Alabama A&M football rivalry escalates after game

On Sept. 14, the University of North Alabama continued their in-state rivalry with Alabama A&M. In a tale of two halves, the Lions lost 31-24 after scoring only 6 points in the second half and blowing an 18-0 halftime lead. What occurred in the days following the loss was something that UNA least expected.

On Monday, Sept. 16, Alabama A&M head coach Connell Maynor spoke on his weekly Monday news conference about the overall treatment of his staff and players by UNA. The press conference video has since been removed, but Maynor highlighted several points of how racism may have played a role in the off-field incidents and declared that as long as he remains head coach, A&M will not play UNA again.

“It ain’t 1959, we don’t have to put up with that type of stuff,” Maynor said.

Maynor then went on to list those off-the-field incidents that took place before and after the matchup. Maynor said that his coaches were told they need to have their credentials around their neck while several UNA coaches and personnel were spotted with theirs around their waist. He also highlighted that assistant coaches were held back so that fans could use the elevators going into the press box and players were not allowed to step on the field until two hours before the game.

“There was too much off-the-field stuff that went on behind the scenes,” Maynor said. “It was not professional the way they treated us.”

Maynor also said Alabama A&M received no complimentaary tickets or tickets to sell for the game, although the contractual agreement between the two schools does not require either school to provide tickets to the visiting team.

An anonymous on-the-field source for Alabama A&M highlighted several other incidents. The source said that an incident occurred in which Maynor’s wife was not allowed press box entry for a short time even with credentials. Maynor himself was talked about walking on the field himself and was forced to wear a clearance badge.

Several Alabama A&M players made mention of how the locker rooms were filthy, the source said. Several players for the Bulldogs refused to use them when preparing for the game.

UNA has since released multiple statements highlighting the incidents.

The university released an almost immediate statement on the school’s Facebook page:

“On Monday (Sept.16), UNA was made aware of comments by Alabama A&M’s head football coach related to Saturday’s (Sept. 14) game against the Lions,” the statement read. “UNA officials were never contacted by Alabama A&M. Our athletic programs – including students, players, coaching staff, alumni and fans – are held to the highest standards of respectful behavior, fair play and good sportsmanship. We have the utmost respect for the Alabama A&M athletic program, the University (sic), it’s alumni and sports fans.”

On Sept.18, both universities – through media representatives Michelle Eubanks (UNA) and Dr. Archie Tucker (AAMU) – released a joint statement saying that the schools are planning to work together to resolve the situation and work together moving forward:

“Alabama A&M University and the University of North Alabama are vital educational institutions that serve the North Alabama region and beyond,” the statement read. “Both institutions are committed to working collaboratively to advance our respective missions. We are separated by 76 miles; however, we remain united in ensuring the viability of our institutions and the success of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and programs, both academically and athletically.

“As part of that collaborative commitment, both universities have been in communication since Monday about the recent UNA-AAMU football game at Braly Stadium to decide what, if any, next steps are necessary. Both institutions are committed to providing a safe, accommodating, friendly, and inclusive environment. We remain dedicated to furthering our relationship and enjoying a bright future, both on and off the field”

It remains unclear whether the issue will be resolved between the two universities, but for now UNA holds an all-time 19-4-1 record over Alabama A&M. The loss on Sept.14 marked only the fourth ever loss in the matchup against the Bulldogs.