UNA solidified as athletic powerhouse

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel and Student Writer Rabun Wright

The University of North Alabama has one of the most prestigious athletic programs on the D-II level. Here’s a look at what made UNA’s teams what they are today:

FOOTBALL

North Alabama is the winningest collegiate football program in the state of Alabama since 1990 with 213 wins and a 71.1 winning percentage. The Lions, under head coach Bobby Wallace, won three Gulf South Conference titles, made six playoff appearances and won three back-to-back Division II National Championships in 1993-1995. In those three years, UNA had a record of 41-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the D-II poll for 27 consecutive weeks. In 2013-2014, UNA won back-to-back GSC titles.

VOLLEYBALL

Originally part of the Physical Education department, UNA’s team became part of the athletics program in 1969. They won the first seven GSC volleyball championships in 1984-1988. Twelve years later, UNA went 40-3, won its fifth straight GSC title, made its fifth straight NCAA trip and made it to the D-II Final Four for the first time. UNA volleyball claimed its first NCAA National Championship in 2003.

SOCCER

In 1997, the UNA soccer program moved into the NCAA in 1997 as a member of the GSC. UNA claimed its first GSC championship in 2011. Chloe Roberts set the UNA career scoring record with 93 goals and became the 25th player in D-II history to have at least 40 career goals and 40 career assists.

GOLF

When UNA joined NCAA D-II in the 1970s, the Lions became one of the most successful teams in the GSC. UNA won its first regional championship in 2002. The golf team’s first two GSC titles came in 2009 and 2010. The Lions had four straight NCAA Regional appearances in 2010-2013. The UNA golf program has produced 13 All-Americans.

BASKETBALL

The men’s basketball program has claimed two national championships, played in nine NCAA championship tournaments and made five Final Four appearances. Flowers Hall, the home court for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, is named after Eddie Flowers, coach of the first men’s basketball team at UNA. In 1979, the Lions won an NCAA D-II basketball championship and became the first college or university in the state to win a basketball national championship. UNA claimed its second national championship in 1991.

The women’s basketball program began competing under the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women in 1975. The program has since made four trips to the NCAA D-II tournament. Wayne Byrd led the program for 16 years to the school’s first GSC championship. The program has also included three All-Americans.

BASEBALL

UNA baseball began in 1932 and had a streak of 30 consecutive winning seasons from 1984 to 2013. Much of the success is due to former coach Mike Lane. In the years under Lane, the Lions won 908 games, averaged 36 wins per season, won five GSC Championships and went to their first D-II World Series in 1999. Many players have gone on to play professionally, such as Josh Willingham.

SOFTBALL

The UNA softball program began in 1983 and immediately set the standard, winning the GSC’s first-ever softball championship the same year. For the first three years of the program, UNA and the GSC competed in slow-pitch softball until they switched to fast-pitch and D-II in 1986. In 2006, the softball team made their first appearance in the NCAA D-II Tournament. For both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the Lions finished third in the GSC. In 2015, the Lions cracked the D-II top 10 for its highest ranking in school history.

CROSS COUNTRY

The cross country program began in 1973. The women’s team won back-to-back GSC titles in 1987 and 1988. Emry McKay is dubbed the top runner in UNA’s history, earning three All-GSC, three All-South Region and three All-American honors. McKay also competed in the NCAA D-II National Championships for three years.

TENNIS

The men’s tennis program began in 1932 under Eddie Flowers and the women’s team began in 1975 under Nancy Vance. The Lions won their first school championship in 1936 while competing in the Mississippi Valley Conference. The Lions won their first GSC championship in 1981. The Lions have made the NCAA D-II Regional championships 10 times since 1995.