There were men who played on his first basketball teams at Arkansas Tech in the late 1940s. There were dozens of other people who fondly remember his competitiveness and innovative spirit. There were many more that never knew the man, but have felt his influence nonetheless.
They all gathered at Hindsman Tower on Saturday morning to dedicate the structure in memory and in honor of Sam Hindsman, legendary coach and teacher at Arkansas Tech University.
“Sam Hindsman has a legacy in athletics that is unmatched by anyone in this region,” said Arkansas Tech President Dr. Robert C. Brown. “Beyond that, he made deep and lasting contributions to life at Arkansas Tech. He was a molder of men. That fact is a lasting tribute that goes to the heart of who we are and what we do at Arkansas Tech.”
Arkansas Tech announced in August 2010 that an alumni committee had been developed with a goal of raising $300,000 to build a structure in honor of Hindsman. Less than two months later, ground was broken on the project and it was announced that the fund-raising goal had been surpassed.
Designed by AMR Architects of Little Rock, Hindsman Tower stands at one of the busiest pedestrian crossroads on the Arkansas Tech campus. It is just south of the Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center and just north of Baswell Techionery.
“A very broad base of supporters and donors ensured this would happen,” said Robert Norman, who played football under Hindsman and served in a leadership role for the Hindsman Tower Committee. “It is so much fun to be part of this lasting memorial. Coach was special. I believe this is special for him.”
Hindsman was hired by Arkansas Tech in 1947 to serve as head basketball coach and as a physical education instructor. He inherited a Wonder Boys basketball program that had never won a conference championship.
Over the course of the next 19 seasons, Hindsman established a college basketball dynasty the likes of which had never been seen in Arkansas.
Hindsman won 355 games and 11 Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championships as the Arkansas Tech head men’s basketball coach. He led the Wonder Boys to nine NAIA National Tournament berths, including back-to-back trips to the NAIA national semifinals in 1954 and 1955.
His ability to connect with and teach young men extended beyond the basketball floor.
Hindsman served as head football coach at Arkansas Tech from 1954-58. He won 83 percent of his conference games during those five gridiron seasons and the Wonder Boys won AIC titles in his first and last seasons on the sideline.
Add in the two AIC bowling titles that he led Tech to in the 1960s, and Hindsman’s final count for conference titles at Arkansas Tech was 15.
Through it all, he continued to serve as an instructor and administrator in the physical education department until he left the university in 1969 to assume leadership of the Arkansas state office for weights and measures.
“Sam left us with something not only about love and family — he left us with a pride and a desire to always compete and give it our best,” said Barger Tygart, who like Norman played football for Hindsman and helped lead the Hindsman Tower fundraising effort. “As we worked on this project, we reminded ourselves what it was really about — a tribute to Sam Hindsman and what he meant to his family, this university and this community.”
Hindsman, who passed away in 1997, was inducted into the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction under the Distinguished Service category in 1980. He was enshrined in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1981.
He is also a member of the University of Memphis Athletic Hall of Fame, and he holds the distinction as the first recipient of the NAIA national basketball coach of the year award. He earned that honor in 1954.
“When this bell rings,” said E.C. O’Neal, an All-America basketball player under Hindsman in 1953 and 1954, “may we be reminded of the legacy of a great man — Sam Hindsman.”