takes some practice. It starts with both hands raised high into the air, fingers waving as the volume increases during the word Woooooooooo. The arms pump down on the word Pig and then back into the air on the word Sooie. Give it a try.
The Razorback makes for an easily identifiable mark, both for players and for fans. The simple, yet fierce white running Razorback on Arkansas’ cardinal-colored helmets dates back to 1964 – the year the Hogs went undefeated and won a national championship – and it gives the university one of the most-recognized pieces of head gear in all of football. And it’s hard to miss Arkansas fans who don the famed “Hog Hat” – a red plastic lid molded into the shape of a running Razorback.
THE ALMA MATER
Brodie Payne and Henry Tovey, inspired in part by the Ozark Mountain sunrise as it illuminated Old Main, wrote the University of Arkansas alma mater in the early 1900s. It is played prior to every home football and basketball game. You can read the words here and listen to it at www.hogwired.com.
Pure as the dawn on the brow of thy beauty,
Watches thy soul from the mountains of God
Over the fates of thy children departed,
Far from the land where their footsteps have trod.
Beacon of hope in the ways dreary lighted,
Pride of our hearts that are loyal and true;
From those who adore unto one who adores us--
Mother of Mothers, we sing unto you.
THE FIGHT SONG
One of the first things freshmen football players learn during two-a-day practices is how to sing the University of Arkansas' fight song. Written in the late 1920s, the tune has long been popular among Razorbacks fans. And for years Arkansas players huddled together in their locker room to sing it following each victory.
When Houston Nutt took over as head coach, he began sharing that tradition with the fans. When the Razorbacks win a home game, Nutt and the Arkansas players gather in front of the student section and lead the singing.
Want to sing along? You can listen to the fight song at www.hogwired.com. Here are the words:
Hit that line! Hit that line! Keep on going,
Move that ball right down the field!
Give a cheer. Rah! Rah! Never fear. Rah! Rah!
Arkansas will never yield!
On your toes, Razorbacks, to the finish,
Carry on with all your might!
For it’s A-A-A-R-K-A-N-S-A-S for Arkansas!
Fight! Fight! Fi-i-i-ght!
THE GOLDEN BOOT
Although the stakes were raised when the two became conference foes in 1992, the football rivalry between Arkansas and Louisiana State dates to 1901 and is one of the oldest in the record books of both programs.
With 50 games played in six different cities and in four different states, the series includes a variety of interesting twists – and several upsets. An underdog Arkansas squad, for instance, upset the Tigers with a scoreless tie in the 1947 Cotton Bowl. And LSU upset the Hogs, 14-7, in the 1966 Cotton Bowl to end Arkansas’ 22-game winning streak.
So when Arkansas joined the SEC, it made sense to make the border war the regular-season finale for both teams. And soon it became apparent that a trophy should be created for the winner.
The Golden Boot debuted in 1996. Molded from 24-karat gold in the shape of the states of Arkansas and Louisiana, the trophy stands four feet in height, weighs nearly 200 pounds and is valued at $10,000. After a win in the series, the victorious team keeps the trophy until the next year’s meeting.