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Arkansas State Red Wolves football

Arkansas State Red Wolves football
2024 Arkansas State Red Wolves football team
First season1911; 113 years ago (1911)
Athletic directorJeff Purinton
Head coachButch Jones
3rd season, 11–26 (.297)
StadiumCentennial Bank Stadium
(capacity: 30,964)
Field surfacePro Green
LocationJonesboro, Arkansas
NCAA divisionDivision I FBS
ConferenceSun Belt Conference
Past conferencesIndependent
Arkansas IC
Big West
Big West
All-time record496–525–37 (.486)
Bowl record4–7 (.364)
Playoff appearancesDiv. I FCS: 4
Playoff recordDiv. I FCS: 6–4
Claimed national titlesDiv. II: 1 (1970)
Unclaimed national titlesDiv. I FCS: 1 (1986)
Conference titles12
RivalriesMemphis (rivalry)
ColorsScarlet and black[1]
Fight songASU Loyalty
Marching bandSound of the Natural State

The Arkansas State Red Wolves football team represents Arkansas State University in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football competition. The team was founded in 1911 and has competed as a member of the Sun Belt Conference since 2001. Their home field is Centennial Bank Stadium and the head coach is Butch Jones.

The Red Wolves have claimed 12 conference championships. Arkansas State's most recent conference championship came in 2016. The team claims one national championship, which came in 1970 at the NCAA College Division level.

In 2008, the school changed its mascot from the Indians to the Red Wolves.


Early years (1911–1953)

The school was founded in 1909, and, two years later, Arkansas State fielded its first football team. In 1918, the team was temporarily disbanded due to the First World War. Arkansas State played without conference affiliation until 1929 when it joined the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference. From 1937 until 1953, Arkansas State competed as a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).[2] After the 1941 season, the football program was interrupted due to World War II and did not resume until the 1945 season. The school left the AIC in 1950 and would remain independent of conference affiliation for the next 12 years.

During the 1950s under coach Forrest England, A-State emerged as a bit of a regional football power, appearing in four post-season bowl games from 1951 to 1953. The Indians compiled a 48–22–9 record under England. The Indians played in two bowls at the end of the 1951 season, winning the Refrigerator Bowl and losing the Tangerine Bowl (now known as the Capital One Bowl). The Indians lost the 1952 Refrigerator Bowl and tied the 1953 Tangerine Bowl.[3]

College Division years (1953–1972)

In 1953, Arkansas State moved to the NCAA, and played as a member of the College Division through 1972.[2] The early part of this era was characterized by mediocre records under several short-term head coaches. In 1962 head coach King Block departed for Nebraska where he was to serve as defensive line coach.

Bennie Ellender was promoted from defensive backs coach to head coach, replacing Block in 1963 just prior to A-State joining the Southland Conference. Ellender would serve for 8 seasons compiling a 52–20–4 record culminating in an undefeated 11–0 College Division National Championship year in 1970. This championship season included a victory over Central Missouri State in the Pecan Bowl, the Indians' 3rd consecutive bowl appearance under Ellender and 3rd straight Southland Conference championship. Ellender departed after the 1970 season to accept the head football coach position at his alma mater Tulane.

Centennial Bank Stadium, formerly known as Liberty Bank Stadium

Divisional realignment years (1973–1991)

In 1973, under head coach Bill Davidson, the Indians were assigned to the newly created Division II. They remained in this classification for one year before being promoted to Division I.[2] Arkansas State recorded an undefeated season (going 11–0) in Division I in 1975 and was one of only two undefeated Division I football teams that year. Arkansas State is one of only four institutions to have gone undefeated and not win a national championship at the Division I-A (now Division I FBS) level.[citation needed] Since Arkansas State was a member of the Southland Conference, and the league did not have a bowl game tie-in, Arkansas State was not selected for post-season play despite being undefeated. As a result of this inequity, the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana was created (though A-State has never played in the game). Davidson retired after the 1978 season due to health problems. Davidson compiled a 51–32–1 record during his tenure.

An Arkansas State player in home uniform.

During the 1980s, under head coach Larry Lacewell, Arkansas State played in the NCAA Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) compiling a 69–58–4 record and making four appearances in the playoffs, including a loss in the national championship game in 1986 to Georgia Southern, 48–21. After the 1986 season Arkansas State left the Southland Conference and became a I-AA Independent. Lacewell left A-State in 1989 after 11 seasons to accept an offer to be Johnny Majors' defensive coordinator at Tennessee.

Lacewell's departure came as the decision was being reached for Arkansas State to pursue entry into what is now Division I FBS.

FBS transition years (1992–2010)

Arkansas State took on Troy in a decisive matchup for the Sun Belt Conference Title on Dec. 2, 2017. Troy went on to win by a score of 32–25.

The transition from I-AA (FCS) to I-A (FBS) football was a painful one for Arkansas State. The school spent most of the decade as a I-A Independent with two separate two-year stints as a member of the Big West Conference.

Al Kincaid came to Jonesboro from his post as an assistant at Alabama. He served as head coach for two seasons, posting 4–17–1 record before his dismissal. Kincaid was replaced by former Alabama head coach Ray Perkins. Perkins tenure was highly anticipated but ultimately a failure as he posted a 2–9 record in one season before joining Bill Parcells' staff with the New England Patriots as offensive coordinator.

Perkins was replaced by offensive line coach John Bobo who oversaw moderate improvements to the team's performance including A-State's first winning record since the start of the transition but he was unable to sustain that success and was fired after the 1996 season.

Bobo was replaced by the highly sought after offensive coordinator at Ohio State, Joe Hollis. Hollis was unable to adapt and posted a 13–43 record in five seasons before being relieved after the 2001 season.

In 2001 the Sun Belt Conference added football and Arkansas State joined the conference as an inaugural football member.

Steve Roberts came to Arkansas State from Northwestern State and was A-State's head football coach for nine seasons (2002–2010), where he compiled a 45–63 record. Although Roberts finished with an overall losing record at Arkansas State, the A-State football program made great strides under his leadership. During the 2005 football season, Arkansas State finished the regular season as Sun Belt Conference champions with a record of 6 wins and 5 losses and was invited to the New Orleans Bowl. This was the school's first bowl game since the trip to the 1970 Pecan Bowl and subsequent national college division championship. The Indians lost to The University of Southern Mississippi in the game, which was played that year in the city of Lafayette, Louisiana due to the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina. The NCAA required Arkansas State to forfeit six football wins from the 2006 season and four from 2005 season in football saying the school used ineligible players. The NCAA also said that it has cut one football for two years. The penalties stem from the school allowing 31 ineligible athletes during the 2005–08 seasons because of a failure to meet NCAA rules on progress-toward-degree requirements.

In 2008, Arkansas State changed its name from the Indians to the Red Wolves and defeated Texas A&M in their inaugural game with the new mascot. Players recruited by Roberts were the foundation of the highly successful teams of the "One and Done" era.

Freeze-Malzahn-Harsin era (2011–2013)

This three-year period saw the Red Wolves achieve remarkable success on the field in the midst of turnover in its coaching staff. The players recruited by Steve Roberts played in three conference championships and three bowl games, and had two 10-win seasons under three different head coaches. Red Wolf players played all three bowl games without their head coach and with depleted coaching staffs. The program's continued success during the adversity of constant coaching changes received considerable national attention.

Hugh Freeze

In 2011, led by first-year head coach Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State went undefeated in the Sun Belt conference, a perfect 8–0 record, as well as going 10–2 overall. After the last regular season game, Freeze took the head coaching job at Ole Miss, taking four assistants with him.[4] Running backs coach David Gunn was named the interim head coach and led the team to Mobile, Alabama for the 2012 Bowl. In that bowl, held on January 8, 2012, the Red Wolves were led by quarterback Ryan Aplin, as they squared off against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Northern Illinois rallied back from a thirteen-point deficit for a 38–20 victory. Also in attendance in Mobile was Gus Malzahn, who was named Arkansas State's new head football coach on December 14, 2011.[5]

Gus Malzahn came to the Red Wolves from Auburn, where he had served the previous three seasons as offensive coordinator. In 2012, Arkansas State lost only one game in the Sun Belt Conference. For the first time in school history, they had back to back 10 win seasons (10–3 in 2012) and back to back Sun Belt conference championships. On December 4, 2012, Malzahn announced his return to Auburn as head coach,[6] thus making it two years in a row the team would be coached by an interim in the post season. John Thompson coached the team to 17–13 victory at the 2013 Bowl against No. 25 Kent State on January 6, 2013. Former Texas Longhorns football offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was named on December 11, 2012, to succeed the departing Malzahn.

In 2013, Arkansas State under Bryan Harsin won the Sun Belt Conference, and received a bid to the GoDaddy Bowl for the 3rd time in as many years with a 7–5 (5–2 conference) regular season record. They were deemed co-champions this year with the UL-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns who were also 5–2 in conference. Before the GoDaddy Bowl, Harsin joined his predecessors in announcing his departure after one season to coach at his alma mater, Boise State.[7] Harsin's contract included a $1.75 million buyout which was paid by Boise State. Defensive Coordinator John Thompson coached the team in the GoDaddy Bowl where Arkansas State blocked a Ball State field goal in the final seconds to hold on to a 23–20 win.[8] A noteworthy point of interest of all three of these coaches, they would all eventually go on to become the head coach of the Auburn Tigers.

Blake Anderson era (2014–2020)

On December 19, 2013, Arkansas State hired Blake Anderson as the new head coach away from his offensive coordinator post at the University of North Carolina.[9] In an attempt to end the "One and Done" era and provide much-needed coaching stability, Arkansas State placed a hefty buyout provision in Anderson's $700,000 per year five-year contract specifying a $3 million buyout for the first two years, $2 million for the third and fourth years, and $1 million in the final year.

The Red Wolves opened the 2015 season 0–2 with losses to both No. 8 USC and No. 21 Missouri. Arkansas State would go on to win 9 of the next 11 with victories over App State and rival Louisiana-Monroe. With their win over App State on November 5, the Red Wolves glided to their 4th Sun Belt title since 2010 and an appearance in the New Orleans Bowl.

Expectations were high for the 2016 season but the Red Wolves started the campaign with four straight losses to Toledo, Auburn, Utah State and in-state FCS opponent Central Arkansas. But during Sun Belt Conference play the Red Wolves reeled off six straight victories including a road win against No. 25 Troy that denied the Trojans a share of the Sun Belt crown. The Red Wolves had a chance to secure a sole conference championship by winning its last two games but faltered when a last-second touchdown was reversed by replay at Louisiana. The Red Wolves secured a win in their final regular season game at Texas State which assured them of a shared conference championship with Appalachian State. The Red Wolves were selected for the 2016 Cure Bowl where they defeated UCF 31–13 in their own hometown. On Dec 10, 2020, Anderson resigned.[10]

Butch Jones era (2020–present)

Butch Jones was announced as the Red Wolves head coach on December 12, 2020.[11] Jones had previous head coaching stints at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee and prior to his hire at Arkansas State was a special assistant to Nick Saban at Alabama.

Division history

Year Division
1937–1952 NJCAA
1953–1955 NCAA (pre-divisional split)
1956–1972 NCAA College Division (Small College)
1973–1974 NCAA Division II
1975–1977 NCAA Division I
1978–1981 NCAA Division I-A
1982–1991 NCAA Division I-AA
1992–present NCAA Division I-A/FBS

Conference affiliations

Arkansas State has been both independent and affiliated with multiple conferences.[12]: 151–157 


National championships

Arkansas State claims one national championship, a 1970 NCAA Division II championship.

Year Coach Division Record CG Opponent Result
1970 Bennie Ellender NCAA Division II 11–0 Central Missouri W 38–21

Conference championships

Arkansas State claims 12 conference titles, most recently of the Sun Belt Conference in 2016.

Year Conference Overall Record Conference Record Coach
1968 Southland Conference 7–3–1 3–0–1 Bennie Ellender
1969 Southland Conference 8–1–1 4–0 Bennie Ellender
1970 Southland Conference 11–0 4–0 Bennie Ellender
1975 Southland Conference 11–0 5–0 Bill Davidson
1978 Southland Conference 7–4 Bill Davidson
1985 Southland Conference 9–4 5–1 Larry Lacewell
1986 Southland Conference 12–2–1 5–0 Larry Lacewell
2011 Sun Belt Conference 10–3 8–0 Hugh Freeze
2012 Sun Belt Conference 10–3 7–1 Gus Malzahn
2013 Sun Belt Conference 8–5 5–2 Bryan Harsin
2015 Sun Belt Conference 9–4 8–0 Blake Anderson
2016 Sun Belt Conference 8–5 7–1 Blake Anderson

† Co-champions

Postseason games

College division and other bowl games

Arkansas State (then known as the Indians) went 3–3–1 in six games that were "College Division" bowl games prior to the NCAA instituting playoffs for lower division teams in 1973.[citation needed] They participated in two bowl game in one season (1951), playing one on December 2 and the other on January 1.

Season Coach Bowl Opponent Result
1951 Forrest England Refrigerator Bowl Camp Breckinridge W 46–12
1951 Forrest England Tangerine Bowl Stetson L 20–35
1952 Forrest England Refrigerator Bowl Western Kentucky State L 19–34
1953 Forrest England Tangerine Bowl East Texas State T 7–7
1968 Bennie Ellender Pecan Bowl North Dakota State L 14–23
1969 Bennie Ellender Pecan Bowl Drake W 29–21
1970 Bennie Ellender Pecan Bowl Central Missouri State W 38–21

NCAA Division I-AA/FCS playoff games

The Red Wolves have appeared in the I-AA/FCS playoffs four times with an overall record of 6–4.

Season Coach Playoff Opponent Result
1984 Larry Lacewell I-AA First Round
I-AA Quarterfinals
Montana State
W 37–10
L 14–31
1985 Larry Lacewell I-AA First Round
I-AA Quarterfinals
Grambling State
W 10–7
L 23–24
1986 Larry Lacewell I-AA First Round
I-AA Quarterfinals
I-AA Semifinals
I-AA Championship Game
Sam Houston State
Eastern Kentucky
Georgia Southern
W 48–7
W 55–23
W 24–10
L 21–48
1987 Larry Lacewell I-AA First Round
I-AA Quarterfinals
Jackson State
Northern Iowa
W 35–32
L 28–49

NCAA Division I-A/FBS bowl games

The Red Wolves have played in eleven bowl games, garnering a record of 4–7.

Season Coach Bowl Opponent Result
2005 Steve Roberts New Orleans Bowl Southern Miss L 19–31
2011 David Gunn Bowl Northern Illinois L 20–38
2012 John Thompson Bowl Kent State W 17–13
2013 GoDaddy Bowl Ball State W 23–20
2014 Blake Anderson GoDaddy Bowl Toledo L 44–63
2015 New Orleans Bowl Louisiana Tech L 28–47
2016 Cure Bowl UCF W 31–13
2017 Camellia Bowl Middle Tennessee L 30–35
2018 Arizona Bowl Nevada L 13–16OT
2019 Camellia Bowl FIU W 34–26
2023 Butch Jones Camellia Bowl Northern Illinois L 19–21

Head coaches

There have been 34 different head coaching tenures at Arkansas State.[12]: 183  The current head coach is Butch Jones, who was hired on December 12, 2020.

No. Tenure Coach Seasons Games Record Pct.
1 1911–1912 F. T. Parks 2 6 4–2 .667
2 1913 Clinton Young 1 5 3–1–1 .700
3 1914–1917 Earl W. Brannon 4 27 16–9–2 .630
4 1919–1921 Foy Hammons 3 19 8–10–1 .447
5 1922–1923 Tom Dandelet 2 14 0–13–1 .036
6 1924 Bill Stanley 1 9 4–5 .444
7 1925–1930 Herbert Schwartz 6 46 19–20–7 .489
8 1931–1932 Jack Dale 2 15 9–6 .600
9 1933 Elza T. Renfro 1 8 2–4–2 .375
10 1934–1935 Tommy Mills 2 17 4–12–1 .265
11 1936–1938 Leslie Speck 3 20 7–13 .350
12 1939–1941 Bill Adams 3 21 5–14–2 .286
13 1945 Ike Tomlinson 1 7 2–4–1 .357
14 1946–1953 Forrest England 8 79 48–22–9 .665
15 1954 Glen Harmeson 1 9 1–8 .111
16 1955–1957 Gene Harlow 3 27 15–12 .556
17 1958–1959 Hugh Taylor 2 18 7–11 .389
18 1960–1962 King Block 3 27 13–14 .481
19 1963–1970 Bennie Ellender 8 76 52–20–4 .711
20 1971–1978 Bill Davidson 8 84 51–32–1 .613
21 1979–1989 Larry Lacewell 11 131 69–58–4 .542
22 1990–1991 Al Kincaid 2 22 4–17–1 .205
23 1992 Ray Perkins 1 11 2–9 .182
24 1993–1996 John Bobo 4 44 13–30–1 .307
25 1997–2001 Joe Hollis 5 56 13–43 .232
26 2002–2010 Steve Roberts 9 108 35–63† .357
27 2011 Hugh Freeze 1 12 10–2 .833
28 2011 David Gunn 1 1 0–1 .000
29 2012 Gus Malzahn 1 12 9–3 .750
30 2012 John Thompson 1 1 1–0 1.000
31 2013 Bryan Harsin 1 12 7–5 .583
32 2013 John Thompson 1 1 1–0 1.000
33 2014–2020 Blake Anderson 7 88 51–37 .580
34 2021–present Butch Jones 3 36 11–25 .306

† 10 wins later vacated due to NCAA sanctions, 45–63 record on-field.

‡ Interim head coach


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (December 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this message)


The series between the Arkansas State Red Wolves and the Memphis Tigers is the oldest as well as the longest the A-State program has had and is the second most often played series for Memphis. The first game was played in 1914.[13]

There have been some memorable moments in the series. In 2004, Memphis defeated Arkansas State 47–35 before 30,427 fans, the largest crowd to ever watch a game at then-named Indian Stadium. In 2006, Arkansas State beat Memphis at the Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee after a last second Hail Mary touchdown to secure the win, 26–23, and end a ten-game losing streak to the Tigers. The teams met again in 2007 at Indian Stadium, where the Indians rallied in the second half to beat the Tigers 35–31 after trailing 31–6 at halftime. The schools have met 59 times, with the Tigers leading the series 30–24–5.

In 2016, the schools announced the series will be brought back once again starting in 2020. Arkansas State and Memphis have four games slated from 2020 to 2023. The first game will be played in Memphis on September 5, 2020.[14]


This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this message)


Current NFL players

Current CFL players

Former players

Future non-conference opponents

Announced schedules as of September 19, 2023.[15]

2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029
at Oklahoma vs Central Arkansas vs Southeast Missouri State at Memphis at Georgia Tech at Memphis vs Memphis
vs Memphis vs Tulsa at Arkansas at TCU vs Memphis
vs Stony Brook at Iowa State vs Iowa State at Texas A&M
at UMass at Michigan


  1. ^ "University Colors – Arkansas State University". Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Arkansas State Historical Data Archived March 28, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, College Football Data Warehouse, retrieved March 11, 2009.
  3. ^ "Arkansas State Bowl History". Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
  4. ^ "Ole Miss Hires Hugh Freeze". Team Speed Kills. 2011-12-05. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  5. ^ "Arkansas State hires Gus Malzahn". 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  6. ^ "Auburn hires Gus Malzahn, admits real brains behind its BCS title - Stewart Mandel -". Archived from the original on December 8, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  7. ^ "Arkansas State loses another head coach on way to GoDaddy Bowl". 11 December 2013. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  8. ^ "Boise State hires Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin". 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  9. ^ "New A-State Head Coach is UNC's Blake Anderson - - Central Arkansas' Source for News, Weather, and Sports covering Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway, Cabot, Searcy, Hot Springs, and the rest of Central Arkansas". Archived from the original on December 20, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  10. ^ "Arkansas State's head football coach resigns after 7 seasons". Arkansas Online. December 10, 2020.
  11. ^ "Butch Jones Named Arkansas State Head Football Coach". Arkansas State University Athletics. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  12. ^ a b "2018 Reference Guide" (PDF). Arkansas State Athletics.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-01-22. Retrieved 2015-01-22.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "A-State Football Adds Memphis to Future Schedules - Arkansas State Athletics Official Web Site -". Retrieved 2017-10-22.
  15. ^ "Arkansas State Red Wolves Football Future Schedules". Retrieved August 9, 2022.
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Arkansas State Red Wolves football
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