Larry Wayne Lacewell (1937–2022)

Larry Wayne Lacewell, who was the football coach and athletic director at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), took his teams to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I-AA playoffs for four straight years, to two Southland Conference championships, and to the 1986 Division I-AA National Championship game. In 1992, he began work as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys professional National Football League (NFL) team. Lacewell was the only coach in the nation to have led college teams to back-to-back championships and been a part of back-to-back NFL Super Bowl wins.

Larry Lacewell was born on February 12, 1937, in Fordyce (Dallas County) to Arvel and Eloise Lacewell. He was the second of four children. He attended public schools in Fordyce, where he played high school football and where his father was a coach. Lacewell lettered in track, football, basketball, swimming, and tennis, and was just one of two five-sport lettermen in the history of Fordyce schools. He received both all-district and all-state honors his senior season in football.

He graduated in 1959 from Arkansas A&M, now the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM), with a degree in physical education. He played in four championship games at Arkansas A&M and served as an assistant coach. He then served as a graduate assistant at the University of Alabama in 1959 for Paul “Bear” Bryant, who had been a high school teammate of Lacewell’s father in Fordyce. He earned a master’s in physical education from the University of Alabama.

Lacewell arrived at what is now ASU to coach the freshmen in 1960–61. He went on to serve as defensive aide at Arkansas A&M in 1962. He also served as assistant head coach at Kilgore Junior College in Texas (National Junior College champion, 1964), assistant coach at Wichita State (1966–67), and assistant coach at Iowa State (1968).

Lacewell was named defensive coordinator for the University of Oklahoma (OU) Sooners in 1969 and became assistant head coach in 1973. During Lacewell’s tenure there, OU won two national titles and six Big Eight championships and had a thirty-seven-game winning streak.

He returned to ASU in 1978 and became ASU’s head football coach and athletic director in 1979. He coached five first-team All-Americans and twenty-four All-Conference players and was spotlighted in The Sporting News for having “perhaps the top I-AA program in the nation.” At ASU, Lacewell led his team to two back-to-back Southland Conference titles (1985 and 1986) and ended his career there with a 69–58–4 record.

In 1986, his team lost to Georgia Southern in the national championship game. Lacewell was named Southland Conference Coach of the year in 1985 and 1986.

In 1990, Lacewell left to become defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee (UT), helping the Volunteers win the Southeastern Conference (SEC) title that year. Lacewell coached just two seasons for the Volunteers. Following a heart bypass operation, Lacewell decided to leave coaching and joined the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys in 1992 as director of college scouting and, later, director of pro scouting. During his tenure in Dallas as chief scout, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls.

Lacewell was a member of ASU’s Hall of Honor and Ring of Honor and the UAM Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. After his retirement from the Cowboys in January 2005, he was honored by the Arkansas General Assembly in February 2005.

Lacewell and his wife, Criss, divided their time between homes in Jonesboro and Hot Springs (Garland County). They had two sons.  In 2016, Lacewell suffered a severe stroke and began undergoing rehabilitation in Chicago, Illinois. In 2018, the ASU Touchdown Club created the Larry Lacewell Award to be presented to the football team’s most valuable player each season.

Lacewell died on May 18, 2022. At the time of his death, he remained the winningest head football coach in ASU history.

For additional information:
“A-State Mourns Passing of Longtime Great Larry Lacewell.” Arkansas State Athletics, May 18, 2022. https://astateredwolves.com/news/2022/5/18/athletics-a-state-mourns-passing-of-longtime-great-larry-lacewell.aspx (accessed May 19, 2022).

“ASU Athletics to Honor Larry Lacewell.” Arkansas State Athletics, May 5, 2004. https://astateredwolves.com/news/2004/5/5/200319.aspx (accessed May 18, 2022).

Holt, Bob. “Championship Caliber.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 19, 2022, pp. 1C, 5C. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/may/19/championship-caliber/ (accessed May 19, 2022).

Turbeville, Kevin. “A-State Coaching Legend Was Truly a Big Shot.” Jonesboro Sun, June 17, 2022, pp. 1B, 2B.

———. “Full-Time Football.” Jonesboro Sun, December 9, 2007, p. 1C.

Nancy Hendricks
Arkansas State University

Last Updated: 06/21/2022

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