Looney on athletic department’s new scholarship


Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

One thousand dollars in scholarship money is available to students who attend a University of North Alabama basketball game this semester. That is, until someone claims it by scoring a half-court shot.

This scholarship opportunity was created by the head men’s basketball coach, Tony Pujol and UNA’s new athletic director, Dr. Josh Looney. They met over breakfast in December, eager to come up with a way to engage with students and thank them for supporting UNA sports in the Division I transition. Looney credits Pujol for coming up with the idea and putting forth $500 to be used as scholarship money. Looney matched his donation with an additional $500, and alas, the scholarship was created.

The contest began on Jan 8 at the men’s basketball game against Jacksonville State. At every home game for both men and women’ basketball, students in the audience can submit their name to be a part of the competition. At half time a name is drawn out of the ones submitted, and the winning name gets their chance to shoot from center-court.

Half-court shots can be difficult to make, which is why the offer will continue throughout the season, until the scholarship is won.

“Who knows?” Looney said. “If we go long enough without a make, perhaps the amount will increase.”

Looney is hopeful that this opportunity, as well as the other promotions held at games this season, will encourage positive experiences for students at UNA athletic events. As the new athletic director, it is his goal to build the game atmosphere that he invisions. It is a priority for him that the UNA community know and can connect with the directors, coaches and athletes in the athletic department.

“Community engagement extends far beyond game day,” Looney said. “We have to support this community if we expect the community to support us.”

As for eligibility for the scholarship, any student who attends the game as a fan is eligible at that game. Student athletes from other UNA teams are eligible under these circumstances. Looney shares his wish to get members of other student organizations involved, saying he hopes that members of the Pep Band will give the shot a try. “They’re doing a great job with the atmosphere this basketball season,” he said.

Overall, the purpose of this scholarship and opportunity is to benefit the campus. If the winning student happens to have their current college expenses paid for, the scholarship will be available to help them in future semesters, or in whatever way best suits them and their personal education path.

Looney says that with donations, they could keep the promotion going even after the initial money is won. This scholarship is perhaps part of a new tradition.

“More than anything, we want students to have fun when attending home athletic events, while being loud and proud with their UNA Pride and getting to know our new opponents as we become full members of NCAA Division I after this season,” Looney said. “In that moment, everyone in the arena is pulling for the student to make the shot. Make or miss, that’s a great experience.”