JACKSONVILLE STATE

*Rich Rodriguez leads the Gamecocks to the ASUN title in his first season.

The ASUN won’t recognize Jacksonville State as conference football champs, but the Gamecocks won it on the field. Jacksonville State closed out life in FCS football with an undefeated ASUN season and a celebration worthy of a champion, complete with a banner and rings. Now it’s Rodriguez’s task to lead the Gamecocks into FBS play as a Conference USA member.

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*Ray Harper and his men’s basketball team win the ASUN regular season title and play in the NCAA Tournament.

Technically, the Gamecocks, who finished 21-11, didn’t play their way into the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Jacksonville University, 54-51, in the ASUN Tournament semifinals. However, conference tournament champion Bellarmine was ineligible to advance to the NCAA Tournament, so the regular season champion Gamecocks got the bid. Considering they were 13-3 in the regular season, they did play their way into the tournament. Jacksonville State dropped an 80-61 decision to Auburn in the NCAA Tournament.

*Greta Romei selected as the ASUN Student-Athlete of the Year.

The track and field standout from Casina, Italy maintained a 4.0 grade point average while finishing her Master’s in Athletic Training. She was the ASUN champion in the javelin with 20 podium finishes and nine gold medals during her career.

SAMFORD

*Samford puts together the best football season in school history.

Chris Hatcher’s team finished 10-1 in the regular season, won a SoCon title outright for the first time, and beat Southeastern Louisiana in the school’s first FCS playoff home game. Quarterback Michael Hiers was the Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year and an All-American.

*Bucky Ball takes a step forward.

Bucky McMillan’s men’s basketball program won 21 games and were four points away from advancing to the Southern Conference Tournament championship game. The Bulldogs tied for the third most wins for a Samford team in program history. Basketball games also became the place to be for the students, who helped build perhaps the best homecourt advantage in the conference.

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(Samford Athletics/Photo by Chase Cochran)

*Samford’s women’s soccer program continues an amazing run.

Todd Yelton’s program won a share of its ninth consecutive Southern Conference title. The Bulldogs went on to win the SoCon Tournament for the fifth time and play in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time.

*Five more years with Martin Newton in charge of the Samford Athletic program.

The Samford athletic director, who has been at the school since 2011, had his contract extended for five years, beginning on July 1, 2022.

*Samford’s women’s athletic programs win Germann Cup for second consecutive year

The Germann Cup is given to the top women’s athletic program in the Southern Conference. Samford won the award for the fourth time in program history. Samford’s women won a combined four championships, with the women's soccer team winning the regular season and tournament titles and the women’s indoor and outdoor track and field winning conference championships.

UNA

*Brent Dearmon becomes the new head football coach at UNA.

The 37-year-old Dearmon was hired to become the Lions football coach in early December. He comes to UNA after serving as the offensive coordinator at FAU and Middle Tennessee for the past two seasons. Dearmon replaces Chris Willis, who was 20-34 in six seasons as the program’s head coach.

*Running back ShunDerrick Powell has record-breaking season on the football field.

The dynamic running back earned All-American honors after rushing for a school-record 1,508 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had just one fumble on 221 carries. The Arkansas native entered the transfer portal after the season and signed with Central Arkansas.

*Cross country runners Evan Allen and Fredrick Kipyego break school record set nearly 40 years ago.

Barry Fitts set the school record in a 10K cross country race by running a time of 31:51 in 1984. That record stood until the NCAA South Regional at John Hunt Park in Huntsville on Nov. 11. Allen finished in a time of 30:39.91, and Kipyego ran a time of 31:03.41.

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(Photo by UNA Athletics)

*UNA's women's softball team has record-breaking season.

The Lions broke or tied 41 team or individual school records, including the most wins for the UNA softball team in Division I play. The Lions finished 40-20. Work on a new hitting facility for the program also began in November.

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