Why Arkansas Students Protested the Texas Tech Game Following Kennedy's Assassination

For the Razorback faithful, “22” has special meaning. It signifies the number of consecutive wins the program reeled off from 1963 through 1966 - the era in which the Hogs won a national championship and came within a few points of winning another one. But for many Americans, especially this week, “22” has another far more tragic meaning. It’s the date in November, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was killed. The stories behind these “22s” intersected over the course of couple days in Fayetteville 50 years ago.

What was going through the minds of Razorback coaches and players after the president was killed 50 years ago? Were they able to focus on the next day's home game - the only conference game played that Saturday? Did it matter to them UA students were protesting their own Homecoming game on Dickson Street? I  tried to answer these questions in an article for Sporting Life Arkansas. Here's an excerpt:

Things looked promising for the season-ending game against Texas Tech, which had a record of 4-5 overall and 2-4 in conference.

The tenor changed that Friday, November 22,  soon after 12:30 p.m. The Razorback coaches including Broyles were playing Moon, a kind of card game with dominoes, in an athletic dorm game room when Martine Bercher, a future All-American safety, walked in and told them that the president had just been shot, recalled Barry Switzer, then a third-year assistant coach. Everybody was shocked. Lunch plans were forgotten as all rushed to a larger room downstairs where there was a TV. "There was dead silence," Switzer recalled in an interview for the Wall Street Journal. "We missed the meal because we all sat there glued to the television."

As the news broke that Kennedy was dead, and Lyndon Johnson had taken over the presidency, the team went on with business as usual. "We were all obviously shocked and saddened by the event but we had to focus," Switzer said. "It didn’t affect how we played or prepared or how we went about the game." Former Razorback Ken Hatfield added: "As a player, on Friday afternoon, you went to your meetings. You did what you had to do. You went to your hotel and we had to just wait and see if the game was cancelled."

It's also interesting to note that four SWC schools voted on whether to break the color barrier in November, 1963. Only Arkansas voted "no." (on the same afternoon JFK died). Why? Mainly because Gov. Orval Faubus wanted it that way, as Orville Henry, the Arkansas Gazette's sports columnist, pointed out:

"From a practical standpoint, Arkansas fans need not fear, cheer, or expect (whatever their inclination) the arrival of an integrated Razorback football team for from three to five years.

If anyone needed a cue, Gov. Faubus supplied the only one necessary. This is not a matter of dealing with a locally-controlled school board. This is something which lies within the realm of his political appointees and he can expect their loyalty, as they can respect his political shrewdness.

SO that’s that."

To read the entire article, click here.

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