(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – This past week I had the privilege to speak with former Mules linebacker and future UCM Hall of Fame inductee, Gary Pitts. I asked him to set the scene of a reality that most students can’t imagine: UCM and Mules football over 30 years ago. Here’s what he said:
We didn’t do the concussion protocol. It was live practice; full contact all of the time. So I think the game was probably a little more physical.
Practice was hard. We used to do “3-a-days”. What we did was we would have walkthroughs, offensive line practice and then defensive line practice. It was difficult.
Before we even got into the conference we played four Division I teams. We were so beat up by the time the conference started, but we were also well prepared because our schedule was so tough. When you look at that record and see we were 6-5, four of those losses were from Division I teams.
Practice: We practiced on the old baseball field.
Games: We played on natural grass and the field was always muddy. I mean every game because they had the battle of bands there where all the bands would come and play.
Locker room: We used to dress in an old building. (There’s been) drastic improvement.
The record setting tackles (fifth all-time)
I put in the work in the film room. Being undersized, I really had to understand what the other team’s offense was doing and anticipate their plays before anybody else so I could know what their tendencies were and what they were probably going to do. And I think that’s why I had a lot tackles; because I watched quite a bit of film and knew what to expect before the ball was hiked.
The Social Scene
The social atmosphere was great. The downtown area was great. We had a lot of parties. I think it is important for kids to go to school, but also (important) to make sure you’re enjoying school and it’s not just books all the time. Of course, that’s what you’re there for. I got my bachelor degree, which was important for me and my parents, but I also enjoyed myself in school and I loved all of the students that were there. We had fun and we enjoyed everything we did.
Best Bars: Granary, Heroes, and back then (the best place) was The Down Under. Pine Street was the place to go
The 1983 MIAA Championship Team
The year we won the championship was actually (Mule’s Head Coach) Terry Noland’s first year there. It meant a lot because we were expected to be good. We brought in 24 freshmen. We thought some of us could have went Division I so it was important for us to be successful. We went on to win that year and it meant a lot to us.
The year that we won the championship the boys and girls won a national championship in basketball as well. During that time the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals were in the World Series so there was a lot of stuff going on at the school at that particular time.
We had a lot of support at that time. I was in a fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, and all my fraternity brothers would come out. It was big time. We were a good team so a lot of people wanted to come out and see what we would do.
The Adjustment to UCM
It was scary at the time. I didn’t know anybody and being about five hours away from the house was kind of difficult for me at first.
I went to a predominantly black school in Oklahoma. It was probably 98% black. So, I really wasn’t around a lot of other races besides black. So I think when I got to CMSU and (got to) be around a lot of white guys I got to build relationships with a lot guys that I probably never would’ve had the chance to build relationships with had I stayed in Oklahoma. I think that’s what I liked most about CMSU. And I still have those relationships today.