In 1990, a group of 11 freshmen started for first-year head coach Hank Walbrick and went 1-9. That group of football players continued to fight and improved to 5-4-1 in 1991 and 6-3 in 1992.
Then in 1993, they accomplished something that no team from East Central University, in any sport, has repeated. They won a national championship.
“It was a dream year that didn’t start out that way,” Walbrick said. “We had built the team since 1990, with 11 freshmen starting. Of those 11, 10 were still with us in 1993 and were the nucleus and leadership of the team. I didn’t have to do a lot of motivating when I had players like that doing it for me.”
This year’s Homecoming will be all about remembering the 1990s, and what better way for the ECU athletics department to get involved than to honor its national championship?
“Everything that season was very consistent,” said ECU flanker back Jason Clements. “The Monday practice before the national championship, we started out doing the same thing that we did on the first day of August: two-a-days. The coaches did a super job of having a plan for the year and taking the talent and players we had and knowing what to do with them that year.”
The 1993 ECU football squad finished the season 10-3 overall, 3-2 in the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference and had a perfect 7-0 record at Norris Field. After going 7-3 in the regular season and earning a No. 7 ranking, the Tigers had to wait to find out if they would make the eight-team field due to a final regular-season loss at Southeastern.
“After we lost to Southeastern, we thought that we had lost our chance to make the playoffs,” Walbrick said. “But we were fortunate enough that a lot of the other teams below us also lost. So we got a second chance. When I talked to the team, I told them that while we didn’t take care of business at Southeastern, we had a second chance and we couldn’t let that one slide.”