FLORENCE — University of North Alabama Athletic Director Mark Linder has released the Lions’ 2012 football schedule that is a 10-game slate and includes five home games and three games against first-time opponents for UNA.
The Lions will play five Gulf South Conference games and five non-conference games, including playing Shorter (Ga.) College, Kentucky Christian University and Tarleton State (Texas) University for the first time. All but two of UNA’s 2012 opponents had winning records last season.
“I’m pleased that we have a 10-game schedule and that we have nine Division II games,” said new UNA Head Football Coach Bobby Wallace. “With the shortage of Division II schools in the Southeast its a plus to be able to fill our schedule.”
Wallace was hired as UNA’s head football coach for a second time on January 2 after a year away from the game. In his first stint as the Lions’ head coach from 1988-97 he posted an 82-36-1 record that included three straight NCAA Division II National Championships, three Gulf South Conference titles and six NCAA Division II playoff appearances.
Wallace said that while the schedule will be challenging for his team, there are several highlights along the way. One of those is opening the 2012 season on Sunday night, Sept. 2, at 71,000-seat Legion Field in Birmingham against Miles College. The Bears are coached by former UNA two-time All-American Reginald Ruffin and Miles is the defending Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion. “They have a solid team and won their league last year and most of their coaching staff either played or coached for me,” Wallace said. “That will be a very competitive game and the friendships involved will make it even more competitive.”
UNA returns just 29 lettermen and six starters from last season. Wallace said with the Lions having such a young and inexperienced team, Miles will be a tough test out of the gate. “We will have to grow up fast in the fall and get great work from our players in those three weeks of pre-season camp to be prepared.”
Following the trip to Birmingham, the Lions will host former Gulf South Conference member Harding on Sept. 8 and NAIA member Kentucky Christian on Sept. 15. UNA will open conference play on the road at defending GSC champion Delta State on Sept. 22 before facing another new opponent in Shorter College. Shorter is transitioning into the GSC and will count as league game in 2012, even though the Hawks are not eligible for the conference title.
On October 6 the Lions will travel to take on perennial Division II national power Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Lions are 4-0 all-time against the Javelinas, with two of those wins coming in the Division II playoffs. The last meeting between the two was in 1997 when UNA picked up a 17-12 win in Florence.
The Lions return to conference play on October 13 at home against Valdosta State and will travel to West Georgia on October 20. UNA is open on October 27 before hosting Lone Star Conference member Tarleton State at Braly Stadium on Nov. 3. The Texans were 6-4 last season.
UNA closes out its regular season on the road at West Alabama on November 10. The Lions played in Livingston twice last season, losing a regular-season battle with the Tigers before posting an impressive 43-27 playoff win. UWA is coached by former UNA All-American quarterback Will Hall, who was Wallace’s offensive coordinator when he was head coach of the Tigers.
“Our road games are all tough,” said Wallace. “We are facing two defending conference champions and another playoff team from last year, all on the road. “Kingsville is also a tough place to play with their great tradition and West Georgia is one of the up-and-coming teams in Division II so we will face a tough road situation.”
Wallace said he does like having an open date late in the season. “I never liked having an open date early because then it was like you were going back to camp and starting over,” he said. “When it’s late in the season like this it helps because you build up injuries during the year and this gives you time to rest and get people ready for the rest of the season.”
The Lions’ schedule is tentative. UNA has not yet designated a Homecoming date and some game dates and times may change due to television broadcasts.
Andy Davis is a freelance writer and owner of Singing River Media. A UNA graduate (Class of ’96), Andy has been a die-hard Lions fan since the 80’s and was a member of the Pride of Dixie Marching Band during the championship run of the early 90’s. He also covers the Gulf South Conference for D2Football.com and is the owner/editor of SECBeyond.com.