By Carter Hall:
Long before Amarillo College’s current intramural sports program began, several intercollegiate sports teams played on the same courts and fields. AC sports included basketball, track, baseball, football, archery and swimming. Competing against other colleges and universities, the AC teams found major success.
Sports schedules at AC can be traced back as early as the 1920s. In 1930, the Badger football team faced off on the gridiron at Butler Field against teams from Decatur Baptist College, Oklahoma Christian and Texas Tech.
The football team gained success and head football coach Frank Kimbrough led AC to the state junior college championships in 1933 and 1934 before moving on to coach for West Texas State University, now West Texas A&M.
Today, AC football is a distant memory. “I’ve seen the trophies and pictures those teams won tucked away in a dusty storage room in the Carter Fitness Center,” Trent Oneal, director of intramural sports, said.
The passage of Title IX laws led to the end of the AC’s football program. Title IX required schools to spend an equal amount of money on woman’s sports teams as men’s. It became too expensive, so the AC board of regents decided to drop the football program entirely.
Basketball then took center stage in AC’s intercollegiate sports lineup. The Badgers would compete against colleges such as Odessa, Frank Phillips, Tyler and South Plains College. In the 1970s, the men’s basketball team was ranked ninth overall in pre-season and remained in the top ten with other junior colleges in the nation during the regular season.
Two-time All American basketball player Larry Kenon led the Badgers to several victories before transferring to Memphis State University his junior year where he took the team to the NCAA championship game. Kenon went on to be drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1973. He went on to play for the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers and earned the nickname “Special K.”
Due to financial concerns, intercollegiate basketball at AC ended in the 1980s, leaving behind the Carter Fitness Center, which was named after Bob Carter, who founded the college’s physical education department and was the varsity coach. During his 29-year tenure at AC, Carter coached the Badgers in almost every sport.
Now the Fitness Center is home to intramural sports where it once housed the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Students say intramurals give them a way to stay active and relieve stress. “If Amarillo College did not have intramurals then it would basically be a community college with an underused and oversized room of weights and unfulfilled need for student activity,” Brendan Brice, a biology major, said.
Although Amarillo College officials are not looking to reinstate intercollegiate sports, some students say they wish that would happen. “I think they should bring back intercollegiate sports because we can have our own college team and go to college games and because I miss going to high school football games,” Ashley Denham, a general studies major, said.