The following spring, the Southland Conference was formed with UTA playing a key point in its founding in Dallas. While most other sports started play in the fall of 1963, the football schools didn't start until 1964, due to scheduling issues. It worked out for ASC, as they faced their worst season at 1-8.
The start of SLC play didn't reverse the Rebel fortunes at 3-6-1, including an 0-3-1 mark in loop play. Finally, after getting little respect in the pre-season - of the eight players the conference trumped for All-American consideration, none were from Arlington - ASC finished 6-3. More importantly, they won their last two SLC games, including against eventual champion Lamar, to win the tiebreaker for second place.
Entering the 1966 season, that was tied for the best SLC finish for any ASC team...in any sport. The cross country team finished last every year. Their track counterparts had one third and two fourth place finishes. The tennis team and a last place finish to go with two third place spots. The second sport in the pecking order, basketball, had two fourths and a last place end. The golf team finished third their first two years and had the departments best showing with a second place finish in 1966.
Three of the four SLC teams, Abilene Christian, Lamar and Trinity, won SLC championships the first year. Arkansas State tied for basketball to pick up their first title (men's basketball) in year two. At the end of the third year, Arlington State was still trophy-less.
With a win in today's entry, Arlington State would at least clinch a share of that elusive-first title.
The last entry for the 1966 team had ASC winning its first SLC game, 20-7 over Trinity. The Rebels followed that up with a 46-15 win over former Juco rival Tarleton State. In the second conference game of the year, UTA broke a five-game losing streak to Abilene Christian in a convincing 23-0 road win.
That 2-0 conference mark set ASC up perfectly for today's game against Arkansas State. Thanks to the Trinity Tigers beating the Lamar Cardinals, Arlington State had a lot to play for today. Quite simply, a home win gives them at least a shared title.
Ironically, based on scheduling, this would be the first of three straight years where ASC could earn at least a share of the conference title. From 1965 to 1970, Arlington State / UT Arlington would face Arkansas State in the second to last game of the conference schedule, followed by Lamar. The Cardinals were the class of the conference. They won the first two football championships and had nine offensive and eight defensive starters back from the 1965 team.
But Lamar wouldn't matter if the Rebels overlooked the Indians of Arkansas State. On this day in UTA football history, the Arlington State Rebels vie for the first conference title in any sport as a University.
Rebels Win Share of Title
By HARLESS WADE
News Staff Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas - It was home-coming and the Arlington State Rebels gave a packed house of partisans cause to unfurl their Confederate colors and wave them high above the Southland Conference flagpole here Saturday night.
WHILE SOME 10,022 fans screamed with delight, the Rebels polished off Arkansas State, 16-6, to give Arlington State at least a share of the league championship.
With Mike Baylor tossing a pair of touchdowns bombs to Jimmy Thomas and Skipper Butler planting a 20-yard field goal through the uprights, ASC sealed their third consecutive Southland triumph to hold undisputed possession of the title chase.
The Rebels of Burley Bearden, now 6-3 for the year, can claim undisputed rights to the SLC crown by beating Lamar Tech next week in Beaumont.
But for now, they'll settle for the school's first share of a league title of any vintage. It didn't come easy.
In fact, it was a nervous Confederate camp from the start. There was cause for alarm, too. The Arkansas warriors took the opening kickoff and shoved the ball right down Rebels throats.
With quarterback Tim Keane directing a devastating attack, the Indians marched 75 yards over 18 time-consuming plays to stack up a shocking 6-0 lead mid-way of the initial stanza.
Fullback Steve Gankiewicz climaxed with a final 1-yard burst at the middle.
The Rebels stayed in a state of semi-shock over that Indian uprising for most of the first half.
It wasn't until the clock had only 1:40 left that Baylor decided it was time to cut out the nonsense and put the Rebels on the scoreboard.
THE SOPHOMORE quarterback did it quickly, too.Starting at 81 yards of Arkansas State defense, it took him just three flicks of his right wrist to turn the trick.
After two incompletions, Baylor sailed a bomb into the arms of Thomas at the Indian 45. The Reb wingman skipped between defenders Dixk Ritchey and Bryan Caplinger raced merrily into touchdown country.
The bomb tied it at 6-all, with 1:12 left before intermission.
Arlington State finally gained the advantage mid-way of the third stanza when Butler boomed his 8th field goal of the year from 20 yards out.
Rover Mike Stamps decided early in the fourth quarter it was time for the Rebels to cinch a share of the flag. So, he picked off a stray Indian aerial at the Arkansas State 29.
On the next play, Baylor and Thomas put the game away. The sophomore wingman worked behind defender Orley Massena at the three and the sophomore passer flipped him a perfect TD strike.
Butler's kick ckicked off the night's final point.
KEN OZEE, ASC'S Little All-America tackle contender, led an aroused Rebel defense that was forced to overcome a blocked punt and a fumble that twice gave the Indians possession inside ASC country.
Ozee, confined to the school infirmary and wrestling with a 104-degree temperature reading at midnight Friday, collected 17 tackles while shuttling in and out of the game for rest.
The big Reb wasn't alone. Linebackers Billy Stewart and Monty Tolleson answered the tackle call 16 times apiece. And, defensive half back Mike Barnes plucked off his 8th pass interception of the year.