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National championships might not be the first thing you think of when you think of Arkansas, but the state has some excellent college sports programs and quite a few national titles to go with them. Read on to learn about some of Arkansas’s collegiate national champions.
Richard Horace Sikes was the individual national champion in 1963. Sikes was a talented player from Paris, Arkansas who collected several amateur championships in 1961 and 1962. After winning the collegiate championship, he went on to play in the PGA, earning rookie of the year in 1964. Sikes had two PGA tour wins in the 1960s.
In 1964, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks football team played a perfect season, going 10-0 in the regular season. That season the team beat the #1-ranked Texas at Memorial Stadium in Austin 14 to 13. They also shut out their last five Southwest Conference opponents and garnered a total of 231 points on the season while only giving up 64. The Razorbacks capped off their championship season by defeating Nebraska 10-7 in the Cotton Bowl. They were the only major team to go undefeated that season. Two coaches’ polls named the Razorbacks the 1964 National Champions, although several others had already declared Alabama the winners before Alabama lost its post-season bowl game. This led to some controversy on how national champions were chosen and eventually the polls adjusted to wait until after bowl games were played to declare the national champions.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas State University
The Arkansas State football team won the Southland Conference with a perfect season in 1970. They then defeated Central Missouri State 38-21 in the Pecan Bowl. After the game, Arkansas State was declared the national champions of the College Division. The College Division is now NCAA Division II, but Arkansas State has competed at various levels of NCAA Division I since 1975.
If there is one program that is synonymous with national championships in Arkansas, it’s the University of Arkansas Men’s Track & Field program. Combined with the cross country team, the Arkansas runners have won 41 national championships (two vacated in 2004 and 2005), most of these under legendary former coach John McDonnell. The team was especially dominant in the 1990s, winning eight straight outdoor track and field championships. In the indoor track and field championships, the Arkansas Razorbacks have dominated, winning 20 championships between 1984 and 2013. Not to be outdone, the University of Arkansas men’s cross country team has won 11 national titles between 1984 and 2000, the most cross country championships of any team in NCAA Division I.
Photo by jenaragon94 via Wikimedia
The Arkansas Razorback women runners have their own share of national championships. The Razorback women won the 2016 and 2019 outdoor track and field national team titles while taking the 2015, 2019, and 2021 indoor national championships. The women also won the 2019 cross country national title, which gave them an NCAA Triple Crown, a title given when a team wins all three championships in one year.
In the 1980s the women’s rodeo team at SAU enjoyed national success and won the team national title in Bozeman, Montana in 1986. That same decade, three different women riders from SAU, Nancy Rae, Sherry Lynn Rosser, and Cathy Dennis, captured the individual title of National All-around Cowgirl.
The Golden Suns Women’s Basketball team were back-to-back national champions in the 1991-1992 and 1992-1993 seasons. The women won their first championship by going 35-1 on the season, with 29 wins in a row. They trounced the competition at the 1992 NAIA National Tournament, winning the final game by 24 points. In the second championship, the Golden Suns had to work harder to preserve their title in a game that came down to the wire. The women won 76-75 over Union University to win their second title in 1993.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Outside of the 1964 national championship in football, the national championship the Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball team took home in 1994 may be one of the most memorable sporting events in the state. The team went 16-0 at home in the newly-built Bud Walton Arena. They only lost three games on their way to a 31-3 season which ended with the team beating Duke University 76-72 in that national title game. President Bill Clinton attended the event and later invited the team to the White House. The championship trophy is still on display at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo By Wojciech Migda (Wmigda) CC BY-SA 3.0
Stacy Lewis made an impact on the Razorback Women’s Golf team from the start. She was SEC Freshman Golfer of the year in 2005 and an All-American for four years. Lewis won the individual national title at the NCAA Women’s Division I Golf Championship. She scored a total of 282 (-6) to bring home the title. Lewis turned pro after her senior season and has won two major titles and twice been ranked at #1 during her career.
Katherine Grable won two individual titles at the 2014 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships. She 9.975 on the vault, which was the highest in the history of that event. She also scored a 9.9625 for her routine on the floor. Both scores earned her the national titles for those events. The championships were Grable’s last events as a senior on the Razorbacks and the only national titles the team has earned to date.
María Fassi joined the Arkansas Razorbacks from her home country of Mexico in 2018. She was already an international winner, having won the Mexican Women’s Amateur tournament in 2015, 2016, and 2018. She earned All-American and SEC Golfer of the Year awards in 2018, but in 2019, she captured the national individual title at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship with a score of 211 (-8). Fassi turned pro in 2019 and continues to compete on the LPGA Tour.
The Wonder Boys at Arkansas Tech made history when they won the NCAA Division II Men’s Golf National Championship in 2021. The team of six young men from Texas, Mexico, Alabama and Arkansas won in the last match of the day by a single stroke to bring home their first national title.
With a winning history and plenty of sports to come in the 2022-2023 season, Arkansas is sure to soon add more national champions to its list.
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