TIGER KICKOFF: 10 things you might not know about Murray State

Friday, August 30, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:17 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 30, 2013

The last time Missouri played Murray State, it was 2006 and Chase Daniel was making his first career start for the Tigers.

Missouri predictably won the game, cruising to a 47-7 win over the Racers.

It’s been quite a while since the Racers visited Columbia, and though the football program has struggled at times, Murray State is steeped in tradition, and some interesting ones at that.

Here are 10 things you might not know about Murray State.

1.   The Murray State football program has churned out successful coaches. Unfortunately for the Racers, those coaches end up having the most success once they left Murray State. Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Mississippi’s Houston Nutt both got started coaching the Racers and have combined for 319 wins at the Division I level since leaving Murray State behind. Mike Gottfried, Ron Zook and Ralph Friedgen all got started at Murray State as well, but they didn’t quite achieve the same level of success at the Division I level.

2.   Only 23 schools in the country have a Division I NCAA rifle team, and Murray State is one of them. In fact, the Racers have one of the most successful programs in the country. They have won two NCAA national titles and produced six individual national champions. Pat Spurgin, the 1984 Summer Olympics gold medalist, was a two-time national champion at Murray State. Lucky for Missouri, Saturday’s game will take place on the football field and not the rifle range.

3.   Murray State likes to practice the obscure sports. In addition to the nationally recognized rifle team, the Racers have one of the 45 programs in the country competing in college rodeo. Maybe rodeo isn’t a big deal nationally, but Murray State has two working farms on campus and takes quite a bit of pride in its rodeo team.

4.   He’s no Jon Hamm, but W. Earl Brown, the co-star of "There’s Something About Mary," is one of the most famous alumni of Murray State. Former NBA star “Jumpin” Joe Fulks, one of the innovators of the modern jump shot, is also a proud former Racer.

5.   The Shield is considered the official seal of the university. It is taken from the coat of arms of the Murray family, for which Murray State is named. The Shield has three stars, which represent hope, endeavor and achievement. Considering Murray State opened at 38-point underdogs for Saturday’s game, the team may not have much hope, endeavor or achievement in its trip to Missouri.

6.   Dating to 1938, Murray State’s “Campus Lights” is the longest running musical in the South that is produced and performed by students. Started by a music fraternity, the production has become a fundraiser for the university’s music department scholarships.

7.   Every school takes homecoming seriously, but Murray State puts its own twist on the festivities. Each year, on the east side of Roy Stewart Stadium is a group of nearly 50 tents that represent different student and alumni groups. “Tent City,” as it is appropriately named, is a place for students to mingle with alumni and, of course, tailgate.

8.   Murray State’s football program may lack the prestige of bigger schools, but it still has tradition, including a unique mascot. Racer One is the name of the Racers’ thoroughbred, and after each Murray State touchdown since 1976, the horse has done a lap around the track surrounding the football field. Violet Cactus was the first horse to play the role of Racer One, and when she died in 1984, she was buried in the football stadium. Now, a different horse fills the role every year along with a new student jockey each season.

9.   What’s a university without a catch phrase, right? Up until 2008, Murray State referred to itself as “Kentucky’s Public Ivy,” referring to the Ivy League schools with esteemed academic traditions. While Murray State is a fine institution of higher learning, it’s tough to say what exactly qualified the school as “Kentucky’s Public Ivy” and the change in tagline was probably for the best. The school's new logo, adopted in 1999, is "Your World to Explore."

10.  Murray State has a unique tree on its campus. Well, it’s not exactly a tree anymore. It’s more of a stump. The tradition says when a couple meets at Murray State and gets married, they each nail one shoe to the “Shoe Tree” on campus. If they have children, the couple also nails a baby shoe to the tree in some cases.

However, the current tree is the second of its kind on campus. The original shoe tree caught fire after being struck by lightning. The current tree had its branches removed to help lower the risk of another lightning strike, thus taking on a more stump-like appearance.


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