Few universities boast a reputation like ENMU, it is an infamy taking the form of what has been called “The Curse of Blackwater Draw” a title given to the beloved stadium that many teams in the conference have come to dread.
With the game last weekend marking the end of a long and exciting history of the field, this is a time to look back and celebrate what has become a defining point of the university.
Talking to Don Thomas, longtime announcer for the Greyhounds, gave a clear insight into the culture of both the athletic teams and what the stadium has meant to the college. He speaks excitedly as he recounts fond memories and traditions of Blackwater Draw.
He starts out by speaking on the role that he plays in the games and how he sees himself in the dynamics of it all. He speaks of how everything comes together to create the “home-team advantage”, the cheerleaders, the student section, and the announcing of the game, and he keeps this in mind as he calls out plays and the players on the field during the Friday night games.
Growing up in the area and spending nearly all of his life serving the community, Thomas says that he was greatly honored when Coach Bud Elliott asked him to announce the games. Bringing his own personality into the job, Thomas had and continues to have the ability to get the crowd invested into the game and bring the volume to a roar.
As anyone who regularly attends the games could tell you, Thomas’s wit and humor play a major part in the tradition of Blackwater Draw. He tells a story in which this particular aspect of his announcing nearly got him into trouble as he was aiming some jabs at the visiting Texas A&M Commerce.
After having mellowed out some after half time, it came over the radio that the other teams Coach had called a timeout to complain about the announcer. This is just one story, which speaks to the reputation that had become part of the stadium. The conditions themselves had proved difficult for visiting teams as well.
All of these aspects came together to form what is now called the “Curse of Blackwater Draw.” Thomas loves this title though and has used it many times in his announcing. Drawing from the history of the actual Blackwater Draw Excavation site, Thomas brings a depth of mystery and a macabre folktale commentary by telling of how the stadium was built on an ancient burial ground.
“A place where buffalo, mammoths, and cavemen were buried,” he states drawing comparisons between the fossils found at the site and the mascots of the teams often faced on the field. Thomas says that these traditions all combined into a true home-field advantage and was helped make the stadium so characteristic.
For many generations the stadium has come to be a defining aspect of the football team and the university as a whole, so as it’s time has come to an end, the question is what will this move mean for the traditions and character built up by the past generations.
“The new stadium will build on everything established at Blackwater,” said Thomas.
Though the future home of the Greyhounds won’t be built on an ancient graveyard and many of the conditions which made playing at the old one difficult for visiting teams won’t exist, the spirit of Eastern will still be there.
The memories are valuable and meaningful, but it is time for a new generation to make history. The time at Blackwater Draw may have come to an end, but the legacy will live on.