Coach Philip Heckman Arbuckle

I’ll put aside Coach Arbuckle’s slightly off kilter training regimen for the moment and talk instead about the fine job he did for Rice under difficult circumstances. Arbuckle had been recruited as our first AD as well as the first coach of all the sports offered when we opened in 1912–baseball, track and basketball in addition to football.  We stole him from Southwestern in Georgetown, where he had made that small school into a Texas athletic powerhouse. This recommendation letter from the UT coach is characteristic of the sorts of things people said about Arbuckle:

Several years ago I ran across this vivid evidence of the good manners he expected (and got) from his athletes:

There was a lot of excitement surrounding Arbuckle’s hiring in Houston at large, where hopes of building a football powerhouse of our own ran high, and his arrival was noted in the local papers:

And in truth he did a very good job, compiling a record of 51-25-8 from 1912 to 1923 and earning the trust and respect of the students while teaching both English and History. He was replaced by John Heisman in 1924, becoming the first in a long line of Rice coaches who fell victim to unrealistic expectations.  (Heisman failed miserably by the way and was gone himself after the 1925 season.)

Not long ago I found this poignant compilation he made of his record as Rice’s football coach. I’m pretty sure the handwritten numbers along the left column are the enrollments of the schools we played against:

This is my favorite photograph of him:

Rice fight never dies.

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9 Responses to Coach Philip Heckman Arbuckle

  1. John Wolda says:

    Funny. Coach Arbuckle shows his record at Rice was 49-18-6.
    Rice football archives shows 52- 30-8

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Interesting. There’s no date on Arbuckle’s document.

      This means I’m going to have to go count it out myself when I get back to Houston.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      It looks like Arbuckle left out at least part of the 1912 season, which included play against a couple of high schools.

    • almadenmike says:

      The document shows Rice’s record against UT as 1-7. That was after the 1921 season. (Arbuckle’s teams also lost to the Longhorns in his final two years, 1922 & 1923.)

      FTR, Heisman was 1-3 vs. UT; 12-18-3 over his 4 years at the helm of the Owls (4-11-1 in SWC play).

      I wonder if this document was part of his defense argument when questions by higher-ups about the Owls’ lack of on-the-field success.

      It would also be interesting to make an accounting of academic casualties. Many early Threshers mention the scepter of semester grade reports, lamenting those who were dismissed from Rice as a result. These twice-a-year academic prunings, which included a fair share of athletes, were always a challenge for Rice coaches that our opponents, to a large extent, did not have to deal with.

    • almadenmike says:

      BTW, after an initial drubbing (0-52) in 1912, Arbuckle’s teams went 9-0 versus his former employer (Southwestern @Georgetown, Tex.), with a combined score of 233-40 — 109-6 over the final five games).

  2. Tom & Jeanette Hix says:

    The concept of “unrealistic expectations” when it comes to Rice’s major athletic teams is something else at Rice that “never dies”.

    Tom Hix

  3. almadenmike says:

    BTW, last year in a Parliament thread “GoodOwl” compiled a series of 20 posts on Rice Athletic directors, beginning with this one on Mr. Arbuckle:

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