OBU plans new football stadium

Donna Lampkin Stephens/Contributing Writer Published December 26, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Ouachita Baptist University’s new Cliff Harris Stadium is set to be completed for the fall 2014 football season.

ARKADELPHIA — A “100-Yard Campaign” is now underway to raise money for a new “front door” to the Ouachita Baptist University campus in Arkadelphia.

OBU President Rex Horne announced the fundraising plans last week for the construction of Cliff Harris Stadium, a renovation of the old A.U. Williams Field visible from U.S. 67. He presented the plans during the Dec. 13 meeting of the Ouachita Board of Trustees.

According to a university press release, the stadium upgrade, projected to be completed for the 2014 football season, will include updated stadium seating, press box, parking lot and related improvements.

“I could not be more thrilled with the prospect of having a new football stadium for our Tigers to play in beginning next fall,” Horne said in the release. “Our stadium is the first thing many people pass on the way to our beautiful campus. For many years, improvements have been needed. Now a generous gift and challenge makes this construction possible.”

The Tigers recently completed their sixth consecutive winning season under coach Todd Knight. According to the release, they have recorded the most consecutive winning seasons of any college team in Arkansas.

Harris, an All-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference and All-America safety for coach Buddy Benson’s Tigers from 1966-69, went on to a 10-year All-Pro career at safety for the Dallas Cowboys. He played in six Pro Bowls and five Super Bowls for the Cowboys and was named a first-team All-NFL player four consecutive seasons by the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writers Association.

His father had played football for Ouachita in the 1940s.

According to the release, a major donor has provided a lead gift as a matching challenge for the project, with additional funds being solicited over the next 120 days through the 100-Yard Campaign.

“I am delighted that the stadium will be named after our own Cliff Harris,” Horne said. “His name is one of very few in Dallas Cowboys history that is in the Cowboys Ring of Honor. Cliff’s devotion to Ouachita across the years is exemplary. I expect friends and alumni of Ouachita will make this possibility of a new stadium a reality.”

Horne asked “all the Tiger faithful and friends” to join in the fundraising effort.

“My priority for the next 120 days is leading this effort,” he said. “If we make a strong effort in gifts and pledges in the next few months, we will open the season in the new and improved Cliff Harris Stadium.”

It has been a big few months for Harris, who was born in Fayetteville, grew up in Hot Springs and graduated from high school at Des Arc. He was a big hit when he spoke to the Little Rock Touchdown Club in the fall, and his name now rests on a new award honoring the Small College Defensive Player of the Year, according to www.cliffharrisaward.com. Finalists for the inaugural award were announced earlier this month.

“Honoring Cliff Harris with the naming of the new football stadium has great significance,” Knight said in the release. “Cliff has been able to accomplish things that very few have coming from any level of college football. Super Bowls and Pro Bowls say a great deal about his contributions to the game, but what many don’t know is the way he did it. Hard work and the values he learned in the Ouachita football program make him so unique. Cliff is a great representative of the game of football and, especially, Ouachita Baptist University.”

According to the release, Scott Street, a former OBU quarterback and chair of the 100-Yard Campaign, said Knight and his staff have brought the Tiger program to a new level in recent years.

“We need to bring our facilities up a level also,” Street said. “It has a huge impact on recruitment.”

Trennis Henderson, the school’s vice president for communications, said future plans include upgrading the field as well.

“These are exciting times for Ouachita,” Henderson said.

Athletic director David Sharp, a longtime assistant coach under Benson, said the new stadium will benefit far more than the football program.

“It’s a great boost, not only to the athletic department but also to the institution,” he said. “I think it will enhance all aspects of the university.”

For more information about Cliff Harris Stadium and the 100-Yard Campaign, contact the Ouachita Office of Development at (870) 245-5169 or www.obu.edu.give.

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