by Scott Goode, sports information director
The phrase "chain gang" brings to mind visions of the South's Reconstruction Era: workers shackled together at the ankles, swinging pick axes and serving time until their release. The five men responsible for working the chains (also known as the first-down markers) for Bison football have not been here since Reconstruction — it only seems that way.
Charlie Carroll ('79), Ray Gunter, Charlie Howell ('77), Howard Morris ('76) and Zac Muncy ('83) can be found on the visiting sidelines measuring first downs at University football games, and they have been there for a while. The five have combined for nearly 100 seasons of service. Carroll, Howell and Muncy have each worked more than 20 years.
Howell and Morris hold the first-down markers, one at the original line of scrimmage and the other at the spot of the first down. Muncy holds the down marker that shows the ball's location and current down. Carroll mans the clip, which is attached to the chain, after each first down and assists in placement of the ball following a measurement. Gunter typically records all penalties called by game officials for them to review following the contest.
"Our goal is to be as exact as we can be, so that there is no question whether we are fair or not," Carroll said.
The group has developed quite a reputation. "We've had some officials come over and thank us because they know that they won't have any problems at Harding," says Muncy.
Though the five are not attached at the ankle, they are good friends on and off the field. The crew, along with their wives, meets each Saturday before home football games for a "chain gang meal."
"We are all connected to Harding," Carroll says. "And this is just our way of giving back to the program."
With service like that, these men might never be released.
Charlie Howell, Charlie Carroll, Zac Muncy and Howard Morris work the chains at all home football games, including the Sept. 6 home opener versus University of West Alabama, which the Bisons won 37-27. Not pictured is Ray Gunter.
Baseball makes tourney appearance
The baseball team advanced to the Gulf South Conference Tournament for the second time in school history and the first since 2002. The Bisons compiled a 27-23 overall record and a 9-10 mark in conference play. Senior Bo Whitaker and junior Aaron Roberts both earned Second Team All-GSC honors. Roberts led the team in nearly every offensive category, hitting .363 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs. Whitaker hit .288 with 22 RBIs. Sophomore Troy Keith was the team's top pitcher, posting a 4-2 record with a 3.31 ERA. He had 54 strikeouts in 65.1 innings pitched.
Hall, Washburn Berryhill awardees
Matt Hall, a member of the men's basketball team from De Queen, Ark., and Kendyl Washburn, women's soccer player from Midland, Texas, were honored as 2008 M.E. Berryhill Award winners.
The Berryhill Award, named after former coach and athletic director M.E. Berryhill, is given to a senior male and female athlete possessing the characteristics of athletic excellence, academic achievement, social maturity and spiritual example.
Hall, who majored in kinesiology, earned his second All-America honor in 2008. He was a three-time Gulf South Conference West Division Player of the Year and was only the second Bison basketball player to have his jersey retired. He completed his career with 2,227 points, the University's second all-time leading scorer.
Washburn, who majored in exercise science, earned All-Region honors as a senior, setting the school record with 17 goals. She was the Gulf South Conference Player of the Year and a four-time All-GSC honoree. She is also the University's career leader in points (112), goals (48), game-winning goals (15), shots on goal (130) and games started (72). She earned ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America honors as a senior and was three-time Academic All-GSC.
Howell men's golf coach
The men's golf team will be under new leadership for the 2008-09 season. Dustin Howell has been named head coach and is replacing Dr. Nicky Boyd, who will coach the women's program.
Bison golfers placed 10th at the 2008 Gulf South Conference Tournament. Dusty Gourley of Farmington, Ark., tied for sixth at the event, shooting a three-round 217, the fifth-best three-round score in Bison golf history.
In its third season of intercollegiate competition, the women's golf team shot a school-record 669 to place fourth in the nine-team GSC Tournament. Taren Swindle of Paragould, Ark., placed 12th and was the team's top finisher. Swindle was one of three Lady Bison student-athletes to earn ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America honors in 2007-08.
Tennis teams advance to nationals
The men's tennis team earned its fourth-straight and eighth overall trip to the NCAA II National Tournament in 2007-08. The Bisons set a school record by winning their first 15 matches of the season, all with 9-0 scores. The team fell to University of West Florida in the first round of the national tournament. Sophomore Olzhas Taniyev of Almaty, Kazakhstan, and junior Marco Ruiz of São Paulo, Brazil, both earned All-Gulf South Conference honors.
The women's team advanced to its fourth consecutive NCAA II National Tournament, compiling a 21-6 overall record. The Lady Bisons were led by junior Alicia Williams of Greenville, Miss., who collected an 18-5 overall singles record, playing all her matches at No. 1. Williams, along with her doubles teammate, senior Karina Gomes Swindle of São Paulo, Brazil, both earned All-Gulf South Conference honors.
Daniel Kirwa, a native of Eldoret, Kenya, was the story for the men's outdoor track team in 2008. Kirwa won his second national championship of the year when he captured the outdoor 10,000-meter title at the national meet in Walnut, Calif., in May and also placed second in the outdoor 5,000 meters. The freshman won the indoor 1,500-meter national championship in March. His 18 points were enough to give the Bisons an 11th-place national finish.
Sophomore Esther Komen placed fifth in the 3,000 meters at the 2008 NCAA II Outdoor Track and Field Championships to earn her first All-America honor as a Lady Bison. Komen finished in 9 minutes, 56.57 seconds, her first race under 10 minutes this season.
Komen, a native of Iten Kabarnet, Kenya, qualified for the finals by placing second in her heat in 10:02.09. She is only the second Lady Bison runner to earn All-America honors in the 3,000 meters, joining teammate Janee Jones, who accomplished the feat in 2006.