North Alabama Lions football
|North Alabama Lions football|
|Athletic director||Mark Linder|
|Head coach||Chris Willis
1st year, 0–0–0 (–)
|Stadium||Braly Municipal Stadium|
|NCAA division||Division II|
|All-time record||460–239–16 (.655)|
|Claimed nat'l titles||3 (1993, 1994, 1995)|
|Colors||Purple and Gold
|Fight song||Go! Fight! U-N-A!|
|Mascot||Leo III and Una|
|Marching band||Pride of Dixie Marching Band|
The North Alabama Lions football team represents the University of North Alabama (UNA) in NCAA Division II competing as a member of the Gulf South Conference (GSC). UNA plays its home games at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Alabama. They are currently coached by Chris Willis. They were coached by head coach Bobby Wallace from 2012–16 and 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 No. 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, defeating Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana–Lafayette) on October 11, 1997. The Lions won 48–42 after going to four overtime periods. In 2016, UNA won their fourth consecutive Gulf South Conference championship — a conference record. Since 1990, the Lions have posted a 233-89-1 record giving them the best win percentage (.721) in the state of Alabama over that time frame.
In 2018, the Lions will begin a transition to NCAA Division I, joining the Atlantic Sun Conference in all sports except football, spending the 2018 football season as an Independent in the Football Championship Subdivision, and then joining the Big South Conference in 2019 as part of the Big South-Atlantic Sun football alliance (all scholarship football playing schools in both conferences will participate as one conference). The situation with Liberty departing from the Big South football after the 2017 season may affect plans with the alliance.
Based on a history compiled by www.roarlions.com, the University’s official athletic website, 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 three national titles).
The Lions also have won thirteen Gulf South Conference Championships since 1980.
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, even posting wins against 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 losing to Jacksonville State, the eventual Division II national champions.
Over the next three years from 1993–95, UNA amassed a 41–1 record, which also encompassed three straight Gulf South Conference Championships and three consecutive NCAA Division II National Championships — the first three-peat in NCAA history. UNA also became the first program to achieve 40 wins in three seasons.
The only loss UNA suffered during this three-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 NCAA Division II Football 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 on January 1, 2009. Bowden's brother, Jeff Bowden, 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 an 11–2 record.
Bobby Wallace (second stint)
Wallace returned in 2012 for a second stint as head coach after Bowden's departure. Wallace has led the Lions to four consecutive Gulf South Conference Championships and NCAA post-season appearances. Wallace ranks as the winningest football coach in Gulf South Conference history with 149 wins in his 19 years in the league. The 2012 season was a transition year for the Lions who finished fourth in the conference standings with a 5–5 overall record. After a successful off-season, the 2013 Lions had an impressive 10–3 record and shared the GSC title with in-state rival West Alabama. In 2014 Wallace led UNA to a 9–2 record that included winning a share of a second straight GSC Championship and a second straight berth in the Division II Playoffs. In 2015, coach Wallace led the Lions to a 9–3 record and shared their third consecutive GSC Championship with West Georgia and another Division II Playoff appearance. Wallace won his fourth consecutive GSC title outright in 2016 by going undefeated in conference play and received a fourth straight berth to the Division II Playoffs as the No. 1 seed in Region II. The Lions defeated UNC-Pembroke 41-17 in the second round and went on to the semifinals and won at Shepherd 23-13, advancing to the national championship game. UNA fell to Northwest Missouri State 29-3 in the national championship and finished No. 2 in the final AFCA poll. Coach Wallace retired from UNA on December 20, 2016. Wallace finished his 15-year career at UNA with a 126-51-1 (.711) record, making him the winningest football coach in school history.
Chris Willis was named head coach on December 22, 2016. Coach Willis has spent fifteen years on the UNA football staff and five years as defensive coordinator.
|Alabama Collegiate Conference Champions||1960, 1961, 1962, 1963|
|Gulf South Conference Champions||1980, 1983, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016|
|NCAA Division II Team Playoff Participants||1980, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016|
|NCAA Division II Regional Championships||1980, 1983, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2016|
|NCAA Division II National Championships||1993, 1994, 1995|
- "Official Colors". Retrieved 2016-09-10.
- McKillop, Andrew (May 31, 2013). "History of FBS (I-A) vs. NCAA Division II/III & NAIA". FootballGeography. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- "North Alabama to join Big South football in 2019". Stats FCS Football.
- Goens, Mike (February 24, 1989). "What it wasn't was football for early Lions". TimesDaily. p. 15E. Retrieved October 20, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
- "The History of UNA Football". University of North Alabama Athletics. January 19, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- "Grubb selected UNA head coach". The Gadsden Times. December 12, 1976. p. 9. Retrieved October 20, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
- Slaughter, Josh (December 11, 2013). "MIAA tabbed to host NCAA Division II championships". Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- "Head Football Coach Mark Hudspeth – 2007". Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- Zenor, John (January 2, 2009). "Terry Bowden takes over at North Alabama". Salisbury Post. Associated Press. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- Turner, John (December 22, 2011). "Terry Bowden leaving North Alabama to become head coach at Akron". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- "University of North Alabama – 2015 Football Coaching Staff: Bobby Wallace". University of Northern Alabama Athletics. Retrieved October 20, 2015.