(Memphis, Tn) – In terms of football facilities, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is one of the most iconic and recognizable in the nation. The Memphis Tigers, the Liberty Bowl, the National Football League and numerous other professional teams have called it home. Prior to the opening in 1965, the football center for Memphis was located just 3 miles away at Crump Stadium. Built in 1934 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, it was named after E.H. “Boss” Crump who was mayor of Memphis from 1910 to 1915 and dominated Tennessee state politics until his death in 1954.
On December 5, 1936, Ole Miss played #17 ranked Tennessee in front of record crowd of 16,000 fans to a 0-0 tie, the largest to ever see a sporting event in Memphis. Bolstered by the success, city officials decided to aggressively market the city and venue to southeastern schools as a viable neutral site. After increasing capacity to 25,000, the city was able to attract marque SEC matchups that brought crowds, revenues and memories to the city. In the years to come, some of the best teams in the nation would regularly make a visit.
In 1947 alone, Crump would host Ole Miss, who finished 14th in the final rankings under first year coach Johnny Vaught, four times and a Southwest Conference Classic between the #3 Texas Longhorns and Arkansas. The NFL even called Crump home for a preseason game in 1956 when the New York Giants played the Chicago Cardinals.
One of the most infamous games was the 1938 Ole Miss-Arkansas Game, which Ole Miss would win 20-14 on a late touchdown. The resulting celebration sparked a brawl that included players and fans alike.
David Bloom, writing for the Commercial Appeal would report “the fighting began as the game ended and the players were heading towards a tunnel from the field to the dressing quarters. At one time, three Ole Miss players were sprawled flat on the ground, knocked flat by flailing fists. Players started the battle and the spectators followed, it would take 15 minutes for the police and firemen to restore order.”
It became increasingly apparent if Memphis wanted to continue to be a major player in the landscape of big-time football, a modern stadium would be required. The Memphis Tigers would play the last college game at Crump on November 14, 1964, a 34-0 win over Louisville with 11,698 fans in attendance. John Wallace Wright would score the last touchdown in the stadium on an 8-yard run.
The structure was razed in 2006 and a smaller seating configuration was put in its place, but the field remains the same, albeit covered with an artificial surface. So when Germantown High plays Central High later this year, echoes of those great memories of a special era still exist. Crump Stadium is a true gem where a great deal of Memphis athletic history has been written. Take in a game this season and watch as the present and the past continue to work in unison to define our future.