Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame to Induct 1970 A-State Football Team
JONESBORO – The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (ASHOF) will induct the 1970 undefeated, untied National College Division Champion football team of Arkansas State University, Friday, Sept. 18, at Centennial Hall in the Carl R. Reng Student Union on the A-State campus.
1970 Arkansas State University College Division National Champions
Tickets for the Centennial Bank-sponsored event are $100 each or $800 for a table for 10 and may be purchased from Nelson Catalina by calling (870) 933-1333 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dinner and the ceremony get underway at 6:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
This marks only the third time the ASHOF has inducted an entire group into the Hall of Fame. Previously, the 1964 national champion University of Arkansas football team and the 1994 national champion Razorback men’s basketball team joined the inductee list.
“We are extremely proud to bring the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet to Jonesboro and Arkansas State University,” said Nelson Catalina, a member of the ASHOF Board of Directors. “It is also a privilege to honor the 1970 football team from Arkansas State by inducting the entire team. Collectively, this group achieved something that should not be forgotten. The induction of these players and coaching staff will solidify their status in Arkansas sports history.”
The perfect 11-0-0 season was selected by the Associated Press as the top college division football team in the nation in its final poll by writers and broadcasters. This No. 1 ranking was symbolic of the national championship, the first in Arkansas State history. A No. 1 ranking by United Press International’s poll of coaches gave credence to and added prestige to the national ranking.
Bennie Ellender, a four-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year, was the head coach for the “Indians,” as they were known then. He took his teams to three straight Southland Conference championships and earned three straight post-season bowl bids, including a televised 38-21 Pecan Bowl victory over Central Missouri in 1970. He became the winningest coach in Arkansas State football history at that time and was named NCAA Region 7 Coach of the Year for three consecutive years.
There were more All-Americans during Ellender’s tenure than in all the other years of Arkansas State football combined, including Wayne Dorton, Calvin Harrell (twice), Dennis Meyer and Bill Phillips.
That spring, six players were drafted by teams in the National and Canadian Football Leagues, including Bill Phillips, Denver Broncos (third round); Calvin Harrell, Miami Dolphins (fifth round); Dennis Meyer, Pittsburgh Steelers (sixth round); Wayne Dorton, New Orleans Saints (sixth round); Steve Lockhart, New Orleans Saints (12th round); and James Hamilton, Cincinnati Bengals (13th round).
Arkansas State football players crowded the All-Southland Conference lists during their day, with 22 making the first team and honorable mention. Lockhart, Phillips, Harrell, Chet Douthit, Bobby Gentry, Dave Muckensturm, Gary Cleve and Meyer were first-teamers, while the honorable mention list included Hamilton, Johnny Carr, Tom Johnson, Steve Goddard, Dave Ruebsam, Dorton, Tom Flanagan, Rick Bone, Cleve Barfield, Chris Millwee, Walt Fisher, Donnie Beshears, Terry Whiting and Craig Johnson.
A-State fans voted for an all-time Arkansas State team with Harrell, Hamilton, Lockhart, Dorton, Phillips and Meyer easily making the cut. Meyer was twice named the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Phillips, Meyer, Harrell and Dorton were chosen as members of the Southland Conference All-First Decade Team (1964-73). Players excelled in academics as well, as Meyer received the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in 1971.
In November 2014, to help celebrate 100 years of A-State football, a special committee selected a centennial team of the top 100 players in school history. Eight on that list played on the 1970 team, including Dorton, Meyer, Hamilton, Phillips, Harrell, James Simmons, Doug Lowery and Whiting.
The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame was started in 1958 to establish a sports hall of fame to honor and preserve the history of individuals who, through outstanding achievement, accomplishments, and contributions in both amateur and professional sports, have brought honor, prestige and fame to the state of Arkansas. A secondary purpose of the ASHOF is to encourage and promote higher education through the funding of scholarships to deserving students, whose lives have been positively impacted by sports.
Criteria to select honorees are based on athletic accomplishment, character and leadership, national significance of honoree, conduct during years following active participation in athletics, prestige to the Hall of Fame, representation of women, balance between old-timers and present generation, national publicity, honor and credit brought to the home state and representation of all sports over the years.
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