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Youthful Head Football Coaches at the University of Central Arkansas: Not an Anomaly

On December 9, 2017, Nathan Brown was announced at a basketball game as the 20th head coach of the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) football team.  A more formal announcement and press conference followed in Wingo Hall on Monday, December 11, when Coach Brown was introduced to the media and a room packed with about 120 supporters.  

Dr. Brad Teague, Director of Athletics at UCA, spoke about Coach Brown’s lengthy history at UCA, from the days when Brown was a student-athlete to his time as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator for the Bears.  This author has attended several such events, and can state that the atmosphere in the room was extremely positive, and that the attendees were very supportive of Brown being selected as UCA’s new head football coach.

One thing that stands out about Coach Brown is his age, only 31.  Brown announced from the podium that he will be 32 years of age when he coaches his first football game as head coach.  Brown is the youngest head coach that has been hired at UCA since 1952, when Jim Blair Crafton was hired.  Coach Crafton was 27 years of age when he was hired and led the Bears from 1952 to 1954.  Crafton’s age was not considered unusual at that time because UCA had previously hired several coaches around the age of 30, and several who were under the age of 30.  

The youngest UCA head football coach in the history of the program was J.C. Cook, who was head coach in 1914.  Coach Cook was only 22 years old when he coached his first game.  Cook was from Texarkana and had received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas, and spent one year at the United States Naval Academy before coming to UCA. In 1914, UCA did not have a mascot and the team was referred to as the Tutors, Teachers, Normalites, Pea Pickers and Pedagogues.  It was 1920 before UCA sports teams were known as the Bears.

In recent years and decades, newly hired UCA head football coaches were primarily in their early 40s. The lone exception in modern times was Coach Clint Conque, who was 39 at his first game. The first UCA head football coach over the age of 40 was Frank Koon, who was named head coach in 1955.  Coach Koon was 46 years of age when he coached his first game for the Bears.  The oldest coach was Brown’s predecessor, Coach Steve Campbell.  Coach Campbell was 48 years of age when he coached his first game in 2014.  

The breakdown for head football coaches, in regard to their age when they coached their first game at UCA, is as follows.  Out of 20 head coaches, six were in their 20s; eight were in their 30s; six were in their 40s.  This means that 14 of the 20 head coaches, or 70%, were under the age of 40.  The average age for all 20 UCA football coaches when they coached their first game is 35.

For the record, Coach Nathan Brown is the 10th youngest UCA Bear head football coach.  The most successful young coach was Warren Woodson, who was also 32 years of age when he coached his first game for the Bears.  Woodson began his career at UCA in 1935 and was undefeated during the regular seasons in 1936 and 1937.  He compiled an excellent record at UCA and from 1935 to 1940 had a winning percentage of .817.  Woodson’s winning percentage was second only to Coach Harold Horton, whose winning percentage from 1982-1989 was .841.   

Sources for this article included: the UCAsports.com website maintained by Steve East, Ancestry.com, “A History of Arkansas State Teachers College” by Ted Worley, UCA Official Records Collection – M99-01, Arkansas State Normal School and Arkansas State Teachers College Bulletins, The Log Cabin Democrat, The Echo, and The Scroll.      

 

The following chart shows the ages of those coaches under 40 and their age at their first game.

NAME / AGE AT FIRST GAME COACHED / Date of First Game

J.C. Cook – 22 years, 11 months, 9 days – 2 Oct. 1914

Jerry Dalrymple – 27 years, 1 month, 24 days – 30 Sept. 1933

Guy Dan Estes – 27 years, 9 months, 2 days – 3 Oct. 1915

Jim Blair Crafton – 27 years, 11 months, 4 days – 27 Sept. 1952

*O.W. Stephenson – 29 years, 1 month, 29 days – 18 Oct. 1913

Charles Dub McGibbony – 29 years, 11 months, 18 days – 11 Oct. 1945

Robert Lee Nixon – 30 years, 11 months, 15 days – 17 Oct. 1911

William Oscar Wilson – 31 years, 4 months, 1 day – 16 Oct. 1909

Howard Montgomery – 31 years, 8 months, 21 days – 26 Sept. 1947

Nathan Brown – 32 years – 1 Sept. 2018

O.D. Longstreth – 32 years, 1 month, 6 days – 10 Oct. 1908

Warren Woodson – 32 years, 7 months, 10 days – 4 Oct. 1935

Loyd T. “Preacher” Roberts – 34 years, 8 months, 29 days – 3 Oct. 1941

Clint Conque – 39 years – 31 Aug. 2000

 

*Listed as W.O. Stephenson in Record Book

PHOTOGRAPH OF COACH J.C. COOK COURTESY OF THE SCROLL, 1915.

UCA’S YOUNGEST HEAD FOOTBALL COACH

22 YEARS, 11 MONTHS, AND 9 DAYS AT FIRST GAME HE COACHED