[by Earl Blacklock] Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas was established in 1885 by the Methodist Episcopal Church to provide students with a liberal arts education. In 1951, the school took pride in its athletic program, and in its coach Harold Hunt.
It was a difficult time for the school. The year before, a major fire had ravaged its administration center. With only 350 students, the school’s football team was always up against larger schools, and Coach Hunt had only 27 in his entire squad. College football was in trouble throughout the United States because of news stories about bribes and dirty play.
The opening game against Central Missouri State College was one Southwestern badly wanted to win. Before a crowd of 2,000 fans, the team didn’t give an inch on defence for the entire first half, and the half ended with no score from either team.
In the third quarter, the crowd was electrified by a breakaway dash down the sidelines by Southwestern halfback Arthur Johnson. The referee signaled a touchdown, and the crowd went wild.
Their joy, however, was short-lived. As the officials placed the ball on the two yard line for the convert attempt, Coach Hunt ran out on the field. “Southwestern rejects the touchdown!” he said. He explained that he had seen Johnson step out of bounds. None of the referees had been in a position to see him do so, but they agreed to nullify the touchdown, and returned the ball to the point where Coach Hunt said Johnson had stepped out. The crowd groaned, but play resumed. (A photo of the run later confirmed Coach Hunt’s observation.)
Southwestern made another drive, and got the ball across once again. The point after, however, was unsuccessful. Then Central Missouri swept down the field and, with less than a minute to play, scored its own touchdown. They, too, failed to make the convert.
When the game ended, Coach Tate Page of Central Missouri ran across the field to shake Coach Hunt’s hand. “That was the finest act of sportsmanship I ever saw!” he exclaimed. He later repeated his comment over a local radio station.
At a school assembly, the student body president called Hunt the college’s man of the year. College President W. Murray agreed, saying “If Southwestern doesn’t win a single contest this year, it will still be the college’s greatest football year”. Southwestern’s Board of Trustees passed a unanimous resolution telling the Coach “You have won a victory for the college that will be remembered long after the scores of a hundred football games have been forgotten.”
Now, more than half a century later, I think of Coach Hunt’s integrity, and wonder whether, before a crowd of thousands of expectant fans, I would have had the courage to do what was right, rather than what was expedient. Coach Hunt was a modern day Nathaniel, of whom Jesus said “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false” (John 1:47). Would that we all chose the same path.