North Alabama Lions football

The North Alabama Lions football program represents the University of North Alabama (UNA) in the NCAA Division I Big South Conference, an Atlantic Sun-affiliated football conference.[2] UNA plays its home games at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Alabama. They are currently coached by Chris Willis. UNA was a member of Division II from 1972 to 2017.

North Alabama Lions football
2020 North Alabama Lions football team
North Alabama Lions wordmark.svg
First season1912
Athletic directorMark Linder
Head coachChris Willis
3rd season, 16–15 (.516)
StadiumBraly Municipal Stadium
(Capacity: 14,215)
Field surfaceProGrass
LocationFlorence, Alabama
NCAA divisionDivision I FCS
ConferenceBig South Conference
Past conferencesFCS Independent 2018
Gulf South 1970–2017
Alabama Collegiate Conference 1960–1969
All-time record477–286–16 (.623)
Playoff appearances21
Playoff record35–18
Claimed nat'l titles3 – (Div. II) 1993, 1994, 1995
Conference titles17
RivalriesJacksonville State
Alabama A&M
West Alabama
Consensus All-Americans63
ColorsPurple and Gold[1]
Fight songGo! Fight! U-N-A!
MascotLeo III and Una
Marching bandPride of Dixie Marching Band

The Lions are distinguished as the only team to win three consecutive football national championships in NCAA Division II. UNA's 27 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the Division II polls also comprise the longest stretch of consecutive No. 1 rankings in football in NCAA history on any level. UNA was the last Division II team to beat a Division I-A (FBS) team, defeating Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana) on October 11, 1997.[3] In 2016, UNA won their fourth consecutive Gulf South Conference championship — a conference record.


Based on a history compiled by, the University’s official athletic website, football had an especially inauspicious beginning at the University of North Alabama. The institution’s first football game in 1912 ended with Florence State Normal School losing to Sewanee, 101–0.[4] The institution carried on with a football program for 16 years despite similar poor results, finally terminating the program in 1928 after losing twice to Marion Institute, 86–0 and 85–0.

The program was not resumed until 1949, when President E.B. Norton announced that Florence State Teachers College, as the institution was then known, once again would field a team. At the first pep rally for the new team, Dr. Norton told the student body that the school had not lost a football game in 20 years and did not want to start losing then. Nevertheless, the first game, played September 29, 1949 against Jacksonville State, resulted in a 12–7 loss. Florence State rebounded in the next game with a 28–7 win over Howard College (now Samford University).[5]

Dr. Norton told the Flor-Ala student newspaper on January 5, 1949 that a football team was important not only for school spirit but also because a teachers college should have facilities to train coaches for the public schools. In an interview with the Florence Times-Daily in 1994, Dr. Norton recounted the football team's role at a critical juncture in the college's history. Wendell Wilkie Gunn, the first African American graduate of Florence State, registered in 1964. In the wake of the protests and violence that attended integration at other southern colleges and universities, Dr. Norton called the football team together and said he expected a peaceful and welcoming atmosphere on the Florence State campus. He charged the football players to set the appropriate example as leaders of the student body. Mr. Gunn matriculated and graduated in four years without incident. Dr. Norton stated that the football team's contribution to the successful integration of the institution justified his original vision of the program, in a way he could not have foreseen in 1949, and exceeded even the program's considerable achievements on the field (which by the 1990s included three national titles).

The Lions won thirteen Gulf South Conference Championships, and finished its 46-year tenure in Division II with a 337–170–7 record. [5]


Jacksonville StateEdit

The University of North Alabama and Jacksonville State University (JSU) first played in 1949 upon UNA's return to the gridiron. The two teams played every year through the 1992 season, and have only played three times since JSU's move to the FCS (2003, 2013, 2016). JSU leads the series 26–18–3. The longest winning streak by either team is seven games (UNA 1952–61; JSU 1988–92). UNA and JSU played each other twice in the 1989 and 1992 seasons by meeting up in the playoffs. The current streak is held by JSU with three wins.[6] The most recent match was on September 21, 2019 resulting in a JSU victory by a score of 30–12.[7] The two programs have agreed to a four-year series, with the next meeting taking place in 2020.[8]

Alabama A&MEdit

UNA and Alabama A&M University (AAMU) are separated by only 77 miles. UNA and AAMU have played 24 times from 1975 to 1997, and in 2018 and 2019. The first game was won by UNA 48–29 on the road. UNA leads the series 19–4–1. The longest winning streak in the series is held by UNA at nine games (1989–1997, 2018). UNA lost the most recent game 31-24 on September 14, 2019.[9][10]

West AlabamaEdit

UNA and the University of West Alabama (UWA) first played in 1949 and played every year through 2017. UNA leads the series 52–18–1. UWA won the first two meetings in 1949 (14–13) and 1950 (19–0), but UNA followed that with a thirteen-game winning streak (1951–1963). The longest winning streak in the series is held by UNA at fourteen games (1988–2001). The current winning streak is held by UWA at one game.[11] The most recent match-up was played on September 23, 2017 resulting in a 38–17 victory for UWA.[12] Unfortunately, the 2017 meeting was likely the last for the foreseeable future since UNA has moved to the FCS.[13][14]

Head coachesEdit

  • Records are through the end of the 2018 Season
Tenure Coach Years Record Percentage
1949–1969 Hal Self 21 109–81–8 .571
1970–1972 Durell Mock 3 8–24–0 .250
1973–1976 Mickey Andrews 4 18–21–1 .462
1977–1987 Wayne Grubb 11 84–43–6 .707
1988–1997 Bobby Wallace 10 82–36–1 .693
1998–2001 Bill Hyde 4 20–21 .487
2002–2008 Mark Hudspeth 7 66–21 .758
2009–2011 Terry Bowden 3 29–9 .763
2012–2016 Bobby Wallace 5 44–15 .746
2017–present Chris Willis 3 16–15 .516
Totals 10 coaches 70 seasons 477–286–16 .623

Hal SelfEdit

Under the direction of Head Coach Hal Self, the college completed 1949 with a 4–5 record, turning in a slightly improved 5–4 record the following year. However, during Self's 21 seasons as head coach, the Lions compiled a 109–81–8 record, even posting wins against some Division I schools.

The Lions were especially dominant among other Alabama teams, building a 31–0–2 record, beginning with a 32–6 win over Livingston (now West Alabama) in 1952 and ending 12 years later with a 21–7 loss to Troy State in 1964. Self also amassed several Alabama Collegiate Conference championships and coached eight All-Americans, including Harlon Hill, the school’s first professional football star.

Former Lion standout Durell Mock succeeded Self in 1970, followed by Mickey Andrews in 1973.[5]

Wayne GrubbEdit

Wayne Grubb took over for Andrews in 1977.[15] Grubb followed a disappointing 5–5 beginning season with 8 consecutive winning seasons, including Gulf South Conference championships in 1980, 1983, and 1985. UNA also qualified for the national semifinals in 1980 and 1983, competing for the Division II Championship at Palm Bowl in McAllen, Texas, in 1985.

In 1985, Florence's Braly Municipal Stadium also was secured as the site of the Division II national championship game, with UNA serving as the host institution until 2013, when it was announced that the championship would move to Kansas City, Missouri in 2014 and remain there through 2017.[16] The Division II move to Florence also led to the adoption of the Harlon Hill Trophy, named after one of the most successful athletes in UNA's history.[5]

Bobby Wallace (first stint)Edit

Coach Bobby Wallace, UNA President Robert Potts, and members of the 1995 National Championship team pose with President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator Howell Heflin at the White House.

The most successful era in UNA football history followed the hiring of Bobby Wallace as head football coach. Following a four-year rebuilding period, Wallace led the Lions to a 7–4–1 record in 1992 and competed in the second round of the Division II championship until losing to Jacksonville State, the eventual Division II national champions.

Over the next three years from 1993–95, UNA amassed a 41–1 record, which also encompassed three straight Gulf South Conference Championships and three consecutive NCAA Division II National Championships — the first three-peat in NCAA history. UNA also became the first program to achieve 40 wins in three seasons.

The only loss UNA suffered during this three-year period was to Youngstown State, a Division I-AA power at the time, losing narrowly, 17–14, following a field goal in the fourth quarter. Youngstown State went on to win the 1994 I-AA national championship.

During Wallace’s 10-year tenure, the UNA Lions competed in six NCAA playoffs and compiled an 82–36–1 record.

In 1995, UNA Lions were selected the “Best Team of the Quarter Century” in Division II, while Wallace was named Division II‘s “Coach of the Quarter Century.”

Following their third consecutive NCAA Division II Football Championship in 1995, the Lions were invited to the White House to meet President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and members of Congress.[5]

Mark HudspethEdit

UNA Lions emerging from the Lion Victory Tunnel at Braly Municipal Stadium before the start of a UNA home game in 2007.

Following a 4-year interlude under Bill Hyde, Mark Hudspeth assumed the head coaching job at UNA in 2002. After a disappointing first year, Hudspeth led the Lions to another string of Division II playoff games.[5]

In his first five seasons at UNA, Hudspeth posted the best record of any previous Lion head coach in their first five years – leading the Lions to a 44–17 mark, two Gulf South Conference titles, and three NCAA Division II playoff appearances. Hudspeth left UNA after the 2008 season to become an assistant under newly hired Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.[17]

Terry BowdenEdit

Former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden was named the new head coach on January 1, 2009. Bowden's brother, Jeff Bowden, also joined Terry at UNA as the WR coach.[18] Pre-season hype focused on Bowden's remedy to a re-building roster by acquiring over twenty-five transfers from Division I schools including several from his father's Florida State team. The 2009 campaign would climax late in the season with an undefeated 10–0 record and the school's return to the #1 ranking for the first time since 1996. The season wrapped up with a UNA loss in the regional finals with an 11–2 record.

Bowden left after the 2011 season to take the head coaching job at Akron.[19]

Bobby Wallace (second stint)Edit

Wallace returned in 2012 for a second stint as head coach after Bowden's departure. Wallace led the Lions to four consecutive Gulf South Conference Championships and NCAA post-season appearances. Wallace ranks as the winningest football coach in Gulf South Conference history with 149 wins in his 19 years in the league. The 2012 season was a transition year for the Lions who finished fourth in the conference standings with a 5–5 overall record. After a successful off-season, the 2013 Lions had an impressive 10–3 record and shared the GSC title with in-state rival West Alabama. In 2014 Wallace led UNA to a 9–2 record that included winning a share of a second straight GSC Championship and a second straight berth in the Division II Playoffs.[20] In 2015, coach Wallace led the Lions to a 9–3 record and shared their third consecutive GSC Championship with West Georgia and another Division II Playoff appearance. Wallace won his fourth consecutive GSC title outright in 2016 by going undefeated in conference play and received a fourth straight berth to the Division II Playoffs as the No. 1 seed in Region II. The Lions defeated UNC-Pembroke 41–17 in the second round, shutout North Greenville 38–0 in the quarterfinals, and went on to the semifinals winning at Shepherd 23–13, advancing to the national championship game. UNA fell to Northwest Missouri State 29–3 in the national championship and finished No. 2 in the final AFCA poll. Coach Wallace retired from UNA on December 20, 2016. Wallace finished his 15-year career at UNA with a 126–51–1 (.711) record, making him the winningest football coach in school history.

Chris WillisEdit

Chris Willis was named head coach on December 22, 2016. Coach Willis has spent fifteen years on the UNA football staff and five years as defensive coordinator. Willis finished the 2017 season with a 5–5 record, avoiding the school's first losing season since 2002. The Lions finished tied for second in the GSC (with four other teams)[21] and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Because of NCAA transitional rules, the Lions will not be eligible for postseason until 2022 as a transitioning school to Division I. The Lions finished their first season in the FCS with a 7-3 record, and were 3-2 versus FCS opponents. The Lions fell to 4-7 during the 2019 campaign after playing a tough non-conference schedule featuring prominent FCS programs such as Montana and Jacksonville State. Big South Conference games did not count towards the standings due to transition rules; however, UNA finished with a 3-4 conference record.

Record Since 1990Edit

Official record as of the end of the 2018 season:[22]

National Champions   Conference Champions *
Season Conference Standings Won Lost Tied Win Percentage Rank
1990 Gulf South Conference T-2 8 3 0 .727 15
1991 Gulf South Conference 7 3 7 0 .300
1992 Gulf South Conference T-2 7 4 1 .625 16
1993 * Gulf South Conference 1 14 0 0 1.000 1
1994 * Gulf South Conference 1 13 1 0 .929 1
1995 * Gulf South Conference 1 14 0 0 1.000 1
1996 Gulf South Conference T-5 6 5 0 .545
1997 Gulf South Conference 3 9 3 0 .750 13
1998 Gulf South Conference 8 2 0 .800
1999 Gulf South Conference 5 6 0 .455
2000 Gulf South Conference 3 7 0 .300
2001 Gulf South Conference 4 6 0 .400
2002 Gulf South Conference T-8 4 7 0 .364
2003* Gulf South Conference 1 13 1 0 .929 5
2004 Gulf South Conference T-6 5 5 0 .500
2005 Gulf South Conference T-2 11 3 0 .786 4
2006* Gulf South Conference 1 11 1 0 .917 6
2007 Gulf South Conference 2 10 2 0 .833 6
2008 Gulf South Conference 2 12 2 0 .857 3
2009* Gulf South Conference 1 11 2 0 .846 6
2010 Gulf South Conference 3 9 4 0 .692 22
2011 Gulf South Conference 2 9 3 0 .750 14
2012 Gulf South Conference 4 5 5 0 .500
2013* Gulf South Conference T-1 10 3 0 .769 10
2014* Gulf South Conference T-1 9 2 0 .818 16
2015* Gulf South Conference T-1 9 3 0 .750 15
2016* Gulf South Conference 1 11 2 0 .846 2
2017 Gulf South Conference T-2 5 5 0 .500
2018 FCS Independent N/A 7 3 0 .700 -
2019 Big South Conference N/R 4 7 0 .364 -
Totals 249 104 1 .705

Division II Playoffs resultsEdit

The Lions appeared in the Division II playoffs twenty-one times with an overall record of 35–18. They were National Champions in 1993, 1994, and 1995.

Year Round Opponent Result
1980 Quarterfinals
Virginia Union
Eastern Illinois
W 17–8
L 31–56
1983 Quarterfinals
Virginia Union
Central State
W 16–14
L 24–27
1985 Quarterfinals
National Championship
Fort Valley State
North Dakota State
W 14–7
W 34–0
L 7–35
1989 First Round Jacksonville State L 14–38
1992 First Round
Jacksonville State
W 33–21
L 12–14
1993 First Round
National Championship
Texas A&M-Kingsville
W 38–28
W 45–20
W 27–25
W 41–34
1994 First Round
National Championship
Valdosta State
North Dakota
Texas A&M-Kingsville
W 17–13
W 27–24 2OT
W 35–7
W 16–10
1995 First Round
National Championship
Albany State
Ferris State
Pittsburg State
W 38–28
W 28–7
W 45–7
W 27–7
1997 First Round Carson-Newman L 6–23
2003 First Round
Southern Arkansas
North Dakota
W 48–24
W 41–9
L 22–29
2005 First Round
Second Round
Valdosta State
N.C. Central
Central Arkansas
Northwest Missouri State
W 40–13
W 24–21
W 41–38 OT
L 25–26
2006 Second Round
Delta State
W 38–20
L 10–27
2007 Second Round
Delta State
Valdosta State
W 20–17
L 23–37
2008 Second Round
Valdosta State
Delta State
Northwest Missouri State
W 37–10
W 55–34
L 7–41
2009 Second Round
Arkansas Tech
W 41–28
L 21–24
2010 First Round
Second Round
Valdosta State
Delta State
W 43–20
L 24–47
2011 First Round
Second Round
West Alabama
Delta State
W 43–27
L 14–42
2013 First Round
Second Round
UNC Pembroke
W 30–27
W 37–13
L 39–42
2014 First Round Valdosta State L 31–33
2015 First Round
Second Round
W 50–7
L 31–35
2016 Second Round
National Championship
UNC Pembroke
North Greenville
Northwest Missouri State
W 41–17
W 38–0
W 23–13
L 3–29

Future non-conference opponentsEdit

2020 2021 2022 2023
@ Western Illinois @ Jacksonville State @ Memphis vs UT-Chattanooga
vs Jacksonville State vs UT-Chattanooga vs Jacksonville State
@ UT-Chattanooga @ UT-Chattanooga
@ Virginia Tech

NFL Draft picksEdit

Draft Player Pos Team Round Pick
1954 Harlon Hill WR Chicago Bears 15th N/A
1961 Sammy Smith HB Denver Broncos (AFL) 27th N/A
1980 Curtis Sirmones RB San Diego Chargers 8th 219
1980 William Bowens LB Oakland Raiders 5th 128
1980 Marcene Emmett DB Washington Redskins 12th 327
1981 Jerry Hill WR Washington Redskins 11th 284
1985 Daryl Smith DB Denver Broncos 9th 250
1986 Lewis Billups DB Cincinnati Bengals 2nd 38
1986 Bruce Jones DB Chicago Bears 7th 194
1986 Billy Witt DE Buffalo Bills 11th 282
1987 Chris Goode RB Indianapolis Colts 10th 253
1988 Shawn Lee DT Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6th 163
1988 Wendell Phillips DB San Diego Chargers 12th 324
1996 Israel Raybon DE Pittsburgh Steelers 5th 163
1996 Jarius Hayes TE Arizona Cardinals 7th 212
1996 Marcus Keyes DT Chicago Bears 7th 233
1999 Bobby Collins TE Buffalo Bills 4th 122
1999 Tyrone Bell DB San Diego Chargers 6th 178
2012 Janoris Jenkins DB St. Louis Rams 2nd 39

Program achievementsEdit

Alabama Collegiate Conference Champions 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963
Gulf South Conference Champions 1980, 1983, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
NCAA Division II Team Playoff Participants 1980, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
NCAA Division II Regional Championships 1980, 1983, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2016
NCAA Division II National Championships 1993, 1994, 1995


  1. ^ University of North Alabama Graphic Standards (PDF). Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  2. ^ "North Alabama to join Big South football in 2019". Stats FCS Football.
  3. ^ McKillop, Andrew (May 31, 2013). "History of FBS (I-A) vs. NCAA Division II/III & NAIA". FootballGeography. Archived from the original on February 19, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  4. ^ Goens, Mike (February 24, 1989). "What it wasn't was football for early Lions". TimesDaily. p. 15E. Retrieved October 20, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The History of UNA Football". University of North Alabama Athletics. January 19, 2011. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  6. ^ "UNA Records Book" (PDF).
  7. ^ "2019 Football Schedule".
  8. ^ "UNA Signs Four-Year Contract with JSU". University of North Alabama. July 11, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  9. ^ "UNA Records Book" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Bentley's 3 TDs spark Alabama A&M 31-24 come-from-behind win".
  11. ^ "UNA Records Book" (PDF).
  12. ^ "2017 Football Schedule".
  13. ^ "UNA Accepts ASUN Division I Invitation" (Press release). North Alabama Lions. December 6, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  14. ^ "North Alabama To Join Big South Football in 2019" (Press release). Big South Conference. December 6, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  15. ^ "Grubb selected UNA head coach". The Gadsden Times. December 12, 1976. p. 9. Retrieved October 20, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
  16. ^ Slaughter, Josh (December 11, 2013). "MIAA tabbed to host NCAA Division II championships". Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  17. ^ "Head Football Coach Mark Hudspeth – 2007". Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  18. ^ Zenor, John (January 2, 2009). "Terry Bowden takes over at North Alabama". Salisbury Post. Associated Press. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  19. ^ Turner, John (December 22, 2011). "Terry Bowden leaving North Alabama to become head coach at Akron". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  20. ^ "University of North Alabama – 2015 Football Coaching Staff: Bobby Wallace". University of Northern Alabama Athletics. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  21. ^ "2017 Football Standings" GSC Sports. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  22. ^ "2016 UNA Football Record" (PDF). August 1, 2016. Retrieved October 8, 2018.

External linksEdit