The newly renovated H.O. Clemmons Arena at the University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

PINE BLUFF, AR – The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will begin a big day of events with the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the renovated H.O. Clemmons Arena Saturday, January 5 at 3 p.m.

The ceremony will be held at the main entrance of the arena prior to the Arkansas-Pine Bluff women’s and men’s basketball teams hosting Mississippi Valley State in a basketball doubleheader starting at 5 p.m.

UAPB Chancellor Dr. Laurence B. Alexander and UAPB Athletic Director Melvin Hines will be in attendance, along with Golden Lion basketball coaches Nathaniel Kilbert and George Ivory.

Among the renovations to the arena are:

  • Newly installed bleachers to the UAPB black and gold colors with the Golden Lions logo;
  • A new court with an updated UAPB logo emblazed at center court; gold coloring inside the three-point arc; new UAPB logos on each baseline;
  • New basketball goals featuring the UAPB logo on each basket support.

“We are excited about these improvement to H.O. Clemmons Arena,” said Dr Laurence B. Alexander, UAPB Chancellor. “I believe this ceremony to open the year will serve as a catalyst to what will be an outstanding 2019 for the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, both athletically and academically.”

“Golden Lion Athletics is grateful for the support provided by Chancellor Alexander, President Bobbitt, and the Board of Trustees,” said Melvin Hines, Director or Athletics. “These renovations improve the student-athlete experience, as our basketball and volleyball teams have new playing accommodations in which they can be proud of. It also enhances the fan experience with new and improved seating to help make the H.O Clemmons Arena one of the toughest venues for visiting teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.”

Gates open for entry to the arena following the ceremony prior to tipoff of the women’s game at 5 p.m., with the men’s game to follow in the conference opener for both teams.

PINE BLUFF, AR – On Tuesday, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) announced a $2.5 million gift from Simmons Bank for upgrades to the football and baseball athletics facilities.

According to a press release from the university, the gift is the largest in UAPB history and will fund a new football stadium scoreboard and turf, along with completion of the baseball pavilion at the Tori Hunter Baseball and Softball Complex. The stadium field will be renamed to Simmons Bank Field. The gift is pending UA System Board of Trustees approval at its May 23-24 meeting.

“On behalf of UAPB faculty, staff, students and alumni, I’d like to express our appreciation to Simmons Bank for its generous gift,” said Dr. Lawrence B. Alexander, Chancellor of UAPB. “This donation will directly benefit our student-athletics by assisting them in reaching and exceeding their athletic and academic performance goals.”

Simmons First National Corp., founded in 1903, is one of the largest financial companies based in Arkansas. Simmons Bank’s downtown complex is Pine Bluff’s tallest building.

“Simmons is honored to partner with UAPB to help students excel right here in our hometown of Pine Bluff,” said George A. Makris, Jr., chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Corp. “There is nothing more rewarding for our bank than the opportunity to invest in our communities, especially in our young people.”

“We are grateful to Simmons Bank for its long-standing partnership with UAPB, and more specifically, this major gift will allow us to complete much-needed upgrades. These improvements will benefit our student-athletes and create a better fan experience during football and baseball games.”

The new Simmons Bank Pavilion will help to complete construction at the Torii Hunter Complex that opened in 2011. Hunter, a Pine Bluff native and former Major League Baseball player and five-time All-Star selection, previously donated $500,000 for the initial construction of the baseball and softball complex, the largest contribution to UAPB before the Simmons Bank gift.

 

 

 

 

About Simmons Bank

Simmons Banks is an Arkansas state-chartered bank that began as a community bank in 1903. Through the decades, Simmons has developed a full suite of financial products and services designed to meet the needs of individual consumers and business customers alike. Simmons is a subsidiary bank for Simmons First National Corporation (NASDAQ: SFNC), a publicly traded bank holding company headquartered in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. For more information, visit www.simmonsbank.com.

About the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) is an 1890 Land-Grant HBCU with a diverse student population, competitive degree offerings and stellar faculty. For more than 140 years, UAPB has worked to create an environment that inculcates learning, growth and productivity while affording a basic need to its students – a chance to advance. UAPB offers Certificate and Associates degree programs, more than thirty Undergraduate programs, Master’s degree programs and a Doctorate program in Aquaculture/Fisheries. Students are active in more than 100 organizations, an internationally renowned Vesper Choir, Marching Band, Concert Bands, Wind Symphony, nationally recognized debate team, award-winning theater department and accomplished athletic program.

Duer Sharp.

BIRMINGHAM, AL – The long-serving commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) which serves historically black member institutions, Duer Sharp, has resigned this past Thursday amid rumors of potential financial issues and concern among member school presidents about the direction of the conference under his leadership.

According to The Advocate, The SWAC will hold its winter meetings in Houston, where school presidents and chancellors met Thursday morning. Southern director of athletics Roman Banks stated that the council of presidents accepted Sharp’s resignation. But it is unsure whether Sharp’s resignation is effective immediately, or if he will stay in his post throughout the remainder of his contract, which is set to expire this summer.

As of today, the SWAC office has yet to issue a statement regarding Sharp’s future.

Banks stated that there was no official record of who was or was not displeased with Sharp’s performance as commissioner. But Banks said, there was a unanimous concern” about the SWAC stability and the direction the league was taking.

“Also among the concerns was a lack of sponsorships,” Banks said, which “prompted us (Southern) to look around at other leagues.”

 Sharp started with the conference as assistant commissioner in 2004 and has served as commissioner since 2008. Under he leadership, the league secured a spot in the Celebration Bowl opposite the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion, and it also orchestrated the move of the league’s football and basketball conference championships to Houston in 2013.
Earlier this year, the SWAC announced that this year’s football conference championship game would be its last.

The decision is believed to be related to the high cost of hosting the game at NRG Stadium in Houston, the home of the Houston Texans. And when combined with an earlier decision to change the league’s scheduling format from a nine-game round-robin schedule to a seven-game schedule, which opened the door for potential chaos when it came to determining a sole champion to represent the SWAC in the Celebration Bowl.

“By focusing on the Celebration Bowl, we can continue to grow (it) as an HBCU classic for the teams and fans of both conferences and for HBCU football nationally,” Sharp said in June.

 Banks said SWAC athletics directors “unanimously agreed” to look at re-instituting the SWAC championship game next season when the conference will still operate with a seven-game schedule

“We need to be fair,” Banks said. “We need to make sure it’s settled on the field.”

Former UAPB head football coach Monte Coleman.

PINE BLUFF, AR – The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Athletics announced Monday that it would not renew the contract of current football head coach Monte Coleman when it expires on December 31, 2017. Coleman has served as head football coach for the Golden Lions since 2008.

According to a press release from the university’s athletics department, the Golden Lions went 40-70 in 10 years under Coleman, including capturing UAPB’s first-ever Southwestern Athletic Conference outright championship in 2012 with a 10-2 record. Since that championship season, however, the Golden Lions experienced consecutive losing seasons of 2-9 in 2013, 4-7 in 2014, 2-9 in 2015, and 2-9 this season. Director of Athletics Lonza Hardy Jr. said it was time to make a change and move the program in another direction.

“I thank Coach Coleman and his staff for the hard work they put forth over the years as he tried to build a formidable program at UAPB,” said Hardy. “We wish him all the best as he now looks to the next chapter in his career. As for UAPB, it was simply time for us to make a change and start the process of returning Golden Lion football to prominence.”

UAPB alumni were fiery over the continuous football losing steak and were seeking moves from athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr., with the potential of a new coaching staff in the change of a better program for the upcoming seasons. They took their anger, frustration, and thoughts to social media in hopes that the administration jerk in making adjustments.

A search commitment has been formed and has the goal of naming a new head coach prior to the start of the December holiday break. Until then, Ted White, offensive coordinator, will oversee the program. The assistant coaching staff will remain intact and continue the program’s recruitment efforts.

“Our search committee will identify and interview prospective coaches who are committed to the mission and vision of our University, the welfare of our student-athletics, both academically and athletically, and have innovative ideas and game strategies. We need someone who will put a premium on winning consistently,” said Hardy.

For any questions or concerns, please contact UAPB Sports Information Director Habtom Keleta at (870) 575-7949.

LORMAN, MS – The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Men’s Basketball Championship trophy to be named after Kentucky State University grad and Alcorn State University sports figure Coach Davey L. Whitney.

According to a press release from the university, SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted to name the Men’s SWAC Championship Basketball Tournament trophy after legendary Coach Whitney.

Alcorn State’s President Alfred Rankins Jr. commended the Council for recognizing Whitney’s achievements.

“I am pleased that the SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors recognized the great accomplishment and contributions of Coach Whitney by naming the tournament championship trophy in his honor,” said Rankins. “Coach Whitney was one of the best Division I coaches of all time.”

Whitney, who passed away in 2015, coached at Alcorn from 1969 to 1989 and 1996 to 2003. Under his leadership, Alcorn beat Mississippi State 80-78 in the 1979 National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Whitney led Alcorn to a win against South Alabama in the first round of the 1980 NCAA Tournament, which was the first time a historically black college and university had won in the tournament. Whitney also led Alcorn to NCAA Tournament wins in 1983 and 1984 and six appearances in the dance. Whitney finished his career with a record of 566-356 and 12 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships.

Whitney was named SWAC Coach of the Year nine times. He was elected to the Kentucky State University Hall of Fame in 1976, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, the Alcorn State University Hall of Honors in 1993, the Alcorn State University Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Whitney graduated from Kentucky State University in 1952. After KSU, he started playing Negro American League  baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs, from 1952 to 1954. Whitney began his coaching career in 1954 as varsity basketball head coach at Burt High School in Clarksville, Tennessee. He led Burt to over 200 victories and the 1961 National Negro High School Basketball Championship. His first collegiate job as head coach was at Texas Southern University in 1964. He moved to Alcorn A&M (which became Alcorn State in 1974) as head coach in 1969.

The Whitney family expressed their appreciation upon receiving the good news. Gail Whitney, Coach Whitney’s daughter, said the family is grateful for the love and support that the SWAC and the University has shown for her late father.

“The Whitney family would like to extend our appreciation to the Southwestern Athletic Conference and Alcorn State University for honoring the legacy of our father, Davey “The Wiz” Whitney, Sr.,” said Whitney. “We look forward to the first presentation of the trophy at the 2017-2018 SWAC Basketball Tournament Championship.”

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UAPB Head Football Coach Monte Coleman.

PINE BLUFF, AR– After the Golden Lions has taken their fourth straight homecoming loss against Alabama A&M on Oct. 15 with the score of 40-7, the Lions traveled to Baton Rouge against Southern with a loss of 17-49 and then proceeding to Grambling and losing 0-70.

The alumni are fiery over the continuous football losing streak and now seeking moves from UAPB’s Athletic Director Lonza Hardy with the potential of a new coaching staff in the change of a better program at the university for the upcoming seasons.

Last January, head coach Monte Coleman agreed on a two-year extension prior to his previously signed three-year contract.

In 2012, head coach Monte Coleman led the Lions to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championship in which they won. Afterward, the Lions football program went down hill as their record was 2-9 in 2013, 4-7 in 2014 and 2-9 in 2015. Overall, Coleman was 37-52 since taking over as head coach on November 26, 2007.

According to a source, the Golden Lions are now being recognized as the most penalized football team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, following their past season of having too many interceptions. The squad has been called for 77 penalties through seven games this season, six more than Tennessee State and North Carolina Central. The Lions have more penalties than all but 12 teams in all three division of NCAA.

After the 0-70 loss against Grambling State, alumni have taken a stand in making noise towards wanting to see a new coach to take the helm and transforming the program. One alumnus took to Facebook in sharing his distress regarding a change in coaching staff.

“On the UAPB/Monte Coleman stuff, let’s look at some facts. Over the last three seasons, this guy is 7-22. His teams have lost four straight homecoming games. Over the last four seasons, UAPB has played on national television eight times, the team has won only two of those games (ESPNU, ESPN3, CSNH, and OVCTV). This year (2016), UAPB has been outscored 126-295. Monte Coleman’s squads season in and season out have stuffed countless losing steaks. For example in 2013, a seven-game slide. In ’14, 4 straight. In ’15, an eight-game debacle. And currently, in ’16, a given game losing streak. During his ear, the stadium has never been filled to capacity. In 2015, the athletic department attempted to lure fans into the stadium through “free” admission, it didn’t work. Tonight, as I post this, no other football team in the country, besides Grambling State University, scored 70 points. And to boot, Coleman has used the lame excuse that he does not have enough scholarships players. In my opinion, a statement like that is a disservice to the walk-on players and those who are on partial scholarship. When you make a public statement like that, you are simply saying, “You guys are no good.” That is like marrying a partner — while viewing your neighbor’s spouse — waiting on the divorce. UAPB fans, alumni and supporters should divorce this coaching crew with the quickness.”

During the annual homecoming alumni assembly on Oct. 14, Athletic Director Lonza Hardy announced that the Department of Athletics needed assistance to fund its goal of $320,000 in fulfilling 63 scholarships so that the student-athletes can excel further and complete against other teams in the SWAC.

“There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make excuses and those who find a way. We are committed to get rid of that competitive disadvantage,” said Lonza Hardy.

Another alumnus expressed this statement; “Flood the inbox if you have complaints about the athletic department. Ranting in a group that no one can make a decision about is useless: chancellor@uapb.edu. It’s called a movement and not a whisper!”.

Coleman played sixteen seasons with the Washington Redskins from 1979 to 1994. He was recently inducted into the Redskins Ring of Fame on December 20, 2015.

The alumni have a replacement choice in mind as to who they want to become the next head football coach at UAPB, which is Alonzo Hampton, who is currently the DB and special teams coach at the University of South Florida (USF). Hampton previously served as a volunteer coach (2006) and became cornerback coach (2007-09) at UAPB. He was later named a defensive coordinator.

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The Lions currently stand with the record of 1-7 (overall) and 1-5 (in the SWAC). With only one winning game this season with a 45-43 upset over Alcorn State which ended in triple overtime and three games left in the season ( 2 away, 1 at home). Will the UAPB alumni, fans and supporters voices finally be heard in possible coaching changes in the Department of Athletes for a overturn of the football program?

Let’s see what the end of the season will bring.

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The 2016 SWAC Football Championship is set to return to Houston, Texas this year as The Southwestern Athletic Conference renewed its contract with NRG Stadium for three more years. The winner of the East and West Divisions will meet for Judgement Day Saturday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. CT.

Last season, Alcorn State earned back-to-back championships after defeating Southern University in 2014 and Grambling State in 2015.

According to SWAC, there will be special events around the football championship weekend starting with its annual SWAC Hall of Fame reception Thursday, Dec. 1. On game day, the annual SWAC Battle of the Bands, featuring performances from the respective division winners, culminates with Judgement Day at halftime. Traci Steele and Big Tigger will serve as the official host.

Tickets for the championship game range from $15-$55 (plus applicable TM fees) and increase of $5 the day of game. You can purchase tickets via Ticketmaster here.

The champion will earn the conference title and a chance to play in the annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Saturday, Dec, 17 in Atlanta, Ga.

The 2016 SWAC Football Championship weekend events goes as follow:

Thursday, December 1
· SWAC Hall of Fame Reception 6:00 p.m. (Invitation Only) *

Friday, December 2

· SWAC Football Championship Press Conference at NRG Stadium 10 a.m. (Media Members Only) *

Saturday, December 3
     · 2016 SWAC College Expo at NRG Stadium 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
· 2016 Halftime Battle of the Bands