GENE PHELPS: Dowsing's absence from state, MSU halls puzzling

Frank Dowsing has met the requirements needed for induction into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi State University Sports Hall of Fame.

Sadly, the late MSU and Tupelo High standout football player is not a member of either.

Dowsing had a distinguished high school and college athletic career. He was recognized by coaches and the media for his play in his home state, in the region and in the country.

Those are the two key requirements for induction into Mississippi's Hall of Fame. Yet, he remains excluded from this exclusive group for reasons known only to those who make such decisions.

He was also a model student-athlete, being recognized academically on the prep and college levels for his work in the classroom.

Now that the selection process is slated for change in 2007, Dowsing deserves his rightful spot in the state's athletics shrine.

The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, which will take over the selection process from the Jackson Touchdown Club, will form a nominating and selection committee with representatives from the state's colleges and athletics associations to chose between three, four or five yearly honorees.

It's the state's hall of fame, so a statewide selection process is the logical way to go.

Three cheers for Michael Rubenstein, the Hall of Fame's executive director and a Booneville native, for spearheading this needed change.

Worthy candidate

At MSU, its sports hall inductees are selected by a group independent of the university. One school insider tells me Dowsing's induction is forthcoming.

Again, it's deserving.

Dowsing was a pioneer in race relations in this state and the SEC, stepping onto the conference's playing fields as one of its first African-American football players.

The Tupelo native, who was clocked at 9.5 seconds in the 100-yard dash, played three seasons at MSU as a cornerback and kick returner, making All-SEC in 1971 and 1972, and Football News All-American in 1972.

“He was one of the finest guys I've ever coached,” Dave Nusz, the former MSU secondary coach, said after Dowsing's death in 1994. “He had all the qualities a cornerback needs.”

Dowsing was named to the SEC's All-Academic Team three consecutive seasons, 1970-72, won the National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete Award and was named CoSIDA Academic All-American his senior year.

When his playing career in Starkville ended in 1972, he had returned three punts for touchdowns, including one for 88 yards against Alabama his junior season, which ranks third all-time at MSU. He also recorded 10 pass interceptions, which ties him for No. 5 all-time in school history.

His late interception in the end zone against Ole Miss in 1970 in Oxford sealed a 19-14 upset victory.

MSU's legendary radio play-by-play announcer, Tupelo's own Jack Cristil, said the following regarding Dowsing's impact on race relations in the SEC:

“The black athlete was just coming onto the scene,” he said in a 1994 interview. “They were under a microscope. Frank lived up to the expectations. He did excellent work in the classroom as well as the football field.”

Former Tupelo High football coach Tom Cheney, who watched Dowsing earned All-Big Eight Conference honors wearing the blue and gold, was just as proud of the athlete's accomplishments in the classroom.

“Frank was a remarkable athlete and student,” Cheney said last year, when interviewed about Dowsing's impact on integration at THS.

Remarkable is right. What's also remarkable – but correctable – is that Frank Dowsing isn't enshrined in Jackson and Starkville.

Gene Phelps (gene.phelps@djournal.com) is sports editor for the Daily Journal.