Rivalry week time for campus pranksOriginally Published November 8, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 7, 2012 at 10:52 a.m.
ARKADELPHIA While the week ends with a game with an old and rich traditional rivalry dating back to 1895, it is just the end of a tense week of scouting weak points, assessing ways to attack and of building solid defenses, all of which have nothing to do with football.
On the campus of Ouachita Baptist University, hundreds of students will sleep at least one night this week around a statue of the school’s tiger mascot, guarding it against attack from pranksters — or vandals, depending on school loyalties — from Henderson State University.
Patrick Krauss helped organize the guard for the tiger statue for one night last year.
“I worked to get people to come out to the first night,” said Krauss, who was junior-class president on the Student Senate last year. “Once some guys came along with extension cords, and when I asked what they were doing, they ran away.”
On into the evening, some members of the Henderson football team came by.
“I asked them what they were doing, and they talked about how badly they were going to beat us in the game,” Krauss said. “I just let them talk for a while. I wanted them to think their bark was worse than their bite. None of us needed to get into an altercation.”
Otherwise, the students spend from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. watching TV and playing video games, and this year, there is talk of tie-dying T-shirts during the night, he said.
Kevin Motl, a history professor at OBU, is the sponsor of the Tiger Nation organization that plans the Tiger guarding night. He said that for years, the men’s social club Rho Sigma guarded the tiger statue that sits in Grant Plaza, an interior courtyard on campus, surrounded by university buildings.
Starting last year, each student class was assigned a night to protect the tiger from Monday through Thursday. Friday night, before the game, the Rho Sigmas and volunteers from the entire student body watch over the “sacred icon” of their team and school.
“We wanted to give more people the responsibility of keeping the tiger safe,” Motl said. “Except for the hope of the OBU Tigers upsetting the undefeated Reddies, there is nothing more important on campus this week than the safety of the tiger.”
It was about four years ago that a group of Reddies last painted the tiger red, the Henderson State colors, Motl said.
“That was before there was a fence around it,” he said. “Now there is a fence and security cameras on it 24/7.”
Trying to paint the tiger has been the most popular prank in the rivalry’s history.
One year, HSU students were driven off by rocks thrown by OBU students when a group of Reddies attempted to paint the tiger.
Another year, the Henderson ROTC Corps marched across the street and onto the Ouachita campus to paint the tiger. Students from both schools stood watching as the cadets were fought back with a fire hose and ladder.
A more-successful attempt occurred when students painted the tiger statue that stood on top of the old scoreboard at A.U. Williams Field on the Ouachita campus. Another time, some Henderson students convinced an OBU librarian to give them the library’s statue for cleaning.
The students at Ouachita Baptist have had their turns as attackers.
In 1996, diesel fuel was set on fire on the HSU main campus to burn the letters OBU into the grass.
Often the point of attack is the fountain at the main entrance into Henderson along Arkansas 7. Early one Monday morning, soap was poured into the fountain.
OBU students have also been known to place purple dye or tablets that cause the water to fizz and bubble.
It is tradition that members of the HSU “Showband of Arkansas” stand guard around the fountain during game week.
Just last year, gold glitter was spread all over the Henderson campus.
“It is still being found, both inside and out of the buildings,” Motl said. “It came from a line in the school song that we want to spread God’s golden light. So the students glitter-bombed the HSU campus.”
Across the road, the OBU field house was tagged with spray paint last week, and the graffiti included some off-color slogans not usually seen on a Baptist campus.
“I watched the maintenance people power-washing the walls down,” Motl said. “The Reddies usually tag the outside of the building, but they did get inside once and painted the windows from the inside.”
The rivalry of pranks is legend at both of the schools. Over the years, the perpetrators have included students who went on to become faculty and administrators of both schools, as well as government officials.
However, the pranks have sometimes gotten out of hand. Troy Mitchell, the sports information director at Henderson, said that at one time the rival pranks went beyond being mischievous and became so severe that the schools suspended the football games between the schools.
In 1946, HSU students kidnapped the OBU homecoming queen, Ann Strickland, the girlfriend and future wife of Tiger defensive back Bill Vining, who served 33 years as Ouachita’s men’s basketball coach, winning more than 500 games, and later served athletic director at Ouachita.
The homecoming queen was kept safe in a house in Hot Springs for two days while Vining and his friend Ike Sharp went door to door through the Caddo Hotel, in Arkadelphia, where they thought Strickland had been taken.
According to versions told by both sides, Sharp was armed with a shotgun he hid in his overalls. Ike Sharp is the father of current OBU Athletic Director David Sharp.
Alumni from the two schools agree that the high jinks played on one school by the students from another are generally less filled with danger and perhaps funnier now.
But one story stands out and is still told with the respect for its ingenuity and style by alumni from both sides of the street.
In was in the mid-1970s, said Suzanne Reynolds, a 1976 HSU graduate.
“One year we played the usual tricks, painting the tiger red, and they put purple dye in our fountain,” Reynolds told in a story about the rivalry published
online by Henderson State. “All the girls in the dorms bought tons of marshmallows and stayed up all night painting HSU and GO REDDIES on them.”
The marshmallows were placed in large plastic bags and given to one of Henderson’s students who was a pilot and had access to an airplane.
“The guy and a couple of his friends loaded the marshmallows into the plane. … At 1:30, he circled our campus to signal us that he was about to make a drop,” Reynolds said. “The professors let us go out and watch. He flew over OBU, and his friends cut open the bags and started dropping the marshmallows all over the campus. It was so funny. They had marshmallows everywhere.”
Sherry Wright, head of alumni services at HSU and a graduate herself, said she knows who the pilot was and said he is still one of the most popular men around at reunions and homecoming.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.