Booster Clubs, World War Programs, Memorable Dates
These stories originally appeared in "The Daily Advertiser's History of Acadiana by Jim Bradshaw: Beginning Traditions," published May 26, 1998.
Booster Club formed in 1909
The first sports booster club at USL was the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute Athletic Institution. It was formed in 1909 by the students and faculty “to promote enthusiasm among the students and to unite the different branches of athletics in which the Institute participates."
The S Club was organized on May 28, 1922, “to help the cause of Athletics at the old school and to keep the old ‘gang' together."
In 1927, the Southwestern Side-Lines Club was organized by supporters of the athletic teams. W.B. Vennard, first chairman of the club, said its purpose was to act as a “go-between" between the public and SLI's athletic activities.
The Red Jacket Club, a women's organization to support the athletic programs, was formed in 1937. One of its major functions was the sale of season tickets.
A similar organization, the Southwestern Boosters' Club, was organized in 1940. It was supported by the American Legion, Young Men's Business Club, Lions Club, Rotary Club, and the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.
Marines made up one of best teams ever
Marines training under the V-12 program at SLI made up what may well have been the best football team ever to wear the Vermilion and White, certainly one of the best football teams in the nation in 1943. Football was continued at the university that year partly because it would have been terrible to waste the talent gathered together, and partly because it gave some high-spirited Marines something to do.
But most other athletics were discontinued during the war years. Colleges that did not have military training programs did not have the athletes to field teams, causing teams such as SLI and Arkansas A&M to schedule games against teams from army bases, air fields, and other military installations.
The presidents of the state's colleges favored giving up athletics. They were expensive to maintain, and most colleges were worried simply about keeping their doors open while half of their student body went off to war.
The Daily Advertiser of Dec. 17, 1942, reported, “Action on a proposal by presidents of four state colleges advocating discontinuance of intercollegiate athletics at their institutions during the war has been delayed until the January meeting of the State Board of Education.
“Presidents of Southwestern Louisiana Institute at Lafayette, Southeastern at Hammond, Louisiana Normal at Natchitoches, and Louisiana Poly at Ruston favored discontinuance, Joseph E. Gibson, director of higher education of the State Department of Education, said, but the board preferred to wait until January when it would have more information on the attitude of the government on wartime collegiate athletics."
Not only did the war drain athletes from the campus, it took coaches, too.
Johnny Cain, head football coach at SLI, left almost immediately at the beginning of the war to become an instructor in physical fitness at the Naval Pre-Flight School in Athens, Ga.
So, in June 1942, athletic director Robert L. Browne announced that George (Gee) Mitchell, who was then line coach in football and head boxing coach at SLI, would be elevated to head coach “for the duration."
But Uncle Sam apparently had another fate in store for Mitchell, because in August, Browne announced the appointment of Louey Whitman as head football coach “for the duration," “replacing Coach Gee Mitchell, who is now in the army."
• The first rally of the Interscholastic Athletic and Oratorical Association (IA&OA) takes place on the SLII campus. The organization includes SLII and area high schools.
• Students and faculty form the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute Athletic Association, the first booster group.
• A track team is organized.
• SLII begins basketball competition, primarily against area high school teams.
• The first SLII baseball team is organized. SLII loses 13-1 in an exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds. The teams played again in 1915 and SLII lost again.
• SLI drops high school teams from its football schedule. The 1918 lineup includes games against St. Charles College (Grand Coteau), LSU, LSU Reserves, Lousiana College (Pineville), Springhill College (Springhill, Ala.), Jefferson College (Convent), Louisiana Industrial Institute (Ruston), Camp Beauregard (Beauregard Parish), and Louisiana State Normal (Natchitoches).
• May 22 - The “S" Club is organized “to keep the ‘old gang' together."
• The school joins the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Assocation “to obtain wider recognition as a standard college in all respects."
• A study commission criticizes SLII for a “tendency to over-emphasize athletics."
• A drive led by Maurice Heymann generates $37,690 in three hours, to be used to build a stadium at the school.
• Oct. 15 - Dedication ceremonies are held for the new Southwestern Stadium, during the Southwestern-Sam Houston Normal game. The grandstand seats 1,200 persons, and the bleachers hold another 1,500.
• The Southwestern Side-Lines Club is organized as a liaison between campus and community.
• Southwestern drops baseball from its sports roster because of lack of interest and money.
• The First Annual Southwestern Institute Relays Carnival attracts 400 athletes from nine colleges in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, and from 28 Louisiana high schools.
• A boxing team is organized at SLI.
• SLI drops Tulane and LSU from its football schedule.
• The first night football game in Lafayette matches SLI against the Fort Crocket (Texas) Aviators. The field was lit by “giant flood lights, special transformers, and ten poles 65 feet high ... used to suspend the large reflectors to permit perfect visibility from any angle on the sidelines."
• The Red Jacket Club, a women's organization, is formed to help sell season tickets.
• SLI offers its first athletic scholarships. $10,500 is set aside in scholarships to provide tuition fees, books, laundry, and room and board for athletes.
• A football team lead by Glynn Abel goes 6-0, outscoring opponents 94-7. Abel is named to the All-SIAA team, mentioned for honors on the Associated Press Little All-America team, and wins honorable mention on the Collier's Magazine All-America team.
• The Earl K. Long gymnasium is opened, providing basketball courts, dressing rooms, and offices for athletic officials.
• SLI organizes a golf team.
• The Southwestern Louisiana Institute Hall of Fame is organized.
• The Southwestern Boosters' Club is formed, also to help season ticket sales.
• A new stadium is built and named for Clement J. McNaspy, called “the father of athletics at Southwestern."
• The school fields its first baseball team since the sport was dropped in 1927.
• A gymnastics team is organized.
• Southwestern places second to the University of Idaho in the National Collegiate Boxing tournament. Despite the success, team boxing is discontinued by the school.
• The boxing success tops off an outstanding athletic year. During the 1940-1941 school term, the football team, coached by John Cain, places first in the Louisiana Intercollegiate Conference; the basketball team, coached by J.C. Reinhardt, ties for first with Louisiana Normal; the track team, coached by Robert Browne, places first; the tennis team, coached by Professor McDavid of the English department, ties for first; coach Cliff Johnson's baseball team finishes second; and Professor Mallison's golf team finishes second.
• A football team lead by Alvin Dark plays in the first Oil Bowl in Houston, defeating Arkansas A&M (now Arkansas State).
• SLI joins the newly organized Gulf States Conference.
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