Clyde “Buck” Starbeck was a lineman, who doesn’t have numbers in the record book. But he is one of only two Jackrabbit players to earn all-conference in football three times and is part of the legend in starting an SDSU tradition.
Starbeck’s nomination for the Jackrabbit Hall of Fame was based on the fact that he was a three-time all-North Central Conference selection and he later went on to an excellent coaching career in the NCC. Incidentally — in fact unknown to the Hall of Fame selection committee at the time of his nomination — was the story of how Starbeck, from Montevideo, Minn., was credited with creating the cowbell tradition at SDSU -- a fact later disputed and credited to Robert Bloedel.
According to a story written by former Northern Iowa sports information director Dick Dietl, Starbeck “did practically everything to earn enough money to stay in college, from becoming a top high school referee to distributing punch-boards around Brookings. The latter enterprise was taken from his hands when certain townsmen learned how much money could be made from such a venture.”
Starbeck's real brainstorm at South Dakota State – the one that is still prevalent today – was the cowbell incident.
“The University of South Dakota always referred to us as the 'Cow College' and enjoyed rubbing it in," Starbeck told Dietl. "I decided to fight fire with fire and shortly before one of our games with the University, I ordered five barrels of cowbells from a mail order house. The idea was to sell them to as many students and fans as possible to use at our game. I got rid of all five barrels and during the game, the noise from our cheering section was out of this world. The fans liked them so well they have used cowbells from then on." The story was written in 1957, when Starbeck was coaching at Iowa State Teachers (now the University of Northern Iowa).
Starbeck, who played center for the Jacks, was on the all-NCC team in 1924, 1925 and 1926. The Jacks won NCC titles in 1924 and 1926. His coach at SDSU was Jack West, who moved from SDSU to the University of North Dakota. He hired Starbeck, who had been coaching in high school in Eau Claire, Wis., Starbeck stayed at UND until 1938, when he moved to Iowa Teachers.
There, his teams became legendary and by the time he died in 1957, he had either played on or coached 16 NCC championship football teams. During the decade of the 1940s, his ISTC teams were virtually unbeaten in NCC play:4-0 in 1940, 5-0 in 1941, 5-0 in 1942 (no NCC during World War II in 1943-45), 2-0-1 in 1946, 4-0 in 1947, 5-0 in 1948. In 1949, SDSU tied Iowa Teachers for the NCC title by defeating the Panthers 14-13 at Brookings. That ended an ISTC streak of 31 consecutive conference games without a loss.