Swing and a Drive: The Murray State Tradition, Part 3

This week we take a look back to the very beginning. I won’t be sharing the story of a player, but rather a coach – the coach who started Murray State basketball.

In 1925, three years after Murray Normal School and Teachers College was founded, president and founder Rainey T. Wells made a trip to Mayfield High School.

He went looking for a math teacher and former athlete by the name of Carlisle Cutchin.

Wells asked Cutchin to come to Murray to head up athletics. Whether Cutchin knew this meant handling everything from physical education classes to coaching basketball, football, baseball and serving as athletic director is unknown. Regardless, he accepted the offer and came to Murray in the summer of 1925.

Cutchin’s first project was the launching of a basketball team. Barely big enough to fit a full size basketball court, the stage of Lovett was the team’s first home. Cutchin coached the first ever Murray State basketball team to a 9-5 record in 1925-26.

Over the next 15 seasons, Cutchin’s teams went 267-101, finishing only one season with a losing record. The winning tradition of Murray State basketball is no joke. It has been a winning program since day one.

Cutchin’s most successful team was the 1940-41 Thoroughbreds. It amassed a 26-5 record and made it all the way to the NAIA Title Game where it lost to San Diego State, 36-34.

As if building a brand new basketball program from the ground up wasn’t enough, Cutchin also coached the football and baseball teams. In just its second season, he led the football team to an undefeated 6-0-1 record.

Coaching the football team for five years, Cutchin amassed another impressive career record of 36-11-4.

In a time where Adolph Rupp and Ed Diddle were creating basketball dynasties at the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky respectively Cutchin was quietly building a successful basketball program of his own in the isolated far-western corner of the state. As UK and WKU basketball captivated the central part of the state, the Thoroughbreds of Murray Normal School captured the hearts of those in the eight-county Jackson Purchase region of the state.

While Rupp and Diddle’s teams dazzled the media, Cutchin was not as flashy, coaching hard-working, defensive-minded teams. Cutchin’s stout personality served as the base on which the program was built. It is a culture which still permeates the program today.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Coach Prohm preaching his defense-first mentality or seen Ed Daniel physically dominate a person down low to violently seize a rebound. That is exactly the mentality Cutchin instilled in the 1920s and it remains unchanged nearly 90 years later.

Cutchin remains the all-time winningest basketball coach with 267 victories to his name. Additionally, his .750 winning percentage as football coach also remains the highest for any football coach in program history.

Cutchin was the first coach to be inducted into the Murray State Hall of Fame in 1970, and the former basketball arena, Cutchin Fieldhouse (also known as Racer Arena) remains named in his honor to this day.

Column by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.