A look into what the Lions have done…

Hobie Brown

Missouri Southern’s football program is preparing to celebrate 40 years of existence.

The program, which started under the leadership of current Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson in 1968, has seen 10 different coaches take the helm since the initial 2-8 campaign. The third head coach in Southern football, Jim Frazier, was the first coach to lead the team to several firsts. 1972 was the first and only year Southern won a national championship, and was the first year the Lions defeated border rival Pittsburg State. In 1976, Frazier led the Lions to a share of the Central States Intercollegiate Conference championship, the first year Southern was involved in the conference. Frazier left Southern in 1985, posting a 97-52-5 record in his fourteen years as Lions head coach.

The home of the Lions, Fred G. Hughes Stadium, opened its gates in 1975. Prior to that, the Lions played their games across town at Junge Stadium. The stadium cost $1.7 million to build and was financed directly through student fees and private contributions. It was the first college football facility in the state to have an artificial-turf playing surface. Since it’s opening, the Lions have went undefeated at home three years: in 1976, 1985, and 1994. The current playing surface in Hughes Stadium was installed in 2002.

Though Frazier was the first coach to lead the Lions to a championship, the first success for the Lions after joining the MIAA in 1989 was winning the conference championship in 1993. The squad, coached by the late Jon Lantz, featured a couple of future NFL players. The 1993 season is also the last time the Lions have secured a victory over Pitt State. The team, ranked sixth in the nation at the end of the 1993 season, hosted Mankato State in the first round of the Division II Tournament, falling 34-13 before a crowd of 3,500. Lantz, who trails Frazier in wins and winning percentage, led the program from 1989 to 1997, when he resigned midseason. He left the program with an overall record of 51-35-1.

During the history of the program, there have been nine first-team All American players. Terron Jackson was the first Lion to receive the honor in 1972, and since then some of the more notable recipients of this honor include Richard Jordan, who received the nomination in 1996, and Rod Smith, who won the award in both 1991 and 1993. Last year, offensive lineman Allen Barbre gained the first-team All American recognition, both in the preseason and post-season.

There has also been a number of Lions who have continued to play football beyond the collegiate level. Jordan is one of three Lions who were drafted. Now retired, Jordan spent time playing for the Detroit Lions, which drafted him in the 7th round in 1997, and also spent some time playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Currently there are two former Lions playing in the National Football League. As a free agent, Smith signed with the Denver Broncos in 1994, and has played his entire career in the Mile High City. James Thrash signed with the Washington Redskins in 1997 as a free agent. He has spent his career playing for both the Redskins and Eagles.