When Muhammad Ali visited UALR

In 1969, what is now the University of Arkansas-Little Rock received a surprise visit from the former heavyweight champion.

Looking through the Arkansas Gazette archives, I was surprised to learn Muhammad Ali visited Little Rock University — now known as UALR — in 1969. The legendary boxer had been banned from boxing after refusing military service two years earlier, and was on a speaking tour at college campuses nationwide. His swing through Arkansas also included speeches at the UA, Philander Smith College and what is now UAPB (where the photo in this post was taken).

The below is from March 11, 1969:

ALI’S SURROUNDED AT LRU AFTER SIDE-DOOR ENTRANCE

Muhammad Ali paid a surprise visit to Little Rock University Monday morning and spent about an hour in the student union talking with students, shaking hands and signing autographs. Ali entered the side door of the Union with several Negro students and stood talking to the Negro students inside for about five minutes before any of the white students seem to recognize him.

He was immediately encircled by students and instructors when he was recognized. Ali, who was scheduled to speak to students at Arkansas AM and N College at Pine Bluff later in the day, said he came to LRU, “to see how things are.”
He signed autographs on anything from notebook paper to textbooks. One woman asked to his hand “so I can tell my husband.”
Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, answered students’ questions on subjects ranging from black separatism (he’s for it) to the Vietnam War (he’s against it.) On Vietnam, he recited a poem, which began “Hell no! I won’t go” which met some cheers.
Ali has been found guilty of refusing induction into the Army. He is appealing on the ground that he should be deferred as a black Muslim minister. He changed his name from Cassius Clay when he converted to that religion. Ali, dressed in a dark business suit, arrived on the campus in his black limousine, which he announced was as good as a car as President Nixon’s.”
Ali discussed theory of black separatism briefly with the 50 or 60 students gathered around them. He said he was against integration because it was forced. He said he was against interracial marriage and that the Negro had all the variety he needed within his own race.

“If you want a chocolate one,” he said putting his arm around a Negro student, “or a honey-gold one,” he said grabbing another girl, “or a peach one,” as he put his arm still another.

Negro students escorted Ali to the parking lot. The students gave a loud cheer as Ali rode away in his black limousine.

Joe Kleine Breaks Down Bobby Portis’ Post Game, Discusses North Carolina

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I had the chance to talk to the Razorback legend for a North Carolina-Arkansas mini oral history which runs on Sporting Life Arkansas today. Kleine, who recently finished his eighth season as an assistant coach with UALR, was pivotal figure in leading Arkansas to an historic 1984 win over No. 1 UNC. I couldn’t help also ask him about what will happen in Saturday night’s second round game between the programs, in which Arkansas has a shot to break into its first Sweet 16 since 1996.

Q: What’s your take on the Tar Heels?

A: I think they’re talented. Especially Marcus Paige –  he’s a really good point guard. Any time you’re pressuring as much as Arkansas does, a really good point guard worries you. Because he gets through there, he can cause a lot of trouble.”

Q: Bobby Portis has had a great season, you agree. In order for him to take his game to the next, where do you think he must most improve?

A: I’m a little leery to critique him because I’m not there, seeing him every day. These are things I’ve noticed just one or two times – in his post play, as with all young post players, he’s got to develop a counter move with his left hand.

I’ve seen him do some things with his off hand but he’s got to get the point where he can put it up over his shoulder with Taken by Marc Henning of marcfhenning.comhis left hand as well as he does on the other side. Still, I love his face up game and his rebounding. He has a tenacity there that is a really, really good sign … He just has to continue to work on his face up game, get to the point where he can drive as well with his left hand as with his right.

Q: Sounds like he would do well to spend a little time in Hakeem Olajuwon’s post-up training academy.

A: I’m 53 years old, and I would be well served by spending time in that academy. That man is simply amazing.

Q: How good can Bobby be?

A: Worst case scenario, for Bobby Portis, I see Joe Kleine – a guy who can play a long time in the league, can spot shoot, can defend. Whether he can be a big time scorer, that remains to be seen. His ability to score against bigger, taller, more athletic guys is going to be indicative of what kind of career he’s going to have.

Q: Overall, who do you expect to win on Saturday night?

A: You could make an argument either way. You’ll have two good teams playing on edge, that have a lot to lose, with a lot of emotion. It’ll bring out the best in both of them … I’m a fan of Arkansas – that’s gonna push me toward them. I wouldn’t want to make a living having to pick the outcome of that game.

Q: UALR head coach Steve Shields was just let go. It’s hard for me not to ask: What are your plans now?

A: I want the job. I’ve thrown my name in, I’ll put that way.

The First D1 Arkansan Basketball Player to Notch a 20/20/4/3 Stat Line in Decades

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.
Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Arkansas State forward Anthony Livingston goes by the nickname “Big Ant” despite standing 6’8″ and weighing 230 pounds. He’s going to find hanging on to that alias even more difficult after notching a gargantuan stat line on Saturday, when he became the first Division 1 player in decades to score 20 points, grab 20 rebounds, dish four assists and block three shots for an Arkansas university.

The Red Wolves (4-4) needed every bit of the Washington D.C. native’s help against Marshall, too. Early in the second half, Arkansas State trailed the Thundering Herd by eight points but Livingston’s shooting helped key an 8-0 run while his energy on the boards helped the Red Wolves out-rebound Marshall by 15 in the second half.

Arkansas State won 67-58.

It was the second time since 1997 a Sun Belt player had a 20/20/4/3 and the most un-ant-like performance by an ASU big since January 1994 when 6’7″ Jeff Clifton lifted the program atop his shoulders and Incredible Hulked it to a 66-54 win against UALR with 43 points, 25 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. That performance, which remains the most statistically dominant by a Division I big man at an Arkansas university in the last two decades, came on the heels of a UALR player boycott involving Derek Fisher.

Three years later, Trojan power forward Montrelle Dobbins put up 27 points, 20 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 steals and 5 turnovers in a 56-64 road loss to South Alabama. That same year, UAPB’s Fred Luckett had 22 points and 21 rebounds in a 68-116 road loss to Mississippi Valley State.

Since then, there had been only two 20/20 games by Division I Arkansans:

1. 1998

Nicky Davis (UA) – 24 points, 23 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 6 turnovers

UA won 97-71 at home against Jackson State

2. 2005

Rashad Jones-Jennings (UALR) – 23 points, 30 rebounds*, 1 assist, 0 blocks, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

UALR won 72-54 at home versus UAPB

*Jones-Jennings’ 30 rebound night remains the second-highest total in D1 college basketball since 1997. How impressive is that? It’s the second-best output out of more than 1.8 million individual performances.

Just in case you’re curious – and I’m guessing you’re slightly curious if you’ve made it down here – below are all Division I players to reach at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in a single game since 1997.

1. Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) 1997

2. Mike Sweetney (Georgetown) 2002

3. Brandon Hunter (Ohio) 2003

4. Yemi Nicholson (Denver) 2006

5. Michael Beasley (Kansas State) 2007

6. Matt Mullery 2009 (Brown)

7. Keith Benson 2010 (Oakland)

8. Tony Mitchell (North Texas) 2012

It’s very difficult to tell how many times – if any – an Arkansan student-athlete accomplished this stat line before Livingston. Former Razorback star Dean Tolson, for instance, had five games of 20 or more rebounds in the early 1970s, and it’s likely he also scored at least 20 points in some of those games. But it’s hard to find individual box scores from those games, and it’s time-consuming to search for them through newspaper microfilm. Plus, as my main HogStats.com man below points out, blocks and assists weren’t tracked in that era:

Did UALR Volleyball Have the Greatest Arkansan Student-Athlete this Century?

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UALR volleyball player Edina Begic’s athletic brilliance puts her in a class of her own when it comes to recent achievements of student-athletes at Division I and II colleges in the state of Arkansas. The three-time Sun Belt player of the year led her program to a 20-0 record in conference and an NCAA Tournament win last week against No. 11 Kansas – at Kansas.

She had the Lady Trojans on the brink of the Sweet 16. I’m not sure if any in-state Division I university, outside of the University of Arkansas, has made a Sweet 16 in any team sport. Here are some of Begic’s other achievements:

*Last year, set an NCAA record by winning a conference player of the week award seven times, five of them back to back.

*Broke that record this season by winning the award eight times.

*In 2012, ranked No. 1 in the nation in kills (an attack not returned by the opponent, resulting in a point) per set.

*In 2013, ranked No. 3 in kills per set and paired with teammate Sonja Milanovic to form the nation’s top spiking duo (with 9.09 kills per set).

*Consensus top hitter in program history, finishing first in career kills, second in digs and fourth in service aces.

Begic has competitors for the title of Greatest Arkansas Student-Athlete since 2000. As I wrote this week in Arkansas Times, “Henderson State University quarterback Kevin Rodgers just finished a career in which he also shattered multiple career records and finished as a three-time conference player of the year, but his team didn’t win a post-season game. Former Harding University basketball player Matt Hall and Kayla Jackson, a former University of Arkansas at Monticello softball star, also both won multiple conference player of the year and All-America awards.

In Division I women’s sports, former UCA basketball player Megan Herbert comes closest to Begic. Herbert, a three-time conference player of the year (who should have won it all four years), was one of the nation’s most prolific rebounders despite standing 5-foot-10. But she never led a team nearly as impressive as Begic’s 2014 squad, and her Sugar Bears never broke into the NCAA Tournament.

On the Division I men’s side, former Razorback Darren McFadden had some legendary games against elite competition, and he twice won the nation’s award for best running back, but his overall game-to-game running statistics were not as impressive as Begic’s kill statistics.”

Read the rest of the article here.

New Financial Disclosures for Arkansas’ Division I Athletic Programs

USA Today just released the most up to date financial reports for all 230 Division I athletic programs in the nation. In terms of total revenue, the University of Arkansas sits 14 spots from the top. Ten spots from the bottom you’ll find the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (the nation’s largest intra-university system disparity). In between sit three other Arkansas schools.

I’ll break down these numbers later, but for now, let’s simply celebrate in the splattering of them on the wall.

Take what you will:

No. 14 nationally ($99.77 million revenue)

arkansas

No. 131 ($16.28 million revenue)

A State

 

No. 194 ($10.77 million revenue)

UCA

No. 206 ($9.4 million revenue)
UALR

 

No. 220 ($7.1 million)

UAPB

(PS – Notice how the total revenue plummeted from 2010 to 2011. That’s what an NCAA Tournament appearance and win will do for you.)

 

How about you, cherished reader? Any numbers jump out as significant or worth extra scrutiny?

An NBA scouting report on Derek Fisher, circa 1996

Hard to believe it’s been 16 years since D-Fish made his first splash in the NBA. And this fall marks the first fall since 1996 that he isn’t already signed with a team, whether that be Los Angeles, Golden State or Utah. Whoever he lands with next – whether it be the Lakers again, or the Celtics or even Clippers – he’ll be needed more for his off-court leadership qualities than on-court ability.

Before we start ascribing to Fish Creaky Old Man-dom, let’s first recall he was once  one of the most physically imposing guards in the Sun Belt Conference. And that while he was never the quickest NBA guard [the Iverson-Fisher matchup wasn’t pretty in Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Finals] he certainly had the physical chops to impress a few NBA scouts. [Ed: Just found video evidence. This, I believe, is his career’s most impressive dunk]

One such scout was Clarence Gaines II, who on his Web site  “A Scout’s Perspective” shares his take on Fisher from the spring of 1996, a couple months before the draft. Gaines reported the following to the Chicago Bulls:

“… Remarkably, nobody in our organization saw Derek play while he was at Arkansas Little-Rock.  First time I saw Derek play was at post season all-star tournament {Portsmouth Invitational Tournament} in Portsmouth,VA in April of 1996. He played well in Portsmouth, but was not extended an invitation to the the Desert Classic in Phoenix, which featured higher caliber players.  However, a player pulled out of Phoenix and Derek was a last minute replacement. Derek played his first game in Phoenix without the benefit of practice and continued to shine. Derek became the 1st round pick {24th} of the LA Lakers in 1996 because of his play in Post Season All-Star games. He did it the old fashioned way, by not being afraid to showcase his talents in an all-star venue. Derek is a class act. One of the most impressive interviews I participated in during my NBA career.

SCOUTING REPORT- DEREK FISHER – April, 1996
Want to know more about him. Will watch tape. Physically developed. Structurally strong. Has been lifting weights since high school. Strong legs and butt. Big hands. Big body for a point guard. Will be able to defend against bigger guards. Left handed. Possible late 1st round pick–high upside. Good speed with the dribble. Like his ability to turn the corner and get his own shot. Able to rise up and over other point guards off the dribble–gets good lift and has very good leg strength. Shoots best off the dribble. Does a good job of utilizing screens and popping jump shot. Plays bigger than size. Good 1 on 1 skills. Sees the floor on the move. Vision is good in the open court. Has the ability to get all the way to the basket in the open court. Shows deep shooting range–career 38% from the 3 pt. line. Needs to develop more consistency in spot shooting ability. strength of game is currently off the dribble. Can get too infatuated with one-on-one play, but I like his offensive aggressiveness.

Continue reading An NBA scouting report on Derek Fisher, circa 1996

Salt Bowl: Higher Ed (ition) – UALR-Benton vs. UALR-Bryant

In a previous post, I looked at some 2011’s biggest sports stories … by imagining their implications in the year 2020.
Here are more predictions:
Just wait.
3. In 2011, the Benton campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced plans for its first four-year program. The school says it’s starting small by only allowing 30 students to initially pursue the new E-commerce degrees, but talk still surfaces of building a new UALR-Benton campus.In 2020 … UALR-Benton and the brand-new UALR-Bryant announce plans to start football programs.
Proceeds from the annual football game between the teams, dubbed the “Salt Bowl: Higher Ed(ition),” are expected to fund 90% of the nascent athletic departments. Boosters of UALR athletics lament this as the first documented case of satellite campuses starting football programs before the main campus. Boosters of UALR-Benton and UALR-Bryant begin seriously examining the possibility of preserving their rivalry through football if a University of Arkansas – Saline County is formed.