The Birmingham News/Tamika Moore
UAPB head coach Monte Coleman encourages his players while offensive line coach Damon Nivens and secondary coach Henry Miller point toward the field during Saturday’s SWAC championship victory over Jackson State in Birmingham, Ala.
UPDATE: The final Sheridan Broadcasting Network black college football poll will be released either Tuesday evening or Wednesday, The Commercial has learned. SBN personality Ty Miller said, however, it doesn’t appear UAPB will be ranked No. 1.
Two decades after their football program was shut down, Arkansas-Pine Bluff reached the summit of Division I black college football.
And coach Monte Coleman made it clear he doesn’t want his program’s success to stop there.
“Our goal? This is one (championship). We’re not here to win one SWAC championship,” Coleman said after Saturday’s conference title game in Birmingham, Ala. “We’re here to build a dynasty and to win multiple SWAC championships over the years. With the right players, we will be back.”
The declaration is an indication of Coleman’s desire to remain with the Golden Lions. He’s at the end of his five-year contract with UAPB and was expected to resume talks of a renewed deal following the game with athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr.
But there’s no question Coleman, who is 29-27 at UAPB, has earned a new deal.
UAPB’s 24-21 overtime victory over Jackson State on Saturday culminated a long journey to prominence for a program that, for the 1991 season, was handed the death penalty by the NAIA for reportedly 41 violations of rules and regulations under coach Archie Cooley, mostly dealing with player ineligibility. UAPB elected not to field a team in 1992, but restarted its program the next season.
Coleman then was winding down his career as a Washington Redskins linebacker.
“Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., our last chancellor, used to commend Lee Hardman for taking the job when we were placed on the death penalty,” Coleman said. “Between (Hardman) and coach (Mo) Forte and me, in my tenure as head coach … just watching the program grow from playing flag football to being SWAC champions, it’s kind of an obvious escalation from where we were to where we are now.”
UAPB nearly won the NAIA championship in its second year of football resurrection, but Coleman’s 2012 team has set some historical marks for the school. UAPB (10-2) posted its first 10-win season ever, a second straight winning season for the first time since four straight in 1997-2000, a seven-game winning streak that ties a school record and the program’s first outright SWAC title in history.
On top of that, the Lions have drawn more accolades with an outside possibility of a national championship looming.
They were ranked No. 1 in the final Boxtorow Football Championship Subdivision HBCU coaches’ poll, released Monday by the national radio show “From the Press Box to Press Row.” They received nine of the 15 first-place votes and earned 143 voting points, six more than No. 2 Bethune-Cookman, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion.
The show also conducts a media poll that includes historically black college or university teams from all divisions. UAPB was ranked third behind North Carolina’s Winston-Salem State (14-0) and Florida’s Bethune-Cookman (9-3) in the most recent edition of that poll.
The Sheridan Broadcasting Network poll, which determines the black college national champion, has UAPB ranked second behind Winston-Salem in its most recent release. The final edition of that poll will be released Tuesday evening or Wednesday, while the final Boxtorow media poll is expected to be released following this Saturday’s NCAA Division II championship game between Winston-Salem and Georgia’s Valdosta State (11-2), a former rival of Arkansas-Monticello’s in the Gulf South Conference.
And then, there’s UAPB defensive end Brandon Thurmond’s selection to The Sports Network’s FCS All-America team, also announced Monday.
Plenty for Coleman to be thankful for.
“When God’s favor is on you, it’s on you,” he said. “And His favor has been with us the last two years for sure.”
On Saturday, UAPB trailed Jackson State 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-7 before linebacker Bill Ross returned a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown with 4 seconds left in the first half. Neither team scored again until Willie Young’s 95-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Ben Anderson with 2 minutes left in regulation tied the score.
Tyler Strickland hit a 26-yard field goal in overtime to win it for the Lions.
“It’s been a great day,” Coleman said. “UAPB is on the map.”