Texas A&M–Commerce Lions football

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Texas A&M–Commerce Lions football
2017 Texas A&M–Commerce Lions football team
Texas A&M–Commerce Lions wordmark.svg
First season 1915
Head coach Colby Carthel
5th season, 48–15 (.762)
Stadium Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium
(Capacity: 13,500)
Field surface Safeplay
Location Commerce, Texas
Conference Lone Star Conference
All-time record 528–423–30 (.554)
Bowl record 10–7–1 (.583)
Claimed nat'l titles 2 (1972, 2017)
Conference titles 25
Rivalries Tarleton State Texans
Texas A&M–Kingsville Javelinas
West Texas A&M Buffaloes
Colors Blue and Gold[1]
Mascot Lucky the Lion
Marching band Pride Marching Band
Website LionAthletics.com
The 2014 team before playing the Texas A&M–Kingsville Javelinas at AT&T Stadium
The 2015 team before playing the Adams State Grizzlies
The 2014 team with the Chennault Cup after defeating rival Texas A&M–Kingsville
Vernon Johnson catching a pass against the Angelo State Rams
The 2014 team in action against the McMurry War Hawks
The 2014 team in action against the Tarleton State Texans

The Texas A&M–Commerce Lions football team (formerly the East Texas Lions and East Texas State Lions) is the college football program representing Texas A&M University–Commerce. The school competes in the Lone Star Conference (LSC) in Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The A&M–Commerce football team plays its home games at Memorial Stadium on the university campus in Commerce, Texas. On Dec. 16, 2017, A&M-Commerce won its first NCAA Division II national championship, by defeating West Florida, 37-27, in Kansas City. The Lions recorded a perfect record in 1934, won the NAIA National Championship in 1972, and have amassed a total of 24 LSC conference championships since joining as a charter member in 1931. The school, which has fielded football teams since 1915, has produced numerous National Football League players, including Autry Beamon, Dee Mackey, Harvey Martin, Alan Veingrad, Dwight White, and Wade Wilson. Since 2013, the team has been coached by Colby Carthel.


Formative years (1915–1919)[edit]

1919 football team

Founding East Texas Normal College president William Leonidas Mayo was initially hostile to football, objecting largely on the grounds that the sport was too violent and dangerous; he threatened that he would "kick the first football that is brought on this campus off, and the man who brings it".[2] Nonetheless, the president's son, Marion Mayo, quietly organized a team that practiced off campus with the support of his mother.[2]

The East Texas team played three games in its inaugural season in 1915, the highlight of which was a tie against a hapless Southern Methodist team that lost a game 147–0 to Rice that year.[3] For the 1916 season, the school employed its first head coach, former Texas A&M player Johnny Garrity, and recruited De Loss Parsons and Frank Rubarth to play for the football team; the result was a winning season, with a record of 4–3.[4] The football team also received President Mayo's formal approval during the 1916 season, and became officially accepted as an on-campus extracurricular activity.[5]

The 1917 team, the first to represent the newly renamed East Texas State Normal College, played only two games; both were shutout losses to schools from Greenville, Texas, Burleson College and Wesley College, respectively. In 1918, the school did not play any games at all due to President Randolph B. Binnion's decision to suspend the football program during American participation in World War I.[6] In 1919, the first year that the team competed as the "Lions",[7] it returned to the gridiron with a winning record of 4–1–1.[8]

TIAA and early LSC years (1920–1942)[edit]

1922 football team in action

After competing largely without success in the Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association (TIAA) in the 1920s, East Texas State and its football program became a charter member of the Lone Star Conference (LSC) in 1931.[9] The team competed against conference opponents that included North Texas State, Southwest Texas State, Sam Houston State, and Stephen F. Austin under the direction of head coach John Wesley Rollins, who had played an instrumental role in organizing the LSC.[9]

During the ten seasons between 1933 and 1942, the Lions football team dominated the LSC, winning the conference title outright five times, finishing as co-champions another year, ending three seasons as runners-up, and finishing third the other year during that span.[9] East Texas State won three consecutive LSC titles from 1933 to 1935, the first of its 20 total conference titles.[10] The 1934 team, which achieved a perfect record and only allowed six points all season, is generally regarded as one of the greatest in the school's history.[9] In 1936, the year the team moved into a new stadium,[11] halfback Johnny Garrison became the first East Texas State athlete in any sport to claim a national honor when he was named an honorable mention Little All-American selection.[9] In 1937 and 1938, the Lions won back-to-back LSC championships.[10] Also in 1938, fullback Darrell Tully was named to the Little All-American team while end Gene Hodge was given honorable mention.[9] Before LSC football competition went on hiatus for three years during American participation in World War II, the Lions won another conference title in 1942.[10]

Postwar years and the "Golden Fifties" (1946–1963)[edit]

During the 1940s and 1950s, university president James G. Gee displayed a particular affection for the school's football team, even to the point of "occasionally suggesting plays to the coaches"; he had previously been a part-time assistant coach at Sam Houston State as well as the University of Florida.[12] In 1946, the football team finished the season with a 5–2–2 record under the direction of head coach Bob Berry, good enough for second place in the LSC, although it was mired in mediocrity until 1949.[12] That year, which ended with an LSC championship,[10] East Texas State moved its homecoming celebration from the spring, where it had been traditionally celebrated as "May Fete", to the fall so that it would coincide with a football game.[13]

In 1951, new coach Milburn "Catfish" Smith began a sudden resurgence of the program that was aided by the outbreak of the Korean War and two related factors: the fact that the school was the only LSC member with an ROTC program and a rule that allowed junior college transfers who were enrolled in ROTC programs to play intercollegiate athletics for three additional years instead of the usual two.[12] From 1951 to 1953, the team compiled an overall record of 30–2–1, and in both 1952 and 1953 won invitations to the Tangerine Bowl.[12] In 1954, Jules V. Sikes took over as head coach following Smith's departure, and continued the successful ways of his predecessor; the Lions won (either outright or a share of) five straight conference championships from 1951 to 1955,[12] and again in 1958 and 1959.[10] During the "Golden Fifties", three Lions were named to the Little All-America first team (guard Bruno Ashley, quarterback Sam McCord, and end Norman Roberts), while numerous others received national second-team or honorable mention honors, or were named to all-LSC or all-Texas teams.[14]

Hawkins era (1964–1985)[edit]

In 1964, Ernest Hawkins succeeded Sikes as head coach, and would be in charge of the program until his retirement in 1985; in their 22 years under Hawkins, the Lions won the LSC or finished as runners-up eight times.[15] After the university integrated in 1964, African American athletes quickly became prominent players on East Texas State teams, with star running backs Curtis Guyton and "King" Arthur James leading the way in the mid to late 1960s.[16] By the time he completed his college career in 1969, James had won National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American honors twice and compiled 4,285 yards rushing, more than any other running back in the history of Texas college football to that point; he would later become the first Lion football player to have his number retired.[17] The 1960s concluded with two more conference championships, one won outright in 1966 and the other shared with Texas A&I in 1969.[10]

In 1972, the team won arguably its greatest achievement in its last season competing in the NAIA, when it captured the NAIA National Championship with a win over Carson–Newman College.[18][18] The 1972 team, a two-loss LSC champion[10][19] considered by some to be the greatest in the program's history, was led by star defensive end Harvey Martin, who would later win a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys.[18] Other Lions who would later play in the National Football League included Autry Beamon (Minnesota Vikings), Dee Mackey (Baltimore Colts), Alan Veingrad (Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys), Dwight White (Pittsburgh Steelers), and Wade Wilson (Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons).[20] In 1983, the Lions won their 20th LSC championship, which they shared with Southwest Texas State.[10]

Vowell years (1986–1998)[edit]

Eddie Vowell took over as the team's head coach after Hawkins' retirement in 1985.[21] Vowell's Lions won one LSC Championship in 1990 and finished second 4 times, posted 6 winning seasons and went to the NCAA Division II playoffs.[10][18] three times, finishing in the national quarterfinal in 1990 and 1991 and in the first round in 1995. Vowell retired at the end of 1998 season.[19]

Brister years (1999–2003)[edit]

In 1999, former Stephen F. Austin State University Offensive coordinator Eddie Brister was hired to succeed Vowell. In Brister's final season, the Lions posted a 1–10 record, the worst in school history, and went winless in conference play for the first time in program history. Brister resigned at the end of the 2003 season.[19]

Conley years (2004–2008)[edit]

Scotty Conley, an East Texas State alumnus, returned to Commerce to coach the Lions from 2004 to 2008. After another 5–5 season in 2008, Conley was dismissed by new A&M-Commerce athletic director Carlton Cooper. Conley compiled a record of 24–27.[19]

Morriss years (2009-2012)[edit]

On January 7, 2009, Morriss was offered the job to succeed Conley by athletic director Carlton Cooper and university president Daniel Jones.

Morriss's tenure at Texas A&M–Commerce began with five losses, before the Lions reeled off five straight wins, finishing 5–5 overall with a 5–0 record in their division, winning the North Division of the Lone Star Conference outright. That gave Texas A&M–Commerce its first division title since 2007 and its first outright title of any kind since 1990. Morriss also introduced the idea of wearing throwback jerseys that had the moniker "EAST TEXAS" on the front, as homage to the schools previous name, East Texas State University.

After Morriss's first season, players from his football team coordinated an effort to illegally remove all copies of a student newspaper from campus because it contained an unfavorable article about a teammate who had been arrested on drug charges. Morriss said that he was "proud" of his players for taking the newspapers. He also referred to the theft as "the best team building exercise we have ever done." Morriss was subsequently disciplined by the school administration over the incident.

The 2010 season started with much excitement as a massive renovation to Memorial Stadium in Commerce was completed that added 3,500 seats to the east side of the stadium, a second press box, a new scoreboard with a video jumbotron, and new locker rooms. The Lions christened their newly renovated stadium by routing Upper Iowa, 33–10, giving Morriss six straight wins as head coach. However, the Lions only won two more games the rest of the season and finished with a disappointing 3–8 season. The 2011 season only produced one win, a 60–28 win over Eastern New Mexico, and the Lions finished 1–9. 2012 produced an identical record of 1–9, the lone victory coming over long time rival Texas A&M–Kingsville, 21–14 in overtime.

On November 12, 2012, after leading the A&M–Commerce football program for four seasons, Morriss stepped down as head football coach. He stayed on at A&M–Commerce as special assistant to the athletic director. His duties included fundraising, teaching, and oversight of athletic facilities and special projects.

Carthel years (2013–present)[edit]

On January 22, 2013 after a nationwide search for a new coach, University President Dr. Daniel Jones and new Athletic Director Ryan Ivey hired former West Texas A&M defensive coordinator Colby Carthel.[22] Carthel started his tenure with a 7–5 season that included wins over two ranked Division II teams, a win over Division I Houston Baptist, and an appearance in the Live United Texarkana Bowl, the first post season appearance since 1995 for the Lion program.[23] The next season, the Lions posted a 9–3 record winning the LSC Championship for the first time in 23 years, and winning 9 games, including a season opening win over East Texas Baptist University by the score of 98–20.[24] The Lions were once again invited to the post season by routing former LSC foe East Central University 72–21 in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl.[25] The 2015 Lions repeated as conference champions and returned to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time in 20 years where they bowed out in the first round to the Ferris State Bulldogs.[26]

In the 2016 season the Lions reached new heights under Carthel as they finished their regular season 9-1, with their lone loss coming by a single point, 25-26, at home against then-7th-ranked Midwestern State.[27] Another trip to the postseason produced the program's first playoff win since 1991,[28] over Colorado-Mesa, but the team would again bow out before the title game as they fell on the road to top-seeded Grand Valley State.[29] The 2017 season would see another great performance for the Lions, as once again their lone loss was on the road against highly-ranked Midwestern State.[30]

This season, however, their postseason fortunes would improve as a road matchup against the top-seeded Central Washington Wildcats saw the Lions trailing 28-7 at halftime, but a ferocious comeback would produce a 34-31 double-overtime win[31] and TAMC's first opportunity to advance past the second round of the playoffs in school history. In the quarterfinals, Carthel's squad would face off against another top team on the road in Minnesota State-Mankato and pull off another surprising victory.[32] This moved them into a quarterfinal matchup against a low-ranked program in Harding, who also knocked off the top seed in their division on their way through the bracket. A comfortable 31-17 victory[33] gave the Lions their first-ever appearance in the NCAA DIvision II National Championship.

Postseason appearances[edit]

The Lions have an all-time postseason record of 10–7–2.[19]

Season Event Opponent Result
1952 Tangerine Bowl Tennessee Tech W 33–0
1953 Tangerine Bowl Arkansas Tech T 7–7
1957 Tangerine Bowl Southern Miss W 10–9
1958 Tangerine Bowl Missouri Valley W 26–7
1972 NAIA National Semifinal Central Oklahoma W 54–0
1972 NAIA National Championship Carson-Newman W 21–18
1974 Florida Central Classic Bowl Bethune–Cookman T 7–7
1980 NAIA National Quarterfinals Central Arkansas W 27–21
1980 NAIA National Semi-Finals Elon College L 14–6
1990 NCAA National Playoffs
First Round
Grand Valley State W 20–14
1990 NCAA National Playoffs
Pittsburg State L 60–28
1991 NCAA National Playoffs
First Round
Grand Valley State W 36–15
1991 NCAA National Playoffs
Pittsburg State L 38–28
1995 NCAA National Playoffs
First Round
Portland State L 56–35
2013 Live United Texarkana Bowl Harding L 44–3
2014 C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl East Central W 72–21
2015 NCAA National Playoffs
First Round
Ferris State L 48–30
2016 NCAA National Playoffs
First Round
Colorado Mesa W 34–23
2016 NCAA National Playoffs
Second Round
Grand Valley State L 55-32
2017 NCAA National Playoffs
First Round
Winona State W 20–6
2017 NCAA National Playoffs
Second Round
Central Washington 'W 34-31 2OT
2017 NCAA National Playoffs
Minnesota State W 31–21
2017 NCAA National Playoffs
Harding W 31-17
2017 NCAA National Championship Game West Florida W 37–27


The Chennault Cup[edit]

The Chennault Cup is a traveling trophy that is given to the winner of the annual Football game between A&M-Commerce and the A&M–Kingsville Javelinas. The trophy is named in honor of famous World War I and World War II pilot Claire Chennault, who was born in Commerce, but spent time training and teaching at the Naval Air Station Kingsville during his distinguished military career. Currently, A&M-Commerce has the Chennault Cup after defeating the A&M-Kingsville Javelinas 37–17 during the 2015 season. Texas A&M-Kingsville leads the series between the Lions and Javelinas with an overall record of 35–27–1, and 13–6 in the Chennault Cup series.[34]

The President's Cup[edit]

The President's Cup is a traveling trophy that is awarded to the winner of the annual Football game between A&M-Commerce and the Tarleton State Texans. The Cup is sponsored by the Texas A&M University System and the Presidents of the respective institutions as TAMUC and TSU are the two largest schools in the A&M System behind Texas A&M University, the flagship institution. Currently, A&M-Commerce holds the lead in the series between these two schools with an overall record of 13–11 against Tarleton State. Also A&M-Commerce currently holds the President's Cup after defeating Tarleton by a score of 63–0 during the 2015 season.[35]

East Texas vs. West Texas[edit]

Though not a trophy game, the annual match-up between the Lions and the Buffaloes of West Texas A&M University has developed into a fierce cross state rivalry. The rivalry's name is derived from both schools former names, East Texas State University (A&M-Commerce) and West Texas State University (West Texas A&M) and their respective eastern and western location in the northern half of Texas. Adding to the competitive nature of the game is that A&M-Commerce head coach Colby Carthel was the defensive coordinator for the West Texas A&M Buffaloes from 2006–2012 and his father Don Carthel was the head coach of West Texas A&M's football team during that same time period. The elder Carthel was fired by the University in a very controversial manner and now resides in Northeast Texas with his son and helps with the football program on an unpaid basis. Both environments are hostile to the visiting teams. When the Lions, led by Carthel walk onto Kimbrough Memorial Stadium they are showered and welcomed with chants of booing from the West Texas A&M fans, while Commerce fans, particularly the students on Greek row who are fraternity members and other student sections chant and heckle the Buffs when the game is played in Commerce. Currently A&M-Commerce leads the series 16–15 all time against the West Texas A&M Buffaloes.[36]


Updated as of January 30, 2017[10][19]
# Name Term GC OW OL OT O% CW CL CT C% PW PL CCs NCs
1 Garrity, JohnnyJohnny Garrity 1916–1917 12 5 6 1 .458 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 Tipton, E.M.E.M. Tipton 1919 6 4 1 1 .750 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3 Cushman, CecilCecil Cushman 1920 8 2 5 1 .313 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
4 Jernigan, RussellRussell Jernigan 1921–1923 25 9 15 1 .380 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5 Murphy, JoeJoe Murphy 1924–1928 42 8 31 3 .226 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
6 Acker, Will HillWill Hill Acker 1927–1930 16 2 13 1 .156 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
7 Rollins, J.W.J.W. Rollins 1931–1934 33 19 12 2 .606 12 2 1 .833 0 0 2 0
8 Berry, BobBob Berry 1935–1941, 1946–1950 114 72 34 8 .667 32 17 3 .644 0 0 4 0
9 Vinzant, DennisDennis Vinzant 1942 8 4 3 1 .563 2 0 1 .833 0 0 1 0
10 Smith, M.A.M.A. Smith 1951–1953 33 30 2 1 .924 15 0 0 1.000 1 0 3 0
11 Sikes, J.V.J.V. Sikes 1954–1963 101 63 34 4 .644 44 20 2 .682 2 0 4 0
12 Hawkins, ErnestErnest Hawkins 1964–1985 230 132 92 6 .587 90 64 4 .582 3 1 4 1
13 Vowell, EddieEddie Vowell 1986–1998 146 72 73 1 .497 42 40 1 .512 2 3 1 0
14 Brister, EddieEddie Brister 1999–2003 162 19 35 0 .352 15 28 0 .349 0 0 0 0
15 Conley, ScottyScotty Conley 2004–2008 51 24 27 0 .471 16 14 0 .533 0 1 0 0
16 Morriss, GuyGuy Morriss 2009–2012 41 10 31 0 .244 9 19 0 .321 0 0 0 0
17 Carthel, ColbyColby Carthel 2013–present 48 34 14 0 .708 21 6 0 .778 2 3 3 0

Professional players[edit]

Current players[edit]

Former NFL players[edit]

Former professional players from other leagues[edit]


Memorial Stadium in November 2013

Memorial Stadium has been home to the A&M–Commerce football team since its opening in 1950. The Lions dedicated the stadium on September 23, 1950, during a game against then-rival North Texas State. The stadium cost $300,000 to build, part of which was raised by the school's Ex-Students Association after it had initiated the project in fall 1945; construction of the stadium began in fall 1949.[42]

As originally built, Memorial Stadium's capacity was 12,000; in 1980, the 2,000-capacity visiting stand on the east side of the field was torn down, reducing its capacity to 10,000. Other modifications and renovations made to the stadium since its construction have included the addition of five suites (including one for the university president) to the press box in 1973, a new ticket booth in 1987, a new scoreboard in 2006, new locker rooms in 2009, and a new east-side stand that (along with renovations to the main west-side stand) increased seating capacity to 13,500. In 2006, Memorial Stadium's natural grass surface was replaced with FieldTurf, which in summer 2013 was adorned with an oversized lion's head logo, measuring 50 yards (46 m) by 50 yards (46 m).[42]


  1. ^ "Logo Downloads - Texas A&M University-Commerce". Retrieved October 21, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Reynolds 1993, pp. 23–24
  3. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 24
  4. ^ Reynolds 1993, pp. 24–25
  5. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 25
  6. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 51
  7. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 49
  8. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 50
  9. ^ a b c d e f Reynolds 1993, p. 89
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Lone Star Conference Champions". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  11. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 77
  12. ^ a b c d e Reynolds 1993, p. 136
  13. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 134
  14. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 137
  15. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 159
  16. ^ Reynolds 1993, p. 174
  17. ^ Reynolds 1993, pp. 174–75
  18. ^ a b c d e Reynolds 1993, p. 157
  19. ^ a b c d e f "All-Time Results". LionAthletics.com. Texas A&M University–Commerce. Retrieved October 18, 2015. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f Reynolds 1993, p. 175
  21. ^ http://lionathletics.com/hof.aspx?hof=139&path=&kiosk=
  22. ^ Carthel named Head Coach
  23. ^ Lions Accept bid to participate in Live United Texarkana Bowl
  24. ^ Lions defeat ETBU 98–20
  25. ^ 2014 HOT Bowl
  26. ^ "No. 2 Seed/No. 2 Bulldogs Ends No. 7 seed/No. 20 Lions Season, 48–30". LionAthletics.com. Texas A&M University–Commerce. November 21, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  27. ^ "No. 4 Lions edged by No. 7 Midwestern State in heartbreaker, 26-25 - Texas A&M-Commerce". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  28. ^ "Fourth-seed Lions use turnovers and key scores to take first playoff win since 1991 with 34-23 victory over fifth-seeded Colorado Mesa - Texas A&M-Commerce". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  29. ^ "Fourth-seed Lions see playoff run end in 55-32 loss at top-seed Grand Valley - Texas A&M-Commerce". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  30. ^ "No. 2 Lions' wild comeback effort falls short in 47-42 loss at No. 10 Midwestern State - Texas A&M-Commerce". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  31. ^ "Fifth seed Lions come back from halftime deficit to take down top seed Central Washington, 34-31, in double overtime epic - Texas A&M-Commerce". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  32. ^ "Lions keep magical run alive, advancing to National Semifinal with 31-21 win over No. 1 Minnesota State - Texas A&M-Commerce". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  33. ^ "Lions punch ticket to NCAA Division II National Championship game with 31-17 win over Harding - Texas A&M-Commerce". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  34. ^ Chennault Cup
  35. ^ President's Cup
  36. ^ East Texas vs. West Texas
  37. ^ Collins signs with Bombers
  38. ^ Vernon Johnson NFL Profile
  39. ^ "Bears Sign 9 Players To Futures Contracts". Retrieved 2016-01-17. 
  40. ^ "Shores Signs Two-Two CFL Deal With BC Lions". Texas A&M-Commerce. Retrieved 2016-05-01. 
  41. ^ Tuaau signs futures contract with Dolphins
  42. ^ a b "Memorial Stadium". LionAthletics.com. Texas A&M University–Commerce. Retrieved October 18, 2015. 


Reynolds, Donald E. (1993). Professor Mayo's College: A History of East Texas State University. Commerce, Texas: East Texas State University Press. ISBN 0963709208. 

External links[edit]