No reason to Crowe
SEC first for Hogs was final for coach
FAYETTEVILLE — The day before the Arkansas Razorbacks played their first football game as members of the SEC, Coach Jack Crowe called quarterback Barry Lunney Jr. into his office.
Crowe told Lunney, a touted true freshman from Fort Smith Southside, that he’d play the third series of his first college game.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville was opening against The Citadel — an NCAA Division I-AA team from the Southern Conference — so it figured to be a good game for Lunney to gain some experience as sophomore Jason Allen’s backup the week before the Razorbacks played at South Carolina, the SEC’s other newcomer.
Lunney was surprised by what Crowe told him.
“I didn’t sleep at all that
night because I wasn’t expecting that,” said Lunney, who is now the Razorbacks’ tight ends coach. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘I’m about to make my college debut.’
“Back then I had been on campus for three weeks. It’s not like I had come in January or in the summer. We had three extra days of practice in the fall, and then we started going. So it was all very new to me.
“I’m thinking, ‘Man, this is going to be a big deal.’ ”
The game indeed was a big deal, but not the way Lunney — or anyone else — could have expected.
“We went three-andout the first two series, and then basically Coach Crowe shook me off like a pitcher shakes off a catcher,” Lunney said. “He looked at me like, ‘No, this hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to go.’ ”
Lunney never got into the game. It was the only time in four seasons at Arkansas he didn’t play.
The Citadel beat the Razorbacks 10-3 on Sept. 5, 1992, in a shocking upset at Razorback Stadium.
Things got crazier the next day when Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles fired Crowe — though it was announced as a resignation — and made defensive coordinator Joe Kines the interim head coach.
Arkansas players found out about the coaching change the same way fans did.
“I’m watching NFL football on CBS, and it came scrolling across the screen,” Lunney said of the news Kines was replacing Crowe.
Lunney was watching TV in his dorm room.
“You could tell the people who were watching NFL games at that time, because one by one guys starting coming out of their dorm rooms and looking down the hallway saying, ‘Did you see what I just saw?’ ” Lunney said.
Arkansas finally broke a scoreless tie against The Citadel and took a 3-0 lead on Todd Wright’s 25-yard field goal with 14:08 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs punted on their next possession, then took advantage of a rule change approved by the NCAA eight months earlier that allowed the defense to advance a fumble recovered behind the line of scrimmage.
Arkansas running back E.D. Jackson, who rushed 29 times for 167 yards, lost a fumble when he took a handoff on second-and-4 from the Razorbacks 37.
Defensive end Garrett Sizer got a hand on the ball and knocked it loose, and defensive end Judson Boehmer had it bounce into his arms at the 34. He ran untouched into the end zone to put The Citadel ahead 7-3 with 9:47 left.
“Defensively we were playing pretty good,” said Kines, who is retired and living in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “If we’d been out there all day, I don’t think they’d have gotten much.
“But the fact they were able to get that fumble and run it in for a touchdown changed the whole outlook of the season.
“If it had been the year before and they had the ball at our 34, who knows what would have happened? There were a lot of ifs. But you can stack those ifs up from now to Christmas and it wouldn’t change anything.”
The Bulldogs made it 10-3 on Jeff Trinh’s 25-yard field goal with 3:28 to play after cornerback Detrick Cummings intercepted an Allen pass that was deflected.
Arkansas drove to The Citadel 27 but was stopped on downs. The Bulldogs, who gained 276 yards in their Wishbone offense, ran out the game’s final 1:21.
The Razorbacks had seven drives inside The Citadel 40, but they were held to 287 total yards in Greg Davis’ first game as offensive coordinator.
It was the first time the Razorbacks had lost a season opener at Fayetteville since 1906, when Chilocco (Okla.) Indian Agriculture School beat Arkansas 6-0.
“My dad had been a college and high school coach, and the first thing he said after the game was,
‘Man, this isn’t good,’ ” said J.J. Meadors, a 5-6 receiver from Ruston, La., who played for the Razorbacks from 1992-1995. “At the time I was like, ‘Of course it’s not good that we lost to The Citadel.’
“But I didn’t really understand how bad it was until the next day when we found out that Coach Crowe had gotten fired. That was tough, because Coach Crowe really took a chance on me being so small. He signed me when schools like Louisiana Tech passed on me. So I still have a great deal of respect for Coach Crowe.
“But at the same time, when you’re at Arkansas, you can’t lose to The Citadel. It really taught us freshmen what college football was about that first week. I went from the excitement of playing my first game to a coaching change. It was just a crazy time.”
Twenty years after Arkansas lost to The Citadel, Crowe was back in Razorback Stadium as Jacksonville (Ala.) State’s coach to open the 2012 season.
In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before the Razorbacks beat Jacksonville State 49-24, Crowe said he wished he had talked to Broyles on the Saturday night after The Citadel game instead of waiting until Sunday.
“I should have gotten in my car and driven straight to his house, because Frank didn’t need to sleep on that game,” Crowe said. “I mean, the guy I got to on Sunday, it was done. There was nothing I could do or say. The bread was toasted.”
Broyles and Crowe argued about the direction of the program, some of Crowe’s staff hires and whether he should have turned over play-calling duties to Davis.
“He vented, and I vented back, and the hotter he got, the hotter I got,” Crowe said. “I think I said, ‘Frank, this is going to be a lot different a week from now, because we’re going to South Carolina, and I guarantee you we’re going to win. If we don’t, you can fire me.’ He said something like, ‘I don’t know if I can wait that long,’ and that ticked me off.
“I said, ‘I’m going to lunch. Call me if I’m still your football coach.’ He didn’t call.”
Crowe was right about the South Carolina game. The Razorbacks won 45-7.
Losing to The Citadel dropped Crowe’s record at Arkansas to 9-15 after he’d been promoted from offensive coordinator in 1990 to replace Ken Hatfield, who left to take the Clemson job.
Broyles said at the time of Crowe’s firing it was an “agonizing” decision, but he was convinced a change needed to be made.
“It’s obvious our program isn’t where it should be,” Broyles said.
Kines said he was watching game film Sunday when Broyles came to his office and said he wanted him to take over as interim coach.
“We lost the game and knew we let one go we should have won,” Kines said. “Afterwards, you can’t sit around and mope.
“We were getting ready for the next game when all that came down. You can plan all this stuff, but plans sometimes have a way of taking a road of their own. That was one of those days.”
As troubling to Broyles as losing to The Citadel was the announced crowd of 35,868. He said fans needed hope for the future by rallying behind a new coach rather than speculating about Crowe’s job security.
“During the Sunday meeting, Frank said that our support was more critical than it ever had been and that we couldn’t let low expectations keep the fans from supporting our move to the SEC,” Crowe said. “He felt a lot of pressure about that move. He thought it was all on him for that to work.”
Arkansas was the fifth consecutive Division I-A team to lose to The Citadel, which since 1988 had beaten Navy twice along with Army and South Carolina.
The Bulldogs finished the 1992 season 11-2 and were ranked No. 1 among I-AA teams before losing in the playoffs to Youngstown State.
Arkansas finished 3-7-1, but in addition to winning at South Carolina the
Razorbacks beat No. 5 Tennessee and LSU, and tied Auburn.
“Coach Kines just had a way about him,” Lunney said. “You believed in him. You wanted to play for him.
“He did a more than admirable job that year. He breathed life into us. He made it fun all the while getting some good results.”
Houston Nutt, Arkansas’ receivers coach in 1992 and later head coach from 1998-2007, said the staff was shocked by Crowe’s firing but rallied around Kines.
“I always admired Joe because of his ability to motivate players and his enthusiasm and passion for the game, plus he was such a good defensive coordinator,” Nutt said. “When Joe took over as head coach, I felt like we were in good hands.”
Broyles decided to hire Danny Ford — whom Kines had added to the staff after three games — as head coach after the 1992 season because he believed the program needed someone who had won and was nationally prominent.
Ford fit the bill with a 96-29-4 record in 12 seasons as Clemson’s coach, which included winning the 1981 national championship.
Kines stayed at Arkansas as defensive coordinator in 1993 and 1994 before leaving to take the same position at Georgia.
“What I remember about it was we played the hand we were dealt,” Kines said of the 1992 Razorbacks. “Our kids did the best they could and came together and played good at times under some really dire circumstances.
“Do I wish it had gone better? Sure. Did I quit and slit my wrists because it didn’t? No. You take what God gives you and go with it.”
Defenders for The Citadel swarm Arkansas running back E.D. Jackson during the NCAA Division I-AA Bulldogs’ 10-3 victory over the Razorbacks at Fayetteville in 1992. It was a grisly loss for the Razorbacks in their first game as a member of the SEC and it resulted in coach Jack Crowe’s firing the next day.
said he met with athletic director Frank Broyles the morning after the loss. “I said, ‘I’m going to lunch. Call me if I’m still your football coach.’ He didn’t call,” Crowe said.
Arkansas quarterback Jason Allen is dragged down during the Razorbacks’ loss to The Citadel at Fayetteville in 1992. The next week, the Razorbacks and new interim head coach Joe Kines won 45-7 at South Carolina.