LYON - It’s been 64 years since a football team was fielded by Arkansas (Lyon) College. There aren’t many around that remember the college’s 1951 squad, but nevertheless, there is some rich history with the program. Here is a part of that history.
Football was introduced at Arkansas College in 1913, and the Lambs’ (which was the team’s mascot then) games became very popular with students. The program, however, vanished in 1917 with America’s entry into World War I. A limited schedule started up again in 1919, including games against two high schools and a Batesville town team.
John Daffin, a science professor and former letterman at Davidson College, took over athletics in fall 1920, when the team name changed to the Panthers, and set the tone by requiring that players pass at least a minimum of hours. A limited number of athletic scholarships were available and the amount of time athletes could be away from campus for games was regulated.
A new football field was named for Daffin in 1921, when he resumed full-time teaching. In response to alumni dissatisfaction over the number of losses, the first full-time athletics director was hired in the fall of 1922. That year saw AC’s first winning season, with a record of 4-2-1. Students remained avid fans despite some tough years on the field.
Coach Jasper “Jap” Patterson was the last full-time coach, leaving in 1932. With AC facing severe financial problems, the Trustees left the hiring and paying of a new coach to a group of local boosters. Their coach, a Panther star from the early 1920s, lasted only two seasons, with the 1933 team finishing 0-9. Other part-timers followed, but in 1936 the College dropped football altogether, citing poor seasons, financial distress, and declining grades among the players.
Eleven years later, a group of World War II veteran students organized a football club and lobbied for reinstatement of varsity football. With the administration, students, and Batesville boosters leading the charge, the Trustees agreed at a special meeting in January 1947 to reinstate football. Interestingly, the motion to do so was made by Frank Lyon, Sr., the long-time trustee whose family’s contributions to the college were recognized in the 1994 renaming of the school.
This time the team would be the Highlanders – also sometimes called the Scots – and on October 3, 1947, a crowd of more than two thousand fans watched the first post-war game, which AC lost by a single point. It was the seventh game of 1948 before they scored a win. Although this revival lasted only four short years, both campus and town enjoyed the excitement.
FOOTBALL TIMELINE AT LYON COLLEGE
* 1872 - Arkansas College was founded.
* 1890 - Football first organized at Arkansas College.
* Oct. 1, 1913 - First official intercollegiate football game played by Arkansas College.
* 1922 - Guard J.C. White became the first Arkansas College football player to be named First-Team All-State.
* 1931 - The first night football game played by Arkansas College.
* 1935 - Football was dropped and later reinstated in 1947 after World War II.
* 1951 - Final year of football for Arkansas College.
* 1994 - Arkansas College was renamed Lyon College.
* June 24, 2013 - Re-instatement of football is approved by Lyon College Board of Trustees.
* June 27, 2013 - Lyon President Dr. Donald Weatherman announces the return of football at a Lyon College press conference.
* July 22, 2013 – Kirk Kelley named first football coach at Lyon College since 1951.
* August 20, 2014 – Batesville’s Garett Denton becomes first football player to sign with Lyon College football program.
* August 13, 2014 – 73 football players report for first training camp at Lyon College since 1951.
* August 6, 2015 – 94 players report for training camp as team heads into initial season.
* August 29, 2015 – Lyon to play first football game since 1951 when Scots open a 11-game regular season schedule at home against Tabor College at 1 p.m.