Heart of a Lion builds foundation

(EDITOR’S NOTE: In today’s edition of The Commercial readers will find a number of pages with stories and photographs from our sports and news departments, plus ads from supporters, devoted to congratulating the UAPB Golden Lions football team on winning the SWAC championship.)

It may be a bit premature to discuss a football dynasty at this stage, but the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions this year have built the foundation for one against which all others will be compared.
Winning their first outright SWAC championship in school history was a start of what we hope will become a UAPB tradition. The bricks added to the foundation by the 2012 football team are as follows:
The team’s SWAC Western Division title, 8-1 conference record, and conference championship at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.;
• 13 players making the all-conference team;
• Coach of the Year honors for Monte Coleman;
• Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the championship game;
• The Golden Lions were ranked second in the final Sheridan Broadcasting Network black college poll and No. 1 in the final Boxtorow Football Championship Subdivision HBCU coaches’ poll.
• The UAPB Marching Band (known as M4) being voted the best band on the field in Birmingham; and
• Former Chancellor Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr. and the late H.O. Clemmons were inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame; Carl Whimper, former sports information director, was cited for his years of service with the Charles “Chuck” Prophet Wagonmaster Award during the weekend.
The foundation noted above contains many pieces, but there are others that must be counted.
Golden Lions fans who traveled to Birmingham will be retelling their perspective of Tyler Strickland’s 26-yard field goal in overtime to give the Golden Lions their 24-21 win over Jackson State. It was, after all, the first time a SWAC championship went into overtime in the game’s 14-year history.
A dynasty is built on heroics of a team that fell behind 14-0 in the early stages of the game. Teams that don’t have heart would have considered themselves beaten at that point. But not the Golden Lions.
The defensive effort clicked and slowed down Jackson State offense, forcing the overtime. By then the fingernails on the UAPB fans at Legion Field must have been in short supply.
The championship has meant so much for UAPB’s fans that have remained loyal to the university and its athletic programs over the years, including some dark days.
That championship trophy signaled the end of a long journey to prominence for a program that received the death penalty by the NAIA for numerous violations of rules and violations in 1991. UAPB decided not to field a team in 1992, but restarted its program the next season.
We agree with Coach Coleman that there is no reason for the program’s success to end on Dec. 8. We look forward to multiple SWAC championships in the future.
Like the fans, we have faith in the university, its students and representatives who do us proud every year. The heart of a Golden Lion can overcome any adversity.