Football team to make historic appearance in NCAA II playoffs
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (November 18, 2012) — The Golden Tigers Football team made history Sunday night, and will live to fight for another day. The NCAA announced that Tuskegee will travel to Florence, Ala. to Tom Braly Municipal Stadium to play the Lions of North Alabama in the first round of the Division II Football playoffs. Tuskegee will not play Alabama State University in the annual Turkey Day Classic on Thanksgiving, and was able to make the postseason on the strength of its 8-2 record in the 2013 season.
Kickoff is at noon Saturday. Also, Tuskegee’s men's basketball team will compete with North Alabama in a regular season game on campus. Due to the first round of the playoffs, that game will be postponed until 5 p.m.
Tuskegee was ranked seventh in Super Region II in the final Super Regional standings released last week, and managed to punch its ticket to the postseason through the Earned Access Rule.
Tuskegee coach Willie Slater said that the players and coaches are pleased about making history, becoming the first Tuskegee football team to play in the NCAA's playoffs.
"I'm excited," Slater said. "We're not just happy to be in the tournament. We actually think that we have a legitimate chance if we play well."
Slater is also pleased to return to Florence, home of the Division II National Championship Game since 1986. For historical purposes, the Golden Tigers will not play at a better location for their first ever appearance in the Division II playoffs. Slater spent time there as an assistant coach and became very familiar with many of the current staff members. He said he has also been a part of a winning team 13 out 14 times in North Alabama’s stadium.
"I coached there for seven years," Slater said. "I coached for Coach (Bobby) Wallace. Coach Wallace was the guy that hired me there, and he is the coach right now. The offensive coordinator is Cody Gross. He was my quarterback."
After the announcement was made, Slater spoke to his team about the significance of the game and congratulated them on their performance this season. However, he also urged them to remain committed to the fundamentals and hard work.
"[UNA is a] special place for me, so I'm excited about going back there, and I'm excited about these young men,” Slater said. “I think that they want to play. They've proven it to me. So, we will go back to that drawing board on the practice field, and see if we can't get it done."
Tuskegee players gave their reactions about reaching the postseason for the first time in school history.
"It's very exciting," said wide receiver Marquel Gardner. "We have a great opportunity to play at North Alabama and begin to play for a national championship. There was a lot of excitement."
Quarterback Rashard Burkette also reflected on school history, and how this group of players is making history in their own right.
"It's an honor, actually," Burkette said of the 2013 Golden Tigers. "We've had a lot of great teams at Tuskegee, and Tuskegee is known for winning. With this being our first opportunity to break into national rankings as far as the playoffs go, it is a special feeling."
By: Michael Stewart, Sports Information Director, Tuskegee University Athletics
© 2013 Tuskegee University