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Giving Bobby Petrino for Father’s Day

Searching for the perfect Father’s Day gift?

If the person you’re buying for loves college football, here’s an idea: Buy him a ticket to “Talking Football with Bobby Petrino,” an event scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, July 18, at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock to benefit the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

It’s going to be a fun evening.

Famed sportscaster Pat Summerall, a 1971 Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee, will serve as the master of ceremonies for the dinner, which will celebrate Petrino’s success last year and allow the coach to preview his 2011 Razorback team.

Tickets are $150 each and tables of 10 are $1,500 each.

Those wishing to reserve seats should call the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame at 663-4328 or Catherine Johnson at 821-1021.

The Hall of Fame will use the proceeds from the dinner to help complete a conference center adjacent to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Museum at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

On Dec. 5, the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded $1 million for the construction of the conference center. Completion of the facility will, in essence, finish out the arena.

The conference facility will be built in unused space under the stands that originally was intended for a basketball practice court for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. When UALR built an on-campus facility, the practice court at Verizon was no longer needed.

The cost of the public-private partnership is $2.24 million. The conference center will be operated by the Hall of Fame, which is working to raise the remainder of the funds needed for construction.

Once completed, the center will accommodate 500 people for a seated dinner and 750 people for a reception. It will be designed so space can be divided for smaller meetings.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1959 and has inducted more than 330 men and women since that time. If you haven’t visited the Hall of Fame Museum, you should do so. It opened in April 2007 following a $4 million capital campaign led by one of my favorite Arkansans, Little Rock attorney William H. “Buddy” Sutton.

Once the Fourth of July passes, a lot of Arkansans will begin to focus seriously on the upcoming college football season. Many will relish the opportunity to salute Petrino on the evening of July 18.

In just his third season as the head coach at Arkansas, Petrino led his team to the Sugar Bowl, becoming the only head coach to ever lead two schools to their first BCS appearances.

Looking back, there’s no doubt Petrino’s hiring in December 2007 energized and unified the Razorback fan base. In Petrino’s three seasons as the head coach, Razorback teams have broken almost every school passing record. For the first time since joining the league, Arkansas led the Southeastern Conference in scoring in 2009. It led the SEC in passing offense in both 2009 and 2010.

The Arkansas program under Petrino’s leadership advanced from five wins in 2008 to eight wins in 2009 to 10 wins in 2010. The Razorbacks won 10 games last year for only the eighth time in school history and only the second time since 1989.

Last year’s team broke or tied 12 single-season school records.

In addition to the chance to honor Petrino on July 18, it will be just as special to hear from Summerall, one of the signature voices in the history of sports broadcasting in America.

It’s safe to say that few inductees into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame have done as much for the organization through the years as Summerall. He lent his name for 11 years to the Pat Summerall Celebrity Classic golf tournament, which raised money for the Hall of Fame.

Earlier in the day on July 18, Summerall will take part in the Legends Celebrity Golf Classic at Chenal Country Club. Petrino and members of his coaching staff also will participate in the golf tournament. Lunch will be served at 11 a.m. with a 12:30 p.m. tee time.

There are a limited number of slots available for four-member teams. The cost is $2,000 per team. Those wanting to enter a team in the tournament should call the Hall of Fame as soon as possible.

A large number of other Hall of Fame inductees will participate in the golf classic. They include Cliff Harris, Ken Hatfield, John McDonnell, Joe Foley, Larry Lacewell, Nelson Catalina and others.

Arkansas sports celebrities such as former Razorback quarterback Clint Stoerner and UALR head men’s basketball coach Steve Shields also will take part in the golf classic.

Summerall is a Florida native, but Arkansans long have considered him one of their own because he was a Razorback in college.

He was born in May 1930 at Lake City, Fla., where he starred in basketball, football, baseball and tennis in high school. Summerall later would say that basketball was his favorite sport as a high school athlete (he was an all-state selection in both football and basketball), but he was recruited to play football in college.

Summerall was a defensive end, tight end and placekicker for the Razorbacks from 1949-51.

The Detroit Lions drafted Summerall in the fourth round of the 1952 NFL draft. Summerall played during the preseason for the Lions but broke his arm early in the regular season. He was traded to the Chicago Cardinals and played for the Cardinals from 1953-57.

Summerall ended his career with the New York Giants from 1958-61. During the 1959 season, he was 30 for 30 on extra point attempts and 20 of 29 on field goal attempts.

Collectors of Sports Illustrated are familiar with the classic photo from December 1958 of a Summerall field goal kick sailing through the snow at Yankee Stadium for a 13-10 Giants victory over the Cleveland Browns on the final day of the regular season.

The Giants had to win to force a tiebreaker playoff game. The Browns needed only a tie to clinch the Eastern championship. With the score tied 10-10 and time running out, Summerall was sent in to try a 49-yard field goal in the swirling wind. He had missed a 31-yard field goal attempt several minutes earlier. The 49-yard kick was good.

Summerall scored five points — a field goal and two extra points — in what sometimes is called The Greatest Game Ever Played. The Giants lost 23-17 to the Baltimore Colts on Dec. 28, 1958, at Yankee Stadium for the NFL championship. It was the first NFL playoff game to go into sudden death overtime.

The game marked the start of the NFL’s nationwide surge in popularity as a large audience watched Chris Schenkel and Chuck Thompson call the contest on NBC.

The final game of Summerall’s professional playing career was the 1961 NFL championship game as the Giants were defeated by the Green Bay Packers.

After his playing career, Summerall began work as a broadcaster. He spent 32 years working for CBS Sports, serving as the voice not only of the network’s NFL telecasts but also for its coverage of the U.S. Open in tennis and the Masters in golf. He even called the play by play for professional basketball games and five championship fights.

Summerall was an iron man in the early days of his broadcasting career, serving as the sports director for WCBS-AM in New York from 1964-71 while hosting the station’s four-hour morning program. At the same time, he did work for the CBS Radio Network.

The 1994 Masters was Summerall’s final event for CBS before moving to Fox. John Madden, who had begun working NFL games with Summerall in 1981, moved to Fox with him.

In 1999, Summerall was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame, joining broadcasters such as Mel Allen, Red Barber, Jack Brickhouse, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Howard Cosell, Ernie Harwell and Chick Hearn.

During most of the 1970s, Summerall had teamed with Tom Brookshier on NFL broadcasts. They worked Super Bowls X, XII and XIV together.

The pairing with Madden that began in 1981 would last 22 seasons. They worked eight Super Bowls together. Summerall and Madden’s last game as a team was Super Bowl XXXVI. Following the game, Summerall announced his retirement, and ABC signed Madden to work with Al Michaels on Monday night games.

Fox, however, talked Summerall into working on regional telecasts in 2002 and 2006. The Dallas-area resident also broadcast the Cotton Bowl for Fox from 2007-10. His voice can still be heard on the opening of Masters coverage on CBS.

Bobby Petrino, members of his coaching staff, Pat Summerall, lots of Hall of Fame inductees — it’s going to make for quite an evening on July 18.

There! I’ve done your Father’s Day shopping for you. All you have to do is call the Hall of Fame.

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