Unsolved, Arkansas

Editor’s note — This is an excerpt from a story originally written for Listverse. Parts of it have been reprinted here with the author’s permission.

The Crawford Disappearance

Maud-Crawford

Maud Crawford, center, with Arkansas Girls State participants.

Arkansas was a hotbed for mob activity in the first half of the 20th century. Al Capone regularly visited the state in the 1920s, spending ample time in Hot Springs betting on horse races at Oaklawn and relaxing in some of the many bathhouses that lined Central Avenue.

Naturally, a state so amiable to mobsters was bound to have a fair amount of shady business deals. That’s where Maud Crawford came in.

A well-known public figure in Camden and a pioneer for women in Arkansas, Crawford worked as a court stenographer before she decided to take the bar exam. Having had no formal legal classes, she aced the exam and eventually became an expert in abstract and title law. At the time of her disappearance, she was even assisting U.S. Sen. John McClellan of Arkansas with a congressional investigation into supposed mob ties with organized labor.

Crawford’s last known whereabouts place her at home. Her husband, Clyde, returned to find her car still in the driveway, the TV on, and money in her purse. Their supposed guard dog wasn’t even fazed. The police began searching for Crawford the next morning, but found few clues for her disappearance. Crawford’s body was never recovered.

In 1986, a series of articles in the Arkansas Gazette by Beth Brickell alleged that Crawford’s disappearance involved then-Arkansas State Police Commissioner Mike Berg. Crawford was looking into a potentially illegal transfer of assets between Berg and some of his family members. Only days before disappearing, she had confronted Berg face-to-face about the issue, Brickell wrote.

Meanwhile, Odis A. Henley, the officer originally assigned to the case, reported to his superiors that evidence he uncovered implicated Berg as Crawford’s killer. This contradicted official statements from the Ouachita County Sheriff’s Office, which said it failed to turn up any clues regarding her disappearance.

Henley’s findings did little to sway the rest of the force, though, and he was reportedly told by his superiors that “there’s too much money involved” before being reassigned. Adding to the intrigue, all of his files on Crawford disappeared after a short trip away from the office.

Legally declared dead by Ouachita County in 1969, Crawford’s death certificate officially lists her demise as the result of “foul play perpetrated by person or persons unknown.”

The Edwards Murder

www.lindaedwards.com

Linda Edwards’ mysterious death has alleged ties to Saline County officials.

Arkansas in the 1970s wasn’t the most hospitable place for an unwed mother of three. So when Linda Edwards got a job as dispatcher for the Garland County Sheriff’s Office, she considered it a godsend — but just six months after joining the force, she vanished.

Rumors began to circulate that the man she had been having an affair with, Sgt. Thurman Abernathy, had gotten her pregnant. The pair had argued over whether or not to keep the baby — she wanted it; he didn’t.

Their spat escalated past verbal exchanges and Abernathy allegedly killed her. Along with their stormy relationship, further implicating Abernathy in Edwards’ murder was testimony from her friend, Mary Patterson, who told police that Edwards was going to meet Abernathy the night she disappeared.

While the missing person’s case dragged on for nearly a year, things took a frightening turn when a hunter stumbled upon Edwards’ partially buried remains in the woods. After exhuming the body, medical examiners reported that she died from blunt-force trauma to her skull. A few months later, Abernathy was formally charged with her murder.

Arguing that most of the evidence against him was hearsay, Abernathy appealed his case. While the appeal wound its way through the courts, the case was passed along to Dan Harmon, the newly appointed prosecutor for Saline County.

Harmon dropped all charges against Abernathy, who had recently been promoted to lieutenant at the sheriff’s office. The decision to indict Abernathy was left to a grand jury, which cited insufficient evidence for its reason against bringing new charges.

Despite an intense statewide investigation, no tangible evidence has ever surfaced linking Abernathy to Edwards’ murder, and the case remains unsolved.

The Train Deaths (aka the Boys on The Tracks, the Mena Murders)

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The murder of Don Henry, left, and Kevin Ives was featured on Unsolved Mysteries in 1988.

Arguably the state’s most notorious cold case, the mysterious deaths of Don Henry and Kevin Ives still haunt Central Arkansas.

The mangled bodies of Henry and Ives were discovered near dawn on Aug. 23, 1987 on a set of railroad tracks in Bryant, a suburb just south of Little Rock.

The train’s engineer saw the boys’ bodies from a distance, but didn’t have enough time to bring the train to a complete stop. He told police they were laying motionless on the tracks, parallel to one another with their arms straight down at their sides, their bodies partially covered by a green tarp.

The initial investigation was swift.

Fahmy Malak, the state medical examiner, ruled Henry and Ives’ deaths accidental. Malak declared that the boys were under the influence of marijuana and tragically had passed out on the tracks. However, the boys’ parents didn’t agree with that conclusion — they were certain their sons died of foul play.

After fighting to get the case reopened, they finally succeed in early 1988. One of the families’ first goals was to get their sons’  bodies exhumed. Their findings where chilling.

Dr. Joseph Burton, an out of state forensic pathologist, examined the remains and concluded both boys had suffered injuries prior to being crushed by the train. Henry’s shirt was in tatters, with lacerations all over his body indicative of stabbing. Ives, meanwhile, had blunt force trauma to his skull. Burton concluded the boys were likely unconscious or dead before being run over by the train. The reported green tarp was never seen again.

The case got stranger. Witnesses came forward with testimony that they’d seen police officers beating Henry and Ives unconscious before tossing them in the back of a truck and speeding off. Others reported seeing a man in military fatigues loitering near the section of tracks where the bodies were discovered. Meanwhile, alleged witnesses with potential information about the murder died in droves.

Speculation about the case was rampant, with many in Bryant wondering if the boys had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some thought the boys had seen a “drug drop” that was connected to alleged cocaine smuggling via the Mena Airport.

Others insisted that the boys saw a Bryant official — that Dan Harmon fellow we mentioned earlier, to be exact — partaking in a drug deal, and Kevin and Don were simply victims of being potential witnesses that could jeopardize Harmon’s career.

Harmon, who previously had been investigated for drug trafficking, was later arrested on charges for running a drug ring, selling primarily cocaine, from his law office.

The parents did receive some closure for their efforts. A grand jury reversed its original verdict of “probable homicide” to “definite homicide” due to more contradictory evidence.

Arkansans haven’t forgotten the boys on the tracks. Residents honored their memory with a memorial last spring. But after 25 years, it appears that the case will forever remain unsolved.

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Are Black People More Homophobic Than White People?

Good friend Sidney Fussell’s op-ed on the burden of race when it comes to views on homosexuality. A must read.

Sidney Fussell

Are Black People More Homophobic Than White People?

My article for The Feminist Wire asking the titular question. For starters: STAGGERINGLY GRATEFUL to have been accepted by The Feminist Wire and their amazing editorial staff. Second, I finally got something published that’s not about videogames!

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The Top 10 Arkansas-LSU Football Games

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Bleacher Report’s article ranking the top 10 best games of the Arkansas-LSU rivalry barely scratched the surface. To be fair, though, BR was only recounting games in the Battle for the Golden Boot era, a “tradition” that began in 1996.

The rivalry actually dates back to the early 1900s. The Hogs and Tigers first squared off in 1901, when LSU thumped Arkansas 15-0. Despite the underwhelming contest, it ignited an annual battle that spanned the next three decades.

Below are Enter the Razorback’s top 10 most memorable games between the neighboring states:

10. Establishing the Golden Boot — LSU 17, Arkansas 7

The Associated Press

Kevin Faulk, left, rushed for over 4,000 yards and scored 46 touchdowns during his four years at LSU.

By the mid-90s, Arkansas was slowly finding its niche in the SEC. The Hogs were fresh off of their first SEC Championship Game appearance in ’95 and seemed primed to become a formidable program in the conference.

Beating the Tigers in the inaugural Battle of the Golden Boot would have been a great way to build the momentum. But LSU had other plans.

Since joining the SEC, the Hogs were 2-2 against the Tigers. LSU was suddenly in the unfamiliar position of being the underdog in a conference rivalry. Adding to its woes, the Hogs were winning handily at Tiger Stadium. And since the decades old rivalry finally had some hardware to legitimize it, the Tigers were ready to add it to their trophy case.

Behind Kevin Faulk’s 138 yards, LSU overcame four turnovers to down the Hogs at War Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers opened the game with a dominating first quarter, outscoring the Hogs 14-0. Neither team managed a score in the second period, but LSU added to its sizable lead on a field goal late in the third quarter to take a commanding 17-0 lead.

Despite intercepting LSU’s Herb Tyler twice and recovering two fumbles, Arkansas’ offense never managed to convert the turnovers into points. The Hogs lone touchdown came late in the third quarter when running back Chrys Chukwuma slipped into the end zone from three yards out.

9. Tigers hold off Hogs — LSU 17, Arkansas 15


Hogs fans are still kicking Chris Balseiro for this one.

Wrapping up what would be another dismal 4-7 season under Houston Nutt, Arkansas entered its annual matchup with LSU in 2005 on a surprising two-game win streak. The Tigers, meanwhile, were ranked No. 3 in the country and gunning for their third SEC West title in five years.

LSU was a heavy favorite. And the Tigers probably thought they could win easily even if they left their second string in. But that’s where you’ve got to give Nutt some credit as a coach — he was an excellent motivator. And that “rah-rah” attitude was exemplified by the ’05 Battle for the Golden Boot.

Trailing 19-3 late in the third quarter, Arkansas rallied to pull within 19-17 at the start of the fourth period. Running back Darren McFadden carried the offensive burden, scoring the team’s only touchdown. But two missed field goals from Balseiro — one from 28 yards — doomed the Hogs.

8. Undefeated in The Rock no longer — LSU 55, Arkansas 24


Nick Saban says he doesn’t like to run up the score. But Hog fans know better.

Back-to-back 52-point thrashings will make you doubt his philosophy.

After the inception of the Golden Boot in 1996, the trophy changed hands on almost a yearly basis. And the Hogs could usually count on a win in Little Rock. During Nutt’s tenure, the Razorbacks rarely lost in the capital city, and they were perfect against LSU in War Memorial Stadium between 1997-2002.

That streak came to an abrupt end in 2003.

No. 3 LSU steamrolled Arkansas 55-24 en route to winning a national championship. The 32-point thrashing was the largest disparity since the 1929 contest. It was also the Tigers’ second largest margin of victory in the series.

The Razorbacks managed to keep it close in the early going, with the first quarter ending in a 10-10 tie. But in the second quarter, LSU exploded for 24 points to take a commanding 34-10 lead. The Tigers continued the offensive onslaught in the second half, scoring three more touchdowns. LSU’s resounding win also started a streak of four straight victories over the Hogs.

7. LSU survives in overtime — LSU 33, Arkansas 30


For the briefest of moments in November 2009, Razorback fans could finally say that the Battle for the Golden Boot meant as much to LSU as it did to Arkansas.

With Hogs kicker Alex Tejada lining up for a potential game-tying field goal in overtime, LSU’s players linked arms on the sidelines. They huddled together, some watching the game while others had their head down. A similiar situation was unfolding on the Hogs’ sideline.

It was a defining moment in the rivalry.

Prior to Tejada’s theatrics, LSU safety Chad Jones leveled Arkansas receiver Joe Adams with a bone-jarring hit. The frightening collision stopped play for nearly 10 minutes while CBS treated viewers to an array of replays. As brutal as the hit was on Adams, it was Jones who took the brunt of the blow, knocking himself out of the game. The penalty gave the Hogs a second shot at the end zone, too, and they responded with a touchdown to take a 30-27 lead.

However, the Tigers stormed back to tie the game on a long field goal with four seconds left in regulation. Holding LSU to a field goal on its first possession in overtime, the Hogs only needed a chip shot of their own to force a second overtime. But Tejada’s kick was wide, and the Razorback faithful were crushed.

The ’09 match-up was especially noteworthy as a barometer for how competitive the series had become. It was the fifth game in five years that the outcome was decided by five or less points.

6. The Miracle on Markham — Arkansas 21, LSU 20


After Arkansas departed the Southwest Conference for the SEC in 1992, the Little Rock games lost some of their luster. For more than 50 years, War Memorial Stadium was the pivotal site for many of the Hogs’ biggest games. But by 2000, the stadium hadn’t hosted a meaningful game in nearly two decades.

That all changed when LSU came to town in 2002.

The winner of that year’s Battle for the Golden Boot would clinch the SEC West Division, automatically earning a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

For the first half, though, Arkansas played like it didn’t want to make the trip to Atlanta. No. 18 LSU dominated from the outset, shutting out the Hogs in the first half and taking a 17-7 lead into the third quarter.

Arkansas running back Fred Talley helped sway the momentum with a 56-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, cutting LSU’s lead to 17-14. However, the Tigers responded with a field goal to go up 20-17.

With time ticking away, Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones put together his best drive of the game. Jones hit Richard Smith for a 50-yard gain, then bought some time in the pocket before threading a pass through LSU’s secondary to find Decori Birmingham in the back of the end zone. The Hogs converted the extra point to pull ahead 21-20, and held LSU on defense to secure the miracle victory.

Incredibly, Jones’ final two passes — which covered a total of 81 yards and culminated in a touchdown — where only his third and fourth completions of the game.

5. Battle of top 5 teams — LSU 31, Arkansas 26


After more than seven decades of football, the LSU-Arkansas game finally got its first top 10 matchup in 2006.

No. 5 Arkansas entered the afternoon on a 10-game win streak, and the Razorbacks were guaranteed a spot in the SEC Championship Game regardless of the outcome. The Tigers, ranked ninth, were looking for to release some pent-up frustration after critical losses had derailed the their hopes for a national championship run.

The 2006 Battle for the Golden Boot was an exciting contest, punctuated by big plays from both teams. Once again, McFadden was the highlight for Arkansas, scoring on an 80-yard touchdown run that went right through the heart of LSU’s defense.

While McFadden’s touchdown pulled the Hogs to within 24-19 in the fourth quarter, Trindon Holliday responded with a breathtaking 92-yard kickoff return to put LSU up 31-19. The Hogs added a late score to cut the deficit to five, but simply ran out of time.

4. Gridlocked in Dallas — Arkansas 0, LSU 0

www.goldenrankings.com

Snow and ice didn’t keep fans in Dallas from missing the 1947 Cotton Bowl.

The first postseason matchup between the longtime rivals, the 1947 Cotton Bowl was marred by a freak ice storm that paralyzed Dallas the week of the game. Despite hazardous conditions, nearly 40,000 fans still showed up to watch two top 10 teams slug it out.

The No. 9 Tigers entered the game with a sterling record of 9-1. Their only loss was against SEC rival Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, No. 10 Arkansas limped in at 6-3-1, with inexplicable losses to Tulsa and Ole Miss. But the Hogs had rebounded late in the year with back-to-back wins over SWC foes Texas A&M and No. 5 Rice to salvage the season.

LSU dominated (stastically) for most of the afternoon. Led by future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle, the Tigers out-gained the Hogs 271-54 in total yardage and accumulated 14 more first downs than Arkansas. But poor field conditions coupled with a stout Razorback defense — which had shut out four opponents during the regular season — thwarted several Tigers drives that reached the red zone.

Battling to a 0-0 standstill through nearly four quarters, the Tigers found themselves in possession of the ball with just a handful of minutes remaining in the game.  Desperate for a score, Tittle flung a long pass to receiver Jeff Adams, who broke free near midfield and looked destined for the end zone. But Arkansas’ Clyde Scott tackled Adams near goal line with just a handful of seconds left in the game.

Now in field goal range, the Tigers decided to send out their kicking unit. But true to form, Arkansas’ defense rose to the occasion, blocking the kick as time expired to preserve the tie.

3. The Miracle on Markham II — Arkansas 31, LSU 30


No quarterback in Arkansas’ history overcame more adversity than Casey Dick.

Recruited by Nutt, Dick was benched early in his sophomore season in favor of Arkansas Golden Boy Mitch Mustain.

Forced to watch from the sidelines while Mustain guided the Hogs to a 7-1 start – largely thanks to Arkansas’ three-headed rushing attack – Dick was slowly becoming an afterthought to most fans. But as Mustain failed to progress, and the relationship between Nutt and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn deteriorated, Dick re-gained his starting role.

Rebounding in 2008 with career numbers, Dick concluded his Razorback career in story-book fashion with a memorable win over LSU. In the fourth quarter, he led the Hogs on a drive for the ages, capping his embattled career with a fourth-and-1 pass to London Crawford to tie the game. Tejada booted in the extra point to give the Hogs the one-point lead and Arkansas held on for the upset.

To date, Dick is the only Arkansas quarterback to win consecutive Golden Boot trophies.

2. Mammoth upset — LSU 14, Arkansas 7

www.mmbolding.com

The official program for the 1966 Cotton Bowl cost a mere $1 on game day. Today, copies easily sell for upwards of $100.

Never give your opponents “bulletin board material.” The Hogs found that out the hard way in 1966.

Winners of 22 straight and riding the nation’s longest winning streak, No. 2 Arkansas entered the 1966 Cotton Bowl hoping to secure its second consecutive national championship with a win over LSU.

The Razorbacks drew first blood, when quarterback John Brittenum completed a pass to Bobby Crockett for a 19-yard touchdown to put Arkansas up 7-0 in the opening quarter. It was the only score of the period.

LSU responded with an 80-yard drive, punctuated by running back Joe Labruzzo’s 1-yard touchdown run. On the Hogs’ next possession, Brittenum went out with an injury and was replaced by Ronny South, who was primarily used for kicking situations. Unprepared for the Tigers swarming defense, South fumbled on his first snap. LSU recovered the ball in Arkansas territory and converted the turnover into points just a few plays later when Labruzzo barreled in for this second score of the day to put LSU up 14-7.

Brittenum returned for Arkansas in the second half, but the Hogs never found any rhythm on offense. Luckily, the Razorback defense was immaculate in the third quarter. The Hogs kept LSU from gaining even one first down.

Arkansas put together two long drives in the final minutes. But Brittenum was intercepted in LSU territory and the turnover all but sealed the Hogs’ fate. With the upset, LSU jumped from the depths of the unranked all the way to No. 8. The Tigers’ victory inadvertently vaulted No. 4 Alabama to the national title. The Crimson Tide were the next highest-ranked team that won their bowl game.

1. Triple overtime thriller — Arkansas 50, LSU 48


Arkansas’ 2007 season was underwhelming at best. And that’s describing it kindly.

Fans were convinced that year’s team would break through and finally win the SEC Championship. But inexcusable losses to Alabama and Kentucky quickly squashed that dream.

Late in the season, though, the Hogs offense finally started clicking. McFadden re-emerged as a Heisman contender. Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis seemed unstoppable. And, maybe most importantly, Dick was playing better than ever. Heading into the LSU game, the Razorbacks were rolling averaging nearly 35 points per game.

Still, the Arkansas faithful knew that beating the top-ranked Tigers in Baton Rouge wouldn’t be easy.

But the Razorbacks got a Herculean effort from McFadden, who rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another, as he finished with a game-high 206 rushing yards to pace the Hogs in the stunner.

Despite losing for the second time that season, the Tigers were voted into the national championship game, where they beat No. 1 Ohio State 38-24.

Blown Coverage: Pony Excess Whiffs On Arkansas-SMU Game

University of Arkansas Archives

If you missed ESPN’s 30 for 30 special chronicling the rise and fall of Southern Methodist’s football program, then you’re in luck. It’s now available for streaming on Netflix.

One of the series’ more riveting documentaries, Pony Excess focuses on SMU’s sudden resurgence as a national power in the 1970s and 80s, while also probing the program’s shady recruiting tactics. The film pays special attention to the Mustangs 1982 team, which finished 11-0-1 and claimed a piece of the national championship, albeit at a hefty price.

While the filmmakers did a terrific job of weaving a complex tale of corruption into a gripping film, their coverage of the Arkansas-SMU game, a polarizing match-up for both fan bases, was severely lacking. The Hogs were one of only two ranked teams the Mustangs faced in the regular season, and the game matched the conference’s best two teams. A controversial call essentially decided the outcome, forcing the NCAA to change a its pass interference rules. And the outcome effectively set in motion the collapse of the Southwest Conference.

So how could they have devoted so little time to it?

BACKGROUND

www.bleacherreport.com

Craig James (32) and Eric Dickerson (19) guided SMU to a 34-11-1 record between 1979 and 1982.

The Mustangs entered the 1982 season as defending Southwest Conference champions. They returned a wealth of talent, too, anchored on offense by two of the nation’s best running backs: Craig James and Eric Dickerson. Meanwhile, Wes Hopkins and Gary Moten headlined a defense that allowed a paltry 11.6 points per game. The SWC was theirs to lose.

Also, understand that back then, winning the SWC was comparable to winning the SEC. The SWC was stacked top to bottom with established programs that played physical, defensive-minded football. Thanks to tie-ins with all the major bowls of the era, if a team made it through the SWC unscathed, they’d likely be playing for a shot at the national title.

As luck would have it, the conference was “down” in ’82. All the Mustangs really had to worry about in terms of adequate competition was Texas and Arkansas. None of the other six SWC teams even finished with winning records.

SMU easily dispatched Texas early in the season, thumping the No. 19 Longhorns in Austin, 30-17. Pony Excess gave that game ample coverage, portraying the Mustangs in an underdog role, as if SMU beating Texas finally meant their program needed to be taken seriously.

The Mustangs followed a win over Texas with blowouts against Texas A&M and Rice, beating the Aggies and Owls by a combined 88-23. Undefeated (9-0) and ranked No. 2 in the country, SMU was scheduled to face a mediocre Texas Tech squad in Lubbock, where the Mustangs hadn’t won since 1968. This had “trap game” written all over it.

Battling to a 24-24 standstill, the Red Raiders appeared to have spoiled SMU’s national title hopes when they tied the game with just 17 seconds left to play. But on the ensuing kickoff, SMU’s Bobby Leach took a lateral from Blaine Smith and sprinted 91 yards for the game winning touchdown.


The miraculous win set up a mammoth showdown between No. 2 SMU (10-0) and No. 9 Arkansas (8-1). The Mustangs could clinch the SWC with a victory.

THE GAME

University of Arkansas Archives

Arkansas’ Billy Ray Smith, Jr. (87) was a consensus All-American defensive end in 1982.

Arkansas was still seething from its loss to SMU in 1981. Adding to the Hogs’ woes, they were were also just two weeks removed from an inexplicable loss to an inferior Baylor squad.

Needless to say, the Razorbacks were fired up heading into Dallas that weekend.

Playing inside a rowdy Texas Stadium, Arkansas scored first, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 3-yard run from running back Gary Anderson. Following an SMU turnover, Arkansas had a chance to go up 10-0, but the Mustangs blocked the Hogs field goal attempt.

Riding the momentum, Dickerson scored on a 6-yard run a few plays later to tie the game. Neither team scored again before halftime.

In the third quarter, the Mustangs took a 10-7 lead on Jeff Harrell’s 49-yard field goal. But the Hogs countered with a field goal of their own, as Martin Smith booted in three points from 27 yards out.

Midway through the fourth quarter, still tied at 10, Arkansas put together its best drive of the afternoon. The Hogs marched 77 yards to SMU’s goal line, where Anderson punched it in to give Arkansas a commanding 17-10 lead with just six minutes left in regulation.

The Mustangs regained possession of the ball deep in their own territory. After struggling to gain positive yardage on its first two plays, SMU faced a third-and-long with just over four minutes remaining. Knowing he was short on time, quarterback Lance McIlhenny dropped back and hurled a prayer downfield to receiver Jackie Wilson.


It still hurts to watch.

Nathan Jones, Arkansas’ sophomore defensive back, was actually a few steps ahead of Wilson on the play. Realizing the ball was overthrown (you can actually see it sail past both players at the :40 mark), Jones started to slow down. Wilson, watching the ball, unwittingly ran into Jones, trampling and pulling him to the ground.

Referee Horton Nsersta whistled Jones for the infraction, handing the Mustangs a 40-yard gain. Pass interference was a “spot foul” back in ‘82. Meaning, whichever team benefited from the infraction gained all the yardage accumulated between the line of scrimmage and the location of the penalty.

So instead of SMU being backed up even further on fourth down, the Mustangs were in Arkansas’ red zone with a fresh set of downs.

The rest of the game is sordid history – to Hog fans at least.

SMU scored a few plays later on McIlhenny’s scramble, held Arkansas on defense, and missed a kick in the final seconds to preserve the tie. The 17-17 stalemate clinched the SWC Championship for SMU and secured the Mustangs Cotton Bowl berth.

THE AFTERMATH

Arkansas' Gary Anderson (43) rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns to win MVP honors at the 1982 Blue Bonnet Bowl.

Arkansas’ Gary Anderson (43) rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns to win MVP honors at the 1982 Blue Bonnet Bowl.

Like most soul-crushing defeats in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks followed their game against SMU with another letdown. No. 12 Texas thrashed the Hogs, 33-7, in Austin the following Saturday, and Arkansas fell out of the top 10. The Razorbacks limped to a third-place finish in the SWC.

SMU, meanwhile, had completed its conference schedule by beating Arkansas. The Mustangs went on to upend Dan Marino and the No. 6 Pittsburgh Panthers in the Cotton Bowl in a track meet, 7-3. The bowl victory secured a final No. 2 ranking  for the Mustangs, and the Helms Athletic Foundation awarded them its vote for national champions. An 11-1 Penn State team, widely recognized as the “true” champion of 1982, was awarded the No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press, United Press International and the Football Writers Association of America.

Arkansas found success in the postseason as well. The Hogs knocked off Florida in the Bluebonnet Bowl, 28-24, with Anderson earning MVP honors. To date, it’s the team’s only victory over Florida. The Razorbacks finished the season ranked ninth in the AP poll and No. 8 in the UPI.

In the mid-80s, the NCAA amended its pass interference rules, changing it from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty. It was the second time since 1964 that Arkansas’ misfortune had been the catalyst for a major rule change.

So then why, after more than 30 years, is Enter the Razorback so torqued up about this game?

Because Pony Excess did a disservice in not adequately covering it. The Hogs were the only top 10 opponent the Mustangs faced in the regular season — how could such an important match-up get such little screen time?

Pony Excess is 102 minutes long, and here’s all the coverage it gave Arkansas-SMU:

“In 1982, the Mustangs dominated the college football landscape. But in the last game of the regular season, new coach Bobby Collins settled for a tie against Arkansas, putting a blemish on an otherwise perfect record.”

That narration was read over about 15 seconds of game footage.

We’re nearly two decades removed from the collapse of the SWC, but one fact still remains when it comes to discussing the Hogs: Arkansas isn’t Texas.

That’s how it went for the Razorbacks for the almost eight decades they spent in the SWC. Arkansas was the only non-Texas school in the conference, and despite being perennial contenders in the three major sports (football, basketball, baseball), the Razorbacks were always considered the stepchild of the SWC.

Glossing over the SMU-Arkansas exemplifies the attitudes and bias held toward the Texas schools in the SWC. Don’t believe us? Here’s what some of the former players said about the tie:

“That team was unstoppable,” said Doug Hollie, SMU’s defensive end. “No one could beat us, and we settled for a tie – that was a slap in the face.”

www.thompsonian.info

Pictured above are members of the SWC from 1956-1975. Houston joined the conference in all sports in 1976.

Dickerson issued similar frustrations:

“I feel like they [the pollsters] really screwed us out of a national championship more than anything. I still believe we were the best team in the country. For sure.”

Arkansas, the tie, the historical context of the SWC, and the game’s ultimate ramifications, were little more than an afterthought in Pony Excess.

The irony is lost on these Hollie and Dickerson. How Hollie thinks the Mustangs were unstoppable, considering that the Razorbacks shut down Pony Express that day in Dallas — and were leading before officials gift-wrapped a 40-yard gain for the Mustangs — remains a mystery to us.

But Dickerson’s gall is the most troubling. How can he fail to see the similarities between the two teams? The Razorbacks’ season was derailed by forces beyond its control, too. But the only mention Arkansas gets from him is when he accused the Hogs of sharing SMU’s slimy recruiting tactics.

After more than 75 years of being overlooked, Arkansas saw the writing on the wall. Razorback administrators were sick of getting the shaft from Texas, sick of SWC officials, and sick of the salacious recruiting. Athletic Director Frank Broyles was  ready to move on. So in 1992, the Hogs bolted for the SEC. It was the beginning of the end for the SWC.

SMU, meanwhile, had its football program dismantled by the NCAA. The ensuing fallout from the pay-for-play scandal, combined with a dwindling lack of competition sans Arkansas, eventually dissolved the entire conference. The SWC officially disbanded in the summer of 1996, after the conclusion of the college baseball season. Founded in 1914, the Southwest Conference of college football’s most prestigious leagues, was dead.

The Mustangs and Hogs will be forever linked by their tie in 1982. If SMU hadn’t beaten Arkansas, the Mustangs likely wouldn’t have won the SWC. That means no Cotton Bowl appearance. And without that, they don’t finish ranked in the top three.

Maybe Arkansas rides that momentum and beats Texas. Then the Hogs have a shot at the Cotton Bowl. Maybe they don’t leave the SWC, adding stability to the conference. Maybe the SWC doesn’t collapse.

We’ll never know what could’ve happened, but at least the complete story is out there. It was about time.