Oct. 20, 2011
This Saturday, Saint Augustine's University will host a football game on campus for the first time in the University's history. The occasion, which comes just in time for Homecoming, is the result of the fearless leadership of President Dianne Boardley Suber. Just 10 years ago, Saint Augustine's University, a historically black university in Raleigh, N.C., didn't have a football program. The program was cut in 1965 due to budget constraints. It was Suber who pushed to bring it back in 2002. The Board of Trustees asked Suber about athletics when she first came to the University. "It occurred to me that we didn't have a football program. It seemed outside of my concept of collegiate life to not have football," Suber said. Suber thought back to her experiences of going to football games at Florida A&M University and Hampton University. "I realized the impact football has on student life and connecting alumni to their alma mater," Suber said. "We tried to host Homecoming around basketball season, and it did not work for us. It provides additional value to the campus. It gives alumni a reason to come back." With the resurgence of football, Suber led the University in the construction of the George Williams Athletic Complex. The state-of-the-art stadium includes a nine-lane internationally sanctioned track and a FieldTurf playing field. "We accomplished a goal no one else could. It's a good feeling," Suber said. "We were able to complete this project in a recession with no borrowed money. It's a testament to where we are as an institution." The stadium is named in honor of the college's athletic director and world renowned track coach George Williams. Williams has won more than 150 CIAA titles and 31 NCAA titles in track and cross country. He was also head coach of the men's 2004 U.S. Olympic track and field team, which he led to a Gold medal at the games in Athens, Greece. Although his name is tied to the stadium, Williams takes more pride in the opportunity students and alumni will have now. "It is a great thing that we can play on our own campus,” Williams said. “Our students can come out of their residence halls and see the game. Give praise to our president — Dr. Suber — for this. We give all those involved a big round of thanks, and hope it will be an everlasting relationship between the community, the city of Raleigh and the college." The football program has already produced some great success stories in the nine years since its reinstatement. 2008 graduate Alex Hall was drafted by the NFL's Cleveland Browns and also played for the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. In 2010, the football team made its first bowl game appearance in the Pioneer Bowl, an annual postseason matchup between CIAA and SIAC teams. The Falcons captured the win, becoming only the third CIAA team to win the bowl in its 13-year history. "The continued growth of our football program is a source of pride for the entire Falcon family," Suber said. "I am pleased that our alumni who have supported the football team and the stadium project will finally be able to come back to their alma mater and watch the homecoming game on campus. Saturday's game will be a moment when this journey of the last nine years comes full circle."