Not only did the University of North Alabama football team receive a bid to the 2013 NCAA Division II Football Playoffs Sunday but the Lions selection to host Tuskegee in a first round match-up also tied a Division II record for the most appearances by any school in the playoffs.
Riding a seven-game winning streak and boasting an overall 8-2 record, UNA will host Tuskegee in an opening round playoff game at Braly Stadium on Saturday, November 23 at noon. The playoff selection was the 18th all-time for the Lions dating back to 1980. That ties UNA with the University of California-Davis, a former Division II member, along with Northwest Missouri State, for the most selections in Division II history. Northwest Missouri State also received its 18th selection Sunday. While UNA us tie for the most playoff appearances, Tuskegee wil be making its first. The Golden Tigers had not previously participated in the NCAA Division II Playoffs due to the Golden Tigers annual game on Thanksgiving Day with Alabama State.
A total of 24 teams were selected for the playoffs with six from each of the four NCAA Super Regions. UNA was seeded third in Super Region 2 behind Lenoir-Rhyne and UNC-Pembroke, respectively. Tuskegee, 8-2 overall with losses to Miles and Winston-Salem State, is seeded sixth. The winner of the UNA-Tuskegee game will face UNC Pembroke in the second round. Fourth seeded Carson-Newman hosts fifth seeded Newberry in the other opening round game with the winner facing Lenoir-Rhyne.
"We're excited to be in the playoffs and pleased to be hosting in the first round," said UNA head coach Bobby Wallace. "Winning the Gulf South Conference championship and making the playoffs were our first two goals and now we just have one left - and that's winning a national championship. This gets us one step closer to that goal but we know we have a long way to go and will have to win five more games to reach that goal. That's half as many as we've played in the regular season and if we can do it that means we'll finish the season with a 12-game winning streak. We've got our work cut out for us but we're excited to have the opportunity."
The Golden Tigers are coached by former UNA offensive coordinator Willie Slater who helped lead the Lions to three NCAA Division II National Championships in the 1990s under Wallace. Slater was also an assistant on Wallace's staff at Temple. He has a stellar 73-17 record in his eight seasons as Tuskegee's head coach.
"I'd rather not be playing against Willie (Slater)," Wallace said. "He did such a great job when he was here at UNA and at Temple and has obviously done a great job at Tuskegee. He is a great coach and a great person."
Tuskegee has won 29 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) football championships and has claimed eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) National Championships. The Tuskegee program has produced 23 National Football League draft picks.
This will be just the third all-time meeting between Tuskegee and UNA in football. The Lions picked up a 26-7 win at Tuskegee in 1979 and then downed the Tigers 25-13 in Florence in 1980.
North Alabama is 39-5-1 all-time against teams from the SIAC and UNA has a perfect 2-0 record against SIAC schools in the playoffs. Of UNA's 29 all-time post-season wins, the Lions are 19-8 against non-GSC schools in the post-season and 10-6 against GSC squads.
UNA has an all-time 29-14 record in the Division II playoffs with nine regional championships and three national championships. UNA's 29 playoff wins are the third most in Division II history and second most among current Division II schools. The Lions are 22-6 all-time at Braly Stadium in the playoffs.
North Alabama is the only Gulf South Conference school among six teams selected to compete in the Super Region 2 playoffs, marking the first time since 2002 that only one GSC school is represented in the post-season. In the 23 seasons since the NCAA went to the Super Regional format in 1990, a Gulf South Conference school has won the regional crown 17 times, including in 10 of the last 11 years. UNA has six of those (1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005, 2008).
The playoff selection is the seventh for UNA under Bobby Wallace and the Lions are 13-3 in the playoffs under Wallace. Wallace led UNA to the post-season in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997 during his first stint as the Lions' head coach and is now taking UNA back to the post-season in just his second season since his return to Florence in 2012. Wallace also led the University of West Alabama to the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2009, marking that school's first post-season trip since 1975. Wallace has an overall 14-4 all-time playoff record and he and former Northwest Missouri State Head Coach Mel Tjeerdsma are the only coaches to have won three Division II football national championships.
Even though the Lions did not receive a first round bye and a week off, UNA will get a rest from the road after playing away from home three of the last four weeks of the regular season. UNA travelled more than 3,800 miles for road games at Valdosta State, Florida Tech and Tarleton State but the Lions rolled to three blowout wins by a combined score of 156-42.