In an effort to better preserve its football history and recognize past contributors to the program’s success, Missouri State University has announced that four former grid greats will have their jerseys retired during halftime ceremonies in the Bears’ season opener Thursday at Plaster Field.
The list of honorees covers four distinct eras of Bears’ football, including the program’s all-time winningest coach Arthur Briggs (1912-33); a powerful running back who led MSU to two league titles Ray Haley (1947-51); an All-America tackle who returned to coach his alma mater for 10 seasons Rich Johanningmeier (1960-63, 1976-85); and an All-America quarterback and conference player of the decade who guided the Bears to back-to-back NCAA playoff appearances DeAndre Smith (1987-90).
The halftime recognition ceremony on Sept. 2 will feature the unveiling of stadium banners and presentation of plaques to the two individuals expected to be in attendance, Haley and Johanningmeier. Smith will appear via video message from Champaign, Ill., where he is current an assistant coach at Illinois.
The retired jersey recipients were selected by a panel of program historians and media representatives. The jersey retirement ceremony is not intended to be a number retirement, and the uniform numbers previously worn by the honorees will not be taken out of circulation for future teams.
Arthur W. Briggs was one of the pioneers of Missouri State intercollegiate athletics and a man who looked past the obstacles to the formation of the program at a young institution to establish a balanced and competitive program in all areas. He was the first man to serve the University as its athletic director and held that position from 1912 until 1938. He set the tone for years to come with his belief that the athletic program should be a first-class, quality endeavor. It was under his leadership that MSU came into the reorganized Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1924 and won MIAA all-sports honors six times in the next decade. Mr. Briggs was also the head of the Physical Education Department from 1913 until his death on December 20, 1949. At one time during his career, he coached every sport the school had. He guided the football Bears for more years and won more games than any other grid coach in school history, compiling a 76-58-11 record from 1912 to 1933. The Bears’ only MIAA title in Coach Briggs’ tenure was in 1928 but the Bears were second in the league in 1925, 1929, 1931, and 1932. Coach Briggs had unbeaten seasons in football in 1914 and 1922. He also coached the basketball Bears from 1913-1923 and had a baseball program for four years shortly after his arrival on campus. He also coached track and swimming. The school’s football facility was renamed Briggs Stadium in his honor by the Board of Regents in 1970 and kept that name until it was remodeled in 1991.
(#27) Ray “Wrecker” Haley was a vital part of two MIAA championship teams in 1948 and 1951. The Springfield Senior High product was selected to the all-conference second team at fullback in 1947 and 1951. In 1948, he was named to the MIAA first team and earned the league’s most valuable back award after rushing for 716 yards on 111 carries (6.5). He scored eight touchdowns and was a mainstay on Coach Tommy O’Boyle’s powerful 9-2 delegation which outscored its opposition 233-75 that season. The Bears would go on to Mo-Kan Bowl game against Emporia State, a contest in which Haley scored two touchdowns. The popular gridder signed a conference ban on pro baseball players but he returned in 1951 when the ban was lifted. With just a week of preparation before his first action, he teamed with John Batten to help the Bears to an uphill battle for a league title in the 1951 season. He finished the year with five touchdowns and two extra points and was the club’s top rusher in the season against Missouri Valley. He went on to a legendary high school coaching run in Elgin, Ill., where he currently enjoys retirement.
(#71) Rich Johanningmeier had a highly-successful athletic career as both a player and coach, gaining All-American honors as a football lineman in his playing days (1960-63) and winding up with the second highest victory total on record in his years as the Bears’ grid coach (1976-85). He was a three-year starter for the Bears at both offensive and defensive tackle, gaining MIAA all-conference recognition as a junior and senior. The St. Louis native was a first team Little All-American selection as a senior and was given the Virgil Cheek Athletic Achievement Award when he graduated in 1964. Playing for coach Orville Pottenger, Johanningmeier was a standout on the 1963 Bears who went through the regular season at 9-0 to capture the MIAA title and go on to the Mineral Water Bowl game. Johanningmeier briefly played professional football after he graduated.
He returned to take over as the Bears’ head coach in 1976, and, in a 10-year career, posted a mark of 58-44-5 to trail only Arthur Briggs in all-time victories among Missouri State head coaches. Johanningmeier’s Bears had seven winning seasons in his 10-year tenure, including the time during which the the program was making the transition from Division II competition to the NCAA Division I-AA level. During that transition, the Bears slipped below .500 only twice and returned with winning seasons his final two years. Including a 1978 team which was 8-3 overall and went undefeated to what was the last MIAA grid title. Under Johanningmeier, the Bears had the best overall record in the MIAA from 1976-81. His 1978 and 1979 teams were two of the most potent offensive machines in Bears grid history, and his team led the nation’s I-AA schools in team rushing in his final year of 1985. Johanningmeier is currently the director of enforcement at the NCAA in Indianapolis.
(#1) DeAndre Smith was the triggerman of a very potent triple-option offense for the best two Missouri State football teams of the Bears’ I-AA era. Smith guided the Missouri Valley Conference champion and NCAA Division I-AA playoff teams of 1989 and 1990 under coach Jesse Branch. Smith, from St. Louis, led the Bears to a a 10-3 record his junior year that saw the Bears advance to the second round of the NCAA Division I playoffs. The Bears won the league crown outright, turned back Maine in the first round and lost at Stephen F. Austin in the quarterfinals. In 1990, the Bears finished 9-3 and lost to Idaho in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs. Smith was a two-time all-league first team quarterback, was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Year as both a junior and senior, and claimed league Offensive Player of the Decade for the league’s first 10 years of existence, 1985-95. Smith was a consensus All-America as a senior, passed for 4,080 career yards and 18 touchdowns. He rushed for 40 more touchdowns from 1987-90 and set school career records for plays (1,106), total offense (6,356), points (242), touchdowns (40), completion percentage (.570) and consecutive games scoring a TD (10). He is currently running backs coach at the University of Illinois.
Thursday’s game against Eastern Kentucky at Plaster Field will kick off at 6 p.m.
Story courtesy of Missouri State Athletics.