The loss of Tabor College football player Brandon Brown’s life makes a lot of things seem inconsequential.
Brown was found on Sept. 16 in McPherson just blocks from the college campus, beaten and unconscious. He died Sept. 22 from injuries sustained in the beating.
Two McPherson students, former football players, were charged with second-degree murder.
The decision to cancel the Oct. 20 football game between Tabor College and McPherson College can be debated, but it’s clear that the leaders of both colleges and the KCAC did what they felt was best under very difficult circumstances.
There are still more questions than answers surrounding Brown’s death and who was involved, but even if we had answers, it wouldn’t bring him back to life.
So while Tabor and McPherson take a week off from playing a football game, let’s consider some interesting and amazing history surrounding Bluejay football.
In the early years of Tabor football, Rolland “Bay” Lawrence was a star. He played offense, defense and special teams in the early 1970s. He was a special and talented player who may well be the most successful KCAC athlete ever to play in the NFL, becoming an All-Pro cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons.
Tabor had little success winning football games until the late 1970s when they had a team that appeared to be poised on the doorstep of a championship.
The Bluejays hosted Bethany in a winner-take-all game for the KCAC title. The game was played in Hillsboro on a bitterly cold night. Unfortunately, Tabor played even colder than the weather. With media from all over the state and thousands of fans in attendance, the Swedes blew the Bluejays away in an embarrassingly lopsided game.
Tabor football continued to have its ups and downs, with more downs than ups. But the program received some notoriety when it canceled its homecoming football game! Why? Because the Bluejays’ roster was so small there was concern that by playing a game against an NCAA Div. II school, Tabor might not have enough players to play the remainder of the season. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of Tabor’s proudest moments.
Around the year 2000, through some great coaching hires and even better recruiting, Tabor put together a rebuilding program that led to a second-place finish, followed by two consecutive KCAC titles. Tabor even won its first post-season football game.
The program regressed for a few years when Coach Gardner left Tabor after winning two championships, but it appears to be back on track during his second stint as Tabor’s head coach.
Speaking of homecoming, this year is the second time Tabor has been involved in the cancellation of a homecoming football game, only this time it’s their opponent’s.
You read that right. The scheduled Oct. 20 game between Tabor and McPherson was to be the Bulldogs’ homecoming game.
As for KCAC football, the conference may be as balanced as it has ever been, with at least five teams contending for a championship, including McPherson and Tabor.
Determining how to break a tie will be very interesting should either Tabor or McPherson be involved, because both will have played one less conference game than everyone else.
One hopes that Tabor and McPherson will be able to continue athletic competition in other sports this year without any additional fallout.
As for Tabor football, the Bluejays once again have a very entertaining and competitive team. But one has the sense that no matter what happens on the field this fall, no one will ever forget what happened off the field.
And that’s as it should be.