West Alabama Tigers football

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West Alabama Tigers
2018 West Alabama Tigers football team
UWA Tigers wordmark.png
First season1938
Athletic directorStan Williamson
Head coachBrett Gilliland
6th season, 43–26 (.623)
StadiumTiger Stadium
(Capacity: 7,000)
LocationLivingston, Alabama
NCAA divisionDivision II
ConferenceGulf South Conference
All-time record326–431–18 (.432)
Bowl record5–6 (.455)
Claimed nat'l titles1 (1971,NAIA)
Conference titles6 (1940, 1949, 1971, 2012, 2013, 2017)
ColorsRed and White[1]
         
Fight songThe Fight Song
MascotLuie the Tiger
Marching band"Scarlet Band from Tiger Land"
RivalsNorth Alabama Lions
WebsiteUWAAthletics.com
For information on all University of West Alabama sports, see West Alabama Tigers

The West Alabama Tigers football program is the intercollegiate American football team for the University of West Alabama located in the U.S. state of Alabama. The team competes in the NCAA Division II and is A member of the Gulf South Conference. West Alabama's first football team was fielded in 1938. The team plays its home games at the 7,000 seat Tiger Stadium in Livingston, Alabama. The Tigers are coached by Brett Gilliland.[2]

History[edit]

West Alabama's football team was first fielded in 1931 when the school was known as Livingston State Teachers College. However, intercollegiate competition for all the university's athletics was not scheduled until seven years later. In 1938, they competed in four games against Marion Institute, Jacksonville State, Demopolis A.S, and Troy State, all of whom were local teams. LSTC finished the season 2–2.[3] That year also marked the start of World War II which led to a decline in college enrollment across the United States. Therefore, LSTC fielded no athletic teams from 1942–1945. In 1944, Dr. William Wilson Hill became president of the university and instantly started recruiting students to enroll. The return of males to campus reestablished an interest in sports. After a three-year hiatus, the football team returned to action under the guidance of new head coach E.G McCollum. They opened their season with the first of many future match-ups against Mississippi College, which resulted in a 24–14 loss. Also, that season, LSTC renewed its rivalry with, eventual Gulf South Conference foes, Troy State and Delta State. The team concluded the season with a 6–3 record. Due to success of the season, McCollum resigned to pursue a bigger opportunity elsewhere. Following two dismal seasons from 1947 and 1948, LSTC made a bold move and hired former University of Alabama star Vaughn Mancha as the fourth head coach in team history. Mancha at the time was only 28 years old with no prior coaching experience. The former two-time All-American had also recently completed his first and only season in the NFL as a member of the Boston Yanks. Under Mancha, the team experienced immediate success. In his first season, he led LSTC to one of the biggest accomplishments in school history, a 13–6 win over Florida State. The team also concluded the regular season 7–1–1, which at the time marked the best record in school history. The historical season earned LSTC right to play in the Paper Bowl against Jacksonville State. JSU won the hard-fought defensive affair, 12–7. Until 1952, the Tigers played home games at Livingston High School. From then on, all their home games were played at Tiger Stadium, a 7,000-capacity stadium located on filled in land that was previously known as "Crawdad Creek." The stadium was built to fill the need for an on-campus stadium. Next season was once again successful as the team finished 6–3–1. However, they could not duplicate the accomplishments of the previous season. During Mancha's third season, the team started off 2–4 and showed heavy signs of decline until putting on a strong finish to end the season 5–5. This season would mark the last in Mancha's tenure at LSTC as he decided to take over as defensive coordinator at Florida State. Mancha departed with an 18–10–2 overall record.

The Tigers underwent a 15-year-long drought without a winning season after the departure of Mancha. The team's most success came in 1965 when they finished 5–4. Their luck finally started to change after hiring Morris Higginbotham in 1967. Before coming to Livingston, he was one of the most successful high school coaches in Alabama, compiling a 111–27–8 record. The native of Birmingham, earned Alabama Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year honors for the efforts of his 1968 team that featured a 9–2 mark and an appearance in the Peanut Bowl in Dothan, Alabama. Higginbotham only remained at the school for three seasons leading the Tigers to a 19–9–2 record. Higginbotham was succeeded by assistant head coach Mickey Andrews. Similar to the path of former LU head coach, Vaughn Mancha, Andrews starred in football and baseball at the University of Alabama from 1961–1964 before being hired at the university in 1967. Andrews spent three seasons guiding the UWA football team, leading the Tigers to a 24–7–2 record during his tenure. The team also won their first and only championship in school history during the 1971 season defeating Arkansas Tech.[4] LU's bid for a second consecutive NAIA National Championship came up short to Carson-Newman in the 1972 NAIA semi-final. Both teams battled to a 7–7 tie. However, a controversial tiebreaker ruling went in favor of Carson-Newman. In 1973, Andrews became the second LU head coach to resign and accept the defensive coordinator position at Florida State. With the next coach, once again, LU made a decision to hire a coach from within the program as they selected Andrews’ top assistant, Jim King. King, a native of Adamsville, Alabama, came to LU in 1970. In 1975, he led the Tigers to the NCAA playoffs with a 10–3 record. In the NCAA Quarter Finals, the team faced a tough task of taking on #1 ranked North Dakota. The game was nearly cancelled due to heavy snow. Nevertheless, LU prevailed in a huge upset to move on. During the Semi-Finals, they faced a tough Northern Michigan team on national television. Although LU jumped out to a 10–0 lead, they eventually fell short 28–26.[5] King, like several successful LU coaches before him, moved on to a new opportunity elsewhere. In only three seasons, he compiled a 29–14–1 record. Since that time, the Tigers have faced their share of good but mostly bad seasons.

The hiring of Bobby Wallace in 2006 marked a new era within the football program. Wallace's first head coaching stint came in the GSC when he was the head coach at the University of North Alabama from 1988–1997. During his time at UNA, he led the Lions to three consecutive national championships from 1993–1995 as his squads finished with an overall record of 41–1 during the course of those three seasons. The 1995 team was selected as the "Best Team of the Quarter Century" in Division II. Wallace also led UNA to Gulf South Conference Championships during the 1993–1995 seasons, while his Lions also qualified for the NCAA Division II Playoffs six times during his tenure. Over his 10 seasons at the helm, he compiled an overall mark of 82–36–1, and he also produced a total of 12 NFL players. Prior to arriving in Livingston, he had served as the head coach at Temple University since 1997. Upon hiring Wallace, many around UWA hoped he could lead the football team back to its glory days. The Wallace Era began with a great glimmer of hope as UWA recorded its first winning season in 14 years. The Tigers finished 6–5 on the season.[6] UWA also ended several streaks picking up wins at Lambuth, against Southern Arkansas, and at Arkansas-Monticello. The excitement was put on hold, however, as the team finished the 2007 season with a 1–9 record and posted a 4–7 record in 2008. Wallace and his team put together a memorable season in 2009. The season began with three consecutive victories including a televised home win over Arkansas Tech. Unfortunately, three consecutive losses followed. A couple of wins over #22 Delta State and Arkansas-Monticello put UWA right back in the thick of the playoff race, but a loss to West Georgia the following week nearly derailed their hopes. During the season finale, UWA was locked in a battle for their playoff lives against longtime rival and Wallace's former team, North Alabama. At the time, UNA was ranked #1 in all the Division II polls. Through a fearless and courageous effort, UWA sent the game to overtime after losing the lead they held throughout the game. After four overtimes, it appeared UNA was set to claim the victory until a forced fumble gave UWA the ball. From that, they took advantage and kicked the game-winning field goal. It was the first win for the Tigers at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence since the 1987 season.[7] The NCAA rewarded UWA's efforts with a berth in the NCAA Division II playoffs. In the first round, the Tigers upset #20 Albany State 24–22 on the road.[8] After falling behind early against #10 Carson-Newman, the Tigers mounted a rally before falling short 59–41.[9] The Tigers gathered an 8–5 record, the most wins since 1975, and had eight All-GSC honors. UWA posted a 5–1 record at Tiger Stadium, the best since 1985, and tallied the most wins over GSC opponents since 1981 with six.[10] They received their first two rankings in school history at the end of the season. The AFCA placed them #21, while the D2Football.com poll placed them higher two spots at #19.[11][12]

UWA entered the 2010 season ranked 12th nationally by USA Today. The team was also ranked 23rd in the Lindy's Preseason Top 25 poll and 24th in the Sporting News Preseason Top 25 poll.[13] The UWA football team recorded its highest pre-season ranking since 1976 as the Tigers were selected second by the head coaches of the 2010 Gulf South Conference in the GSC Pre-Season Poll. The Red and White previously entered as the top ranked team in 1976 and 1972.[14] West Alabama opened the season on August 28 against NAIA member Shorter in nearby Demopolis, Alabama.[15] Tiger Stadium saw a major renovation as a synthetic surface was recently installed. The Tigers played their first contest on the new surface on September 18 against Lambuth but were narrowly defeated.[16] UWA opened Gulf South Conference play with a home win over West Georgia but fell short to Delta State on the road. After a 3–2 start, the Tigers reeled off three consecutive wins including a last-second Homecoming triumph over Henderson State. It appeared the game had ended, but officials put a second back on the clock. Quarterback Deon Williams connected to wide receiver Gerald Worsham in the back of the endzone for the game-winner.[17] The team dropped back-to-back heartbreakers the following two weeks before returning home to face Valdosta State in the season finale. The day before the contest, Bobby Wallace announced to his players that he would be stepping down as head coach upon the end of the season.[18] After falling behind and trailing at the half, the Tigers upset the #7 ranked Blazers to give Wallace a victory in his final game. The team notched its second win ever against Valdosta State and picked up their first win in the series since 1985. UWA finished the season 7–4 to earn consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1991 and 1992.[19] Deon Williams was recognized as one of 24 candidates for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division II equivalent to Division I's Heisman Trophy.[20] Offensive coordinator Will Hall was named Bobby Wallace's successor a week after the season concluded.[21] Bobby Wallace was inducted into the Division II Hall of Fame in December to close out a storied career.[22] The 2011 team went 8–4, beat DI foe Georgia State, and qualified for the NCAA DII tournament. The 2012 team went undefeated in Gulf South play (5–0) to claim the conference title. UWA defeated Miles College 41–7 in round one of the playoffs. The team lost at eventual national champion Valdosta State 49–21 in the second round. UWA finished 9–4.

The 2013 team finished with an 8–3 (5–1)overall record. The Tigers claimed back to back GSC titles for the first time in history with a 5–1 GSC record. In that year they beat 4 rank team, including Delta state and #1 rank team Valdosta in consecutive weeks. Coach Hall resigned to become the coach of West Georgia.

Brett Gilliand would then take his place as head coach of the Tigers. In his first year, he would go 5–6 and have five all GSC players.

Notable former players[edit]

Notable alumni include:

Program achievements[edit]

Alabama Collegiate Conference Champions 1940, 1949
Gulf South Conference Champions 1971, 2012, 2013, 2017
NCAA Division II Team Playoff Participants 1975, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2017, 2018
NCAA Division II Regional Championships 1975
NCAA Division II National Championships
NAIA Team Playoff Participants 1971, 1972
NAIA Regional Championships 1971, 1972
NAIA National Champions 1971

References[edit]

  1. ^ University of West Alabama Graphics Standards (PDF). July 1, 2016. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  2. ^ "West Alabama Historical Data". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2012-08-27.

External links[edit]