Champions, DynastiesFrom dirt fields to hardwood floors…from cinder tracks to clay courts, some of the best performances happened on the Black college circuit. Undaunted by the lack of press coverage, they thrilled fans and crowds in the southern enclaves and southwestern plains. Some went to perform at the highest level of every competition...on and off the fields of play. They were led by men and women of valor and courage who pushed the boundaries so they and their students could have their names etched in the Halls of Fame of life and in sports.
North Carolina College
Head coach John B. McLendon, Jr. led the Screamin’ Eagles to the inaugural 1946 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Basketball Invitational Tournament Championship which set the stage for the first of many exciting tournaments. Central was matched up against the no. 2 seed, Virginia Union in a hotly contested battle as the Eagles put on a fast paced display that had the crowds cheering wildly, especially after the teams went into double overtime and the Eagles scoring the last eight points to win the inaugural tournament, 64-56.
Tennessee State A&I Tigers
The Tigers basketball team broke open the national barrier as they became the first college team to win three consecutive national championships as the NAIA played host to the first integrated collegiate tournaments. After making its debut in the NAIA National Basketball Tournament in 1952, the Tigers continued to represent the all-black District 29 competitively. When John B. McLendon, Jr. took over the reins, their fantastic run began. The Tigers won an unprecedented three straight national titles…1957, 1958 and 1959 and posted a record of 94 -8 during the period. They were led by: Joe Buckhalter, John Barnhill, and Richard “Dick” Barnett, the MVP in 1958 and ‘59.
Tennessee State Tigers
Ed Martin had a hard act to follow in 1968…but, he lasted 28 years and left his own mark on the men’s basketball program: 9 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and three national College Division titles in 1970, ’73 and ’75.
Central State, Ohio Marauders
The 1964-65 men’s basketball team, led by head coach Bill Lucas, won 30 consecutive games without a defeat, capturing the NAIA Division II National Championship.
Winston-Salem State Rams
Among the 700 victories head coach Clarence “Bighouse” Gaines enjoyed was the crowning glory of the 1967 NCAA Division II National Championship …a first for a black college team in the NCAA. Gaines garnered Coach of the Year, and All-American Earl Monroe captured the NCAA College Division Player of the Year honors.
Central State, Ohio Marauders
Gaston “Country” Lewis guided the Marauders to a 12-0 record on the way to the NAIA National Football Championship in 1947
Tennessee State Tigers
(Football) Henry A. Kean’s Tigers captured back to back National Football Championships in 1946 and ‘47
(Basketball) In 1949, Kean led Tennessee State to the Negro National Championship with a perfect 24-0 record.
Grambling State Tigers
In 1941, newly hired head football coach and legend in the making, Eddie G. Robinson took over the Grambling State program and made an immediate stamp on the field as the Tigers went 12-0 in his second season at the helm. With standout player Dan Washington leading the way, the Tigers shut out all twelve opponents. Robinson led the Tigers to nine Black college national titles on his way to college football all-time winningest record (408–165–15).
Tennessee State Tigerbelles
The Tennessee State Tigerbelles track team blazed their way from Nashville to the Olympics from 1953 through 1968 under head coach Ed Temple who orchestrated one of the most dominant women’s track programs in history. Year after year, they produced record breaking performers and relay teams that raised the bar. Leading the elite crew was Wilma Rudolph, the fleet-footed sprinter who was the first three- time gold medal winner and is on the list of Who’s Who in the world of track and field.
Hampton Institute Pirates
Dr. Bob Screen accumulated one of the longest championship runs of any team in any sport. From 1970-82, he led the Pirates to 10 consecutive CIAA tennis titles, climaxing with the 1976 NCAA Division II Men’s Tennis Championship. The Pirates are still strong contenders in the MEAC and NCAA brackets.
Kentucky State Thorobreds
The second Triple Crown basketball championship went to Lucious Mitchell and Kentucky State. The Thorobreds ran the table winning the 1970, ’71 and ’72 NAIA National titles, led by NAIA All- Americans, scoring champ Travis Grant and 7-0 center Elmore Smith, the top rebounder in the NAIA.
The Tigers won 51 straight basketball games under head coach C. Felton “Zip” Gayles. Their stretch included a win over the famous Harlem Globetrotters, led by one of their alumni, Marques Haynes. They won three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and two national black college titles.
Morgan State Bears
Legendary head coach Eddie B. Hurt masterminded the men’s basketball teams that had a 47-game winning streak and won three consecutive CIAA championships from 1931-33.
(Football) …Meanwhile, Coach Hurt’s Golden Bears football teams were dominating the grid iron as they rolled up a 54-game winning streak and three straight national championships. The ’34 team went undefeated without being scored on. Other stretches in the reign included 31 and 26 consecutive wins.
Morgan State Bears
Under head coach Earl Banks, the Golden Bears enjoyed a 13-year reign in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference from 1960-73 with four conference championships (1962-68) and a second place finish. Banks led them to four undefeated seasons from 1965-67 and narrowly missed another in 1968 when they captured the CIAA with an 8-1 record. They joined the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and were 13-4 under Banks before his tragic accident cut short an amazing run.
North Carolina Central Eagles
Dr. Leroy T. Walker will be remembered for building a formidable dynasty in men’s track. Staring in 1945 at a tiny, obscure school named North Carolina College, where they begin to put together talented teams in basketball (under McLendon, Jr.), Walker’s track squads dominated for lasted 24 years and produced some of the most thrilling performers in the world: witness the thirty national championships in every collegiate bracket (NCAA, NAIA, AAU). There were eight Olympic Gold medalists and a parade of record holders. Charles Foster and Lee Calhoun led the Hall of Fame list.
St. Augustine’s College Falcons
George Williams began coaching in 1976 and built a dynasty in track and field and cross country at Saint Augustine’s College. The Falcons have won an astounding 35 national championships. Williams has coached 32 Olympians, including three gold medalists. He has been the recipient of more than 100 track and field coach of the year honors, including the 2010 Division II national outdoor men’s coach of the year award by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Prairie View A&M Lady Panthers
Barbara Jacket and Prairie View A&M captured eight NAIA outdoor titles and 2 indoor titles from 1965-91. The Tigerettes were champions in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the U.S. Track and Field Federation. While a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), they claimed 23 SWAC championships: 8 cross country titles, nine indoor and five outdoor titles.
Alcorn State Braves
Alcorn State (Men’s Basketball) Dave Whitney, Sr. and Alcorn State won 10 conference titles and led the Braves in a stunning upset of Mississippi State,80-78 in the first round of the 1979 National Invitational Tournament, the first black college team to win a game in the tournament. In 1980, Alcorn State became the first black college to win a game in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship Tournament when they upset South Alabama, 70-62 in the opening round. The Braves went on to defeat Xavier, Ohio, 81-75 in the first round.
Lincoln University of Missouri
Victor Thomas has coached the women’s team to 12 NCAA Division II National Championships. Lincoln athletes have claimed 81 individual national championships and 30 relay championships. Thomas is a four-time MIAA Indoor and four-time MIAA Outdoor Coach of the Year. Lincoln's track & field teams were inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.