UCA Biology Department having fun with facial-hair contest

By Tammy Keith Published October 20, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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A group of University of Central Arkansas Department of Biology graduate students and faculty pose almost seven weeks ago with clean-shaven faces. The men are competing for the best beard, with a deadline of Dec. 2. Contestants include, front row, from the left, Kyle Hurley, Tyler Button, Ben Rowley and Casey Cox; and back row, from the left, Greg Berbusse, Stephen Polaskey, Brad Moffitt, Arijit Mukherjee, Sage Shaddox and Garrett Grimes. Not pictured are Dave Barber and Andy Gray.

CONWAY — Things are getting hairy in the University of Central Arkansas Biology Department.

It’s the battle of the beards.

Twelve graduate students and faculty members are competing to see who can sprout the best whiskers.

“I’m up for something goofy,” said Ben Rowley of Conway, associate professor of biology.

Rowley, 37, said the men shaved to start fresh, took a group photo and will let their beards grow until December.

Rowley said he had a mustache and goatee.

“My upper lip hasn’t seen the light of day since 1995,” he said.

Rowley said he warned his 11-year-old daughter that he was going to shave.

“She’s never seen me without it,” he said. “She told me I looked a little bit like a baboon.”

He said Kyle Hurley of Conway, a biology department graduate student, threw down the gauntlet — and the razor.

“That guy can grow a beard, let me tell you,” Rowley said.

Hurley, 26, said he heard two other grad students at UCA discussing “being competitive about their beards.”

Hurley, who keeps a short beard, was all in.

“I made posters … little fliers that said something to the effect of ‘Be a Man. Grow a Beard,’” Hurley recalled, laughing.

Rowley said some of the men are putting updated photos on Facebook; others are waiting for their beards to make more progress, he said.

UCA senior Sage Shaddox, 23, of Conway said he joined the contest as “a fun why not?”

“I’ve had a beard before, but I’m a little inconsistent on how long I keep them,” he said. “The longest time I’ve had them is six weeks.”

The beards are going into their seventh week of growth.

“I’ve always wanted to see how my beard grew after a certain point,” Shaddox said. “It’s looking good. It’s not where I want it to be, but I have until Dec. 2.”

The prize? In addition to bragging rights, a 12-year-old bottle of Scotch has been mentioned, contingent on the winner being at least 21, Rowley said.

David Barber, 38, is the only non-UCA beard-growing contestant.

He works at the Arkansas Educational Television Network on the UCA campus and is friends with Rowley.

“I actually do normally have a beard,” he said, which his wife likes. “It’s a running gag with Ben that every time my wife goes away, I shave.

“It comes and goes,” he said of his beard. “This summer, I had done a crazy sequence of weird facial hairs, going down to nothing,” Barber said.

Judging guidelines for selecting the best beard have caused some consternation.

Hurley said that originally, the group had loose parameters.

“We didn’t want to make it too stringent on the details, so we were wanting to grade awesomeness. So, that was the criteria — just awesomeness,” he said, laughing. “Inevitably, somebody said there’s a bottle of Scotch involved, so we want to know what the grading criteria are.”

Beards will be judged on “fluffiness and total length,” Hurley said. Total coverage will be a minor consideration, he said.

“I think I’m more interested in the bragging rights. I think for the most of us, that’s what it is,” Hurley said.

“Some of us have gone to the extent that if we lose, we’ll make a T-shirt with the winner’s face and wear it for a week,” he said.

Barber said the prize of a libation makes him feel a little more competitive.

“You sort of sit in the chair and will your beard to grow,” he said.

“I think it’s going pretty well. I, unfortunately, have some gray in my beard, so I’m feeling like I’m outclassed. Theirs are coming in dark and thick.”

Apparently, beard envy is a side effect of the contest.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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