1970 - 74  Ole Miss Rebels



The youngsters of Manning's soph season in '68 had become seniors and this experienced squad was expected to be unstoppable with captain and QB Archie Manning at the controls. What should have been a joyous year became a season that negatively affected Ole Miss football for years. The introduction of the "Colonel Reb" decal on the sides of the royal blue helmets, the customary one-inch red center stripe and the white three-inch block numbers on the rear was Vaught's alteration meant to distinguish his final year of coaching. Considering retirement, he did not realize that the emblem would further alienate many because of its association with segregationist policies as many of the SEC schools began to integrate and actively sought out good African-American players. The stigma of being a backwater, racist state was once again cast upon Mississippi as many interpreted the new helmet logo as a symbol of negativity that many in the state stood for. Fourth in the Heisman voting as a junior, the pre-season hype for Manning and the team was overwhelming. At 4-0, the predictions seemed accurate. The October 17 game against Southern Miss. resulted in one of the biggest upsets in Mississippi football history, one still talked about by fans of both schools decades later. The Southern Miss Eagles 30-14 win had their coach, P.W. Underwood named as honorary mayor of Hattiesburg and precipitated a heart attack which prevented Coach John Vaught from finishing the season. Vaught’s coronary attack upset the team and elevating line coach Bruiser Kinard to interim head coach was further complicated by the untimely heart attack suffered by Athletic Director Tad Smith. Manning had been playing with a pulled groin muscle and he then suffered a broken left arm against Houston, necessitating the insertion of a metal plate and four screws. With three games left to play, Manning returned to play in pain, but the season became a lost cause relative to expectations. For just the second time in twenty-four years Ole Miss lost to Mississippi State. Going into this contest, Ole Miss still held some clout in the national polls, sitting at number ten with their 7-1 record but the 19-14 fourth quarter loss to the despised Bulldogs dropped them off the charts. Closing the season with a terrible 61-17 beating from LSU left them with but one chance for redemption but SEC rival Auburn stung them 35-28 in the Gator Bowl capping the year at 7-4. Vaught planned to return for one more season and was ready to proceed as AD but on January 13, 1971 realized that his health would not allow him to continue. Bruiser Kinard was elevated to the AD post, and he then named his brother Billy, a former Ole Miss player and assistant coach, to the head position. This produced friction as secondary coach Bob Tyler, later the Mississippi State head coach, had been the favorite of the players and from Vaught’s perspective, the rightful heir-apparent. Kinard supporters used Tyler’s relative lack of experience as their justification for going against Vaught’s wishes. With what many believed to be Vaught’s forced retirement from all involvement in the athletic department, it truly was the end of an era.




Elisha Archibald Manning’s success at Ole Miss perhaps was predictable after a high school career that earned him fifteen varsity letters, noted him as class Valedictorian and Senior Class President. “Mr. Everything” at small Drew, MS High School, doubters might have pointed out that at a small rural school, it was easy to be a big man on campus but young Archie truly had it all. A hard worker and consummate organizer, he had a long range plan that earned him the Valedictorian honor. Starting for his varsity baseball team from seventh grade onward, he was drafted by the White Sox and Braves as a shortstop prospect and earned six varsity baseball letters. Adding three each for football, basketball, and track, he quickly rose from seventh string freshman quarterback at the University Of Mississippi, to the team’s starter and leader. His electrifying long-range passing strikes and darting, game saving runs made him a hero throughout the state and earned respect from every corner of the Southeastern Conference. Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant called him the best college quarterback he had ever seen, better than his own Joe Namath had been. When his collegiate career had ended, the numbers were impressive. He threw for 4753 yards and fifty-six touchdowns, ran for another 823, was two-time All SEC, a 1970 All American, finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a junior and third as a senior, was the MVP in the Conference, had his jersey retired, and perhaps was both honored and amused by the posting of an official speed limit of 18 miles per hour on the Ole Miss campus reflecting his storied jersey number. He was later honored with entry to The College Football Hall Of Fame. Manning’s fourteen years in the NFL were not as rewarding. He was the Saints number one draft choice and became the poster boy for the inability of a collegiate great to live up to expectations when the supporting cast causes him to be physically beaten to a pulp game after game, year after year. In his second of eleven seasons with the Saints, he led the league in pass completions and passing yards. In 1978, leading the hapless Saints to a 7-9 record, he was named the NFL Player Of The Year and earned two Pro Bowl nominations in his pro tenure. Completing his pro career with the Oilers in 1982 and part of ’83 and Vikings through 1983 and ’84, Manning could look back on a productive career that saw him throw for almost 24,000 yards. Extremely successful in business, Manning’s post-football career has found him involved with many charitable and community related activities in the New Orleans and Mississippi region. His two son’s, Peyton and Eli, have carried on the Manning quarterback tradition, successful as collegiate players, and both winners of The Super Bowl as pro quarterbacks.

Entering the 1971 season under the stern and at times, combative Billy Kinard, it appeared that things were status quo, even as football life in Oxford went on without Manning who began his professional career as the Saints first-round draft pick. Vaught retired to his nearby farm and the team ripped off a 10-2, seven consecutive victory season that included a 24-22 upset of highly ranked LSU. The Rebels closed the year with an impressive Peach Bowl win over Georgia Tech. Norris Weese was a single-wing type of running and passing QB who teamed with RB Greg Ainsworth and TE Butch Veazey to supply potent offense. Veazey replaced senior Jimbo Poole, son of the former defensive line coach which caused some ripples with alumni. One member of the altered coaching staff was Ken Cooper who came over from Georgia to handle the offensive line and he quickly earned the respect of his fellow coaches and the entire squad. Perhaps ‘71 was beginner's luck or the backlog of Vaught-trained players but the fifteen year bowl streak ended in 1972 as the Weese-led team, with high expectations bottomed out at 5-5 with inconsistent performances and the infamous last second loss to LSU that prompted signs along the Mississippi border to read “Entering Louisiana, Set Your Clocks Back Four Seconds.” Pre-season staff changes effectively removed the Vaught influence to the consternation of many supporters and Head Coach Kinard’s difficulty in getting along with alumni and boosters was obvious. TE Veazey, RB’s Ainsworth and Paul Hofer, and QB Weese who later played with the Broncos, returned with Kenny Lyons as the backup QB, but injuries limited Weese and his effectiveness after a promising soph campaign.


There seemed to be an inordinate amount of rumbling as the Ole Miss alumni and football family, oft-noted and admired for their loyalty and support, were split over the reign of both Kinard brothers. Punctuated by dissension on the team, a slow 1-2 start in 1973 and deterioration in relations with the media and team supporters made the school chancellor step in. Both of the Kinard brothers were forced out of their positions as AD and head coach. To the relief of an overwhelming majority the retired John Vaught, in good health, stepped in to fill the breach as AD and head coach. Addressing the demoralized squad, Vaught stated, “Gentlemen, we are in a situation that I didn’t ask for, but I love Ole Miss and let’s go out and make the best of it.” He guided the team to another five wins despite losing both of his QB’s, Kenny Lyons and Norris Weese, for parts of the season. Weese went on to a pro career that included two seasons with the WFL Hawaiians and four years with the Broncos. Vaught’s return resulted in an overall record of 6-5 with Ben Williams, the first African-American to play at Ole Miss winning All SEC honors, the first of three times he would achieve this status. It was now time to secure and stabilize the program with a new regime although few would expect anyone to equal Vaught's legacy of 190-61-12 record with six SEC Championships, eighteen total bowl game appearances, fourteen of them consecutive, and a slew of All Americans and pro players.


Elmer Clinton “Ken” Cooper, a former Georgia High School All State end from Tifton and letter winning end and kicker for the University Of Georgia held the distinction of having been the last Bulldog to successfully score an extra point with a drop kick. This trivia notation hid his dependable play and after a successful career as a high school coach, he remained at Georgia as line coach until joining the Ole Miss staff. Endorsed by Vaught, Cooper came into what he knew was still a contentious situation for '74. He would guide the team through 1977 despite the fact that his 3-8 debut, giving Ole Miss a record number of losses, wasn't a typical season. Though the presence of RB’s Paul Hofer, and powerful Larry Kramer predicted more, injuries to QB Kenny Lyons forced Tim Ellis, often sidelined with his own injury problems, to step up. Other than Williams, the defense was undistinguished and when their seven straight losses included LSU and Mississippi State, tension was rampant in Oxford and Cooper was expected to immediately right the ship.

If interested in any of these Ole Miss helmets please click on the photos below.