With college football season starting, S.A.U. in Magnolia is gearing up to honor the legacy of a former longtime coach.
Coach Rip Powell led the Southern Arkansas University football team to 62 wins during his 10 seasons as the Muleriders’ head coach. Nearly 40 years later, the field where many of those victories were achieved will soon bear his name.
According to a press release from the university, the football field at SAU’s Wilkins Stadium will officially become “Rip Powell Field” during a pre-game ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 19. The ceremony will take place on the field at approximately 5:30PM with kick-off against Harding University slated for 6PM.
Naming the field comes after many of Powell’s former athletes joined together to raise more than $100,000 in his name. The funds came through individual contributions as well as through the annual Rip Powell Invitational Golf Tournament. The money will be used for capital improvements at the Mulerider football facility.
“We’re honoring a true SAU sports legend with the naming of Rip Powell Field,” said SAU President Dr. Trey Berry. “Coach Powell was a teacher, coach, and mentor to generations of student-athletes at Southern Arkansas University. His influence touched countless lives, not only in Arkansas, but throughout our region. It is such a fitting tribute that we dedicate the football field to his work and in his memory.”
Powell was a four-year starting lineman for the Muleriders during his college years. As a student-athlete, he helped the Muleriders win the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference football championships in 1951 and 1952, losing only one game each year.
After coaching on the high school level in Texarkana and Stamps, Powell returned to SAU in 1963 as a football coach and head track and field coach. He was named head football coach in 1969 and served through the 1978 season.
Powell’s dynamic coaching ability made an immediate impact on the Muleriders. Just one year before he arrived as head track coach, the team scored only one point during the AIC track and field championship meet. Powell’s first team finished third, while his next two teams were runners-up for the championship. During his fourth year, Powell’s Muleriders captured the 1967 AIC Track and Field championship, the first in school history. They repeated as conference champions in 1968.
As head football coach, Powell compiled a 62-38-2 record over his 10 seasons. His 1972 team finished with an 8-2 record and won the AIC championship. Having the respect of his players was the key to much of Powell’s successes.
“If you lined up 10 people who played or worked for Coach Powell, the number one thing they learned was discipline. From that discipline grew a lot of respect,” said Mike Waters ’73, a former quarterback for Powell and current chair of the Mulerider Club advisory board.
Even after his coaching career ended, Powell remained a loyal employee of the University, serving as a faculty member in the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation until his retirement in 1990. Powell was an inaugural member of Southern Arkansas University Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2002. He passed away in October 2010.