North Alabama Lions football
|This article is outdated. (January 2014)|
|North Alabama Lions football|
|Athletic director||Mark Linder|
1st year, 0–0 (–)
|Home stadium||Braly Municipal Stadium|
|Stadium surface||Turf summer 2010|
|League||NCAA Division II|
|All-time record||375–235–16 (.612)|
|Claimed national titles||3|
Purple and Gold
|Fight song||Go! Fight! U-N-A|
|Mascot||Leo III and Una|
|Marching band||Pride of Dixie Marching Band|
|Rivals||Jacksonville State University Gamecocks West Alabama|
The North Alabama Lions football team represents the University of North Alabama in the NCAA Division II competing as a member of the East Division of the Gulf South Conference (GSC). UNA plays its home games at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Alabama. They were coached by head coach Terry Bowden from 2009-2011. He succeeded Mark Hudspeth, who left after the 2008 season to take the job as passing coordinator at Mississippi State.
The Lions are distinguished as the only team to win three consecutive football national championships in NCAA Division II. UNA's 27 consecutive weeks at #1 in the Division II polls also comprise the longest stretch of consecutive No. 1 rankings in football in NCAA history on any level. UNA is the last Division II team to beat a Division I-A (FBS) team, beating Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) on October 11, 1997. The Lions won 48-42 after going to 4 OT's.
Based on a history compiled by RoarLions.com, the university’s official athletic Web site, football had an especially inauspicious beginning at the University of North Alabama. The institution’s first football game in 1912 ended with Florence State Normal School losing to Sewanee, 101-0. The institution carried on with a football program for 16 years despite similar poor results, finally terminating the program in 1928 after losing twice to Marion Institute, 86-0 and 85-0.
The program was not resumed until 1949, when President E.B. Norton announced that Florence State Teachers College, as the institution was then known, once again would field a team. At the first pep rally for the new team, Dr. Norton told the student body that the school had not lost a football game in 20 years and did not want to start losing then. Nevertheless, the first game, played Sept. 29, 1949 against Jacksonville State, resulted in a 12-7 loss. Florence State rebounded in the next game with a 28-7 win over Howard College (now Samford University).
Dr. Norton told the Flor-Ala student newspaper on January 5, 1949 that a football team was important not only for school spirit but also because a teachers college should have facilities to train coaches for the public schools. In an interview with the Florence Times-Daily in 1994, Dr. Norton recounted the football team's role at a critical juncture in the college's history. Wendell Wilkie Gunn, the first African American graduate of Florence State, registered in 1964. In the wake of the protests and violence that attended integration at other southern colleges and universities, Dr. Norton called the football team together and said he expected a peaceful and welcoming atmosphere on the Florence State campus. He charged the football players to set the appropriate example as leaders of the student body. Mr. Gunn matriculated and graduated in four years without incident. Dr. Norton stated that the football team's contribution to the successful integration of the institution justified his original vision of the program, in a way he could not have foreseen in 1949, and exceeded even the program's considerable achievements on the field (which by the 1990s included several national titles).
The Lions also have won numerous Gulf South Conference Championships since the 1980s.
Under the direction of Head Coach Hal Self, the college completed the year with a 4-5 record, turning in a slightly improved 5-4 record the following year. However, during Self's 21 seasons as head coach, the Lions compiled a 109-81-8 record, posting wins against even some Division I schools.
The Lions were especially dominant among other Alabama teams, building a 31-0-2 record, beginning with a 32-6 win over Livingston (now West Alabama) in 1952 and ending 12 years later with a 21-7 loss to Troy State in 1964. Self also amassed several Alabama Collegiate Conference championships and coached eight All-Americans, including Harlon Hill, the school’s first professional football star.
Former Lion standout Durell Mock succeeded Self in 1970, followed by Mickey Andrews in 1973.
Wayne Grubb took over for Andrews in 1977. Grubb followed a disappointing 5-5 beginning season with 8 consecutive winning seasons, including Gulf South Conference championships in 1980, 1983, and 1985. UNA also qualified for the national semifinals in 1980 and 1983, competing for the Division II Championship at Palm Bowl in McAllen, Texas, in 1985.
In 1985, Florence's Braly Municipal Stadium also was secured as the site of the Division II national championship game, with UNA serving as the host institution until 2013, when it was announced that the championship would move to Kansas City, Missouri in 2014 and remain there through 2017. The Division II move to Florence also led to the adoption of the Harlon Hill Trophy, named after one of the most successful athletes in UNA’s history.
Bobby Wallace (first stint)
The most successful era in UNA football history followed the hiring of Bobby Wallace as head football coach. Following a four-year rebuilding period, Wallace led the Lions to a 7-4-1 record in 1992 and competed in the second round of the Division II championship until a loss to the team that ended up that year’s Division II national champions.
Over the next three years from 1993-95, UNA amassed a 41-1 record, which also encompassed three state Gulf South Conference Championships and three consecutive NCAA Division II National Championships — the first three-peat in NCAA history.
The only loss UNA suffered during this 3-year period was to Youngstown State, a Division I-AA power at the time, losing narrowly, 17-14, following a field goal in the fourth quarter. Youngstown State went on to win the 1994 I-AA national championship.
During Wallace’s 10-year tenure, the UNA Lions competed in six NCAA playoffs and compiled an 82-36-1 record.
In 1995, UNA Lions were selected the “Best Team of the Quarter Century” in Division II, while Wallace was named Division II‘s “Coach of the Quarter Century.”
Following their third consecutive Division II National Championship in 1995, the Lions were invited to the White House to meet President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and members of Congress.
Following a 3-year interlude under Bill Hyde, Mark Hudspeth assumed the head coaching job at UNA in 2002. After a disappointing first year, Hudspeth led the Lions to another string of Division II playoff games.
In his first five seasons at UNA, Hudspeth posted the best record of any previous Lion head coach in their first five years - leading the Lions to a 44-17 mark, two Gulf South Conference titles, and three NCAA Division II playoff appearances. Hudspeth left UNA after the 2008 season to become an assistant under newly hired Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen.
Former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden was named the new head coach of UNA on January 1, 2009. Bowden's brother Jeff also joined Terry at UNA as the WR coach. Pre-season hype focused on Bowden's remedy to a re-building roster by acquiring over twenty-five transfers from Division I schools including several from his father's Florida State team. The 2009 campaign would climax late in the season with an undefeated 10-0 record and the school's return to the #1 ranking for the first time since 1996. The season wrapped up with a UNA loss in the regional finals with a record of 11-2.
Bowden left after the 2011 season to take the head coaching job at Akron.
Bobby Wallace (second stint)
Wallace returned for a second stint as head coach after Bowden's departure.
- McKillop, Andrew. "History of FBS (I-A) vs. NCAA Division II/III & NAIA". footballgeography.com. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- Goens, Mike (February 24, 1989). "What it wasn't was football for early Lions". TimesDaily (Florence, AL). Retrieved October 10, 2014.
- "The History of UNA Football, RoarLions.com, Official Site of University of North Alabama Athletics
- "Grubb selected UNA head coach". Gadsden Times. December 12, 1976. p. 9. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
- "Head Football Coach Mark Hudspeth - 2007," RoarLions.com, Official Site of University of North Alabama Athletics