Thanks for the memories CES. You were a blessing to the UA, the basketball program and to the State of Arkansas.
Like a lot of us old folks, the loss of CES brings back a lot of cherished memories. Today’s players weren’t even born yet to enjoy CES’ UA reign. AD Frank Broyles selection of CES was monumental for UA basketball, UA athletics and Arkansas self-confidence and pride.
Before CES, Arkansas basketball was sometimes competitive but never a fixture on the national stage. And then came CES, the Triplets, the Final Four and CES’s 120-8 home court record at Barnhill Arena. Just take a few moments to allow that to sink in. 120 wins and only eight losses. And he lost his first two of three games at Barnhill!
CES laid the foundation of UA basketball. I was very blessed to attend and graduate from the UA (Fall 1977- Spring 1981) during the high water mark of UA sports. Lou Holtz, Eddie Sutton, Norm Debriyn, Sam Freas (swimming), Ron Pucci (tennis) and John McDonnell. All led by our AD Frank Broyles. I feel sorry for today’s UA students. Back in the day the Hogs were routinely in the Top 10 in all of the major sports. But back to CES.
A few of my favorite (and I have a ton of them!) CES basketball memories (which I can print!):
First season, 1974-1975. Guards Rickey Medlock and Robert Birden shot over 90% from the FT line. Their shooting skill was paramount to closing out nail biting wins while CES was trying to gain traction at the UA.
CES enlisted about two dozen football players to cheer right behind the opponents team bench to assist with home court advantage.
Second season. The game which put CES and Arkansas basketball on the national stage for the first time. A 92-47 rout of the Houston Cougars at Barnhill Arena. That one win unified the state of Arkansas’ belief in CES and UA basketball than any other.
1976-1977. Hogs go 16-0 in SWC and 26-2 overall. What a ride!!!
1977-1978. My freshman year on campus. Hogs to the Final Four at St. Louis with a 32-4 record. Was fortunate to attend the Final Four and see Ron Brewer’s winning shot against Notre Dame. I don’t think CES and the Hogs get the credit they deserve in beating Notre Dame. The fighting Irish had EIGHT future NBA players on that squad including Bill Lamibeer. Funny story about Lamibeer. We were standing in line together at the concession stand after Notre Dame lost to Duke. He was trash talking the Hogs which I was not going to tolerate. He tried to be the big bully and I refused to be intimidated or back down to him. His college arrogance would go with him to the Detroit Pistons. It was a very rowdy scene. A lot of fans got involved. Pushing, shoving, popcorn and beer flying.
Jim Robken leading the Hog wild band! Playing the Superman theme (Sidney Moncrief) and the William Tell Overture. Now that was some excitment!
Camping out a week for student season tickets outside of Barnhill Arena. Student population back then was about 13,000 and about a thousand of us were taking 12-hour shifts for basketball season tickets! Associate AD Lon Farrell visiting with the students, commenting to us that the renovation of Barnhill was too small. Wish he had gone bigger.
Thank-you CES. We all have our personal demons. None of us are perfect. But you were able to rise above them and bless us all with a basketball program we can be proud of. And incidentally, of all of the colleges you coached at, you enjoyed your best winning percentage as a Razorback! May the good Lord bless you and accept you home. You did good Eddie.
76-77 wasn’t that hard to get tickets, now, starting in 77-78, it was a different story. Yep, my sophomore year I was in Miami for the Orange Bowl, and St. Louis for the Final Fout. Can you imagine buying those tickets as a fan, now?
At one point didn’t Medlock hit 91 FTs in a row? Something outrageous like that. Didn’t the football players behind the bench call themselves “The Madhatters”? I was a Freshman there in 74-75 so I began at the same time as Eddie, great times!
When I first started following the basketball Hogs (77-78 season) the idea of going to a game in Fayetteville (from North East Arkansas) wasn’t even considered. Heck, we didn’t even go to football games in Fayetteville until a year or two later, we had season tickets in Little Rock, but not Fayetteville.
Anyway, the idea of going to a game in Barnhill was kind of a holy grail for me. I went to all the Little Rock games staring in 1981 when I started at Hendrix. Attended THE game in Pine Bluff in 1984. I never got to attend a game in Barnhill while Eddie was coach. I finally got to go to a game in Barnhill in Nolan’s first year.
We can thank Eddie for the fact that tickets became hard to get.
I will never forget the year I lived in Jefferson City, Missouri. Most of the people I worked with were Missouri fans. It was suggested we all get together and go to a Missouri game. I think it was against either Iowa State or Kansas State. I was like, “great idea, but how in the world are we going to get tickets?” He looked at me funny and said, “just walk up to the box office and buy them.” The idea that you could buy tickets from the box office on game day was just shocking to me.
Thank you Coach Sutton for making basketball so special at Arkansas.
I had just got my MS and moved to Searcy for my new job, but still had season Basketball tickets as I felt like after that first year, big things were coming (I feel that way now by the way). That year I remember somebody put a row of tombstones on top at the east end that said, SWC Grave Yard. It hit me then that we did not lose at home at all. I still did not think about the NCAA until one night a friend who had taken a job at OSU called and started talking about seeding in the tourney. Then it really hit. Wow, this is going to get really big and it did.
Was fortunate as a UofA student to experience Sutton coached basketball games at Barnhill which were some of my best memories of college. If not for his personal demons, who knows how much longer CES would have coached at UofA.
As a teenager in Houston, there were endless write-ups & praises in the local press about Arkansas basketball, Sutton’s reputation as a coach & positive mentor to his players, & the wild frenzy of Barnhill per being the most difficult & loudest arena for competing teams to play. Walton can be loud but nothing compared to “Barnhell” Arena.
With Sutton as our head coach, UofA dominated the SWC on & off the court & competed nationally. RIP CES!
Freshman year you had to get tickets at the Union on day of game.
The night before the rematch game against Texas (they had beaten us in Austin) students camped out at the union in a snow shower. I managed to sneak in the building twice to get in line early, but got thrown out by DPS both times. Then a maintenance guy let me in at the back just before they opened the doors in front. I raced up the stairs just ahead of the throng to be at the head of the line to get my tickets.
Of course we won and Sidney was on the cover of SI the next week.
I was one of those, first in line against the door for the Texas game. Our pictures were in the Traveler, as luck would have it, they opened the bottom floor first, and we were way back in line for tickets. Luckily, one of my fraternity brothers was from the same home town as one of the managers and we bought center court, front row tickets from him for $20/each. These were the player’s tickets, so I started early violating NCAA reps, lol.
I was in that Texas game ticket line at the Union, and somehow got let in the side door as well. We spent a lot of time waiting in line for tickets each game, and also waiting in line again before the game since tickets were GA. There was always a mad scramble when the doors to Barnhill opened. And the noise factor in that building gave the hogs such an advantage.
Many of my Houston classmates, who went to ut, were livid after that loss to the Hogs. Thru the Sutton years texas could not stand being a perennial SWC runner-up team to Arkansas. I had to remind my arrogant longhorns friends that “they should be accustomed to & expect a loss when playing Arkansas”.
I too camped out in the snow for tickets with fraternity brothers.
My EOE-A memory takes me to the 1981 season. UT won 62-60 at Fayetteville. My friends and I decided to cheer ourselves up with Godfather pizza after the game. And guess who walks in after us? The darn Longhorns BB team! They sit next to us and started to talk trash. It got pretty heated until Coach Abe Lemons asked them about the Jim Bowie knife. He kindly informed his players it was made by an Arkansan blacksmith and it might be wise to be more respectful if they hope to get home safely. It quickly became more civil.
I spoke to Jim Robken this week for a feature that I’ll have later today about Sutton’s years at Barnhill.
He told me a story that I had never heard. Robken said when the Hogwild Band would go on the road to tournaments, he would scout where the team would exit the arena and have the band waiting to congratulate the players on their way to the bus.
After U.S. Reed hit the shot to beat Louisville in Austin in 1981, Robken took the band to the loading dock to wait on the team. As they were waiting, Abe Lemons came out the back door and the band members went crazy. They liked Abe because he would interact with them during his trips to Barnhill.
“They were like, ‘Abe! Abe! How are you?’” Robken said. “He was like, ‘I’ve seen that shot before.’ One of the kids just was needling him and was just, ‘Come on, call the Hogs with us, Abe.’ And he did. It was the greatest moment. He called the Hogs with us, the head coach of Texas.”