The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has announced that it will have a change in the leadership in the Athletic Department. Lonza Hardy, who has been Director of Athletics since 2011, will no longer serve in that role.
Hardy said he received his official termination letter from UAPB Chancellor Laurence Alexander on Tuesday, January 30.
“We thank Lonza for his commitment and service to Golden Lions athletics,” Alexander said. We are moving in a new direction and we will work as quickly as possible to name a new athletics director.”
“I am, of course, disappointed that I will no longer be a part of the resurgence of the athletics program that we have begun here at UAPB,” said Hardy. “I stepped into an athletics program six years ago that was on the brink of a second death penalty due to a lack of institutional control, a program that simply was not making the grade in the classroom and a program where winning consistently was prohibited due to a major lack of adequate resources, especially funding for scholarships. Today, I step out of a program in far superior shape than I inherited. For that, I am proud of what we have accomplished and I am particularly proud of the loyal and dedicated service of our student-athletes, our coaches and our staff.”
During Hardy’s term at athletics director at UAPB, the Golden Lions accomplished many firsts:
The football team captured its first-ever outright Southwestern Athletic Conference championship in football in 2012. The team’s 10-2 record earned UAPB the HBCU National Championship in football;
The Lady Lions soccer team won the 2012 SWAC championship and competed in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Oklahoma State University;
Hardy created a Student-Athlete Academic Services unit in the athletics program and charged that unit with the task of elevating the stature of the program academically. Over the next six years, the graduation success rate for UAPB’s student-athletes has nearly doubled that of the university’s general student population each academic year, 14 of the program’s 16 teams have accumulated team grade point averages of 3.0 or higher, 80 student-athletes have been inducted into the National College Athlete Honor Society and none of the school’s teams are under penalty for failure to meet required NCAA academic benchmarks, a far cry from 2011, when 10 of the 16 sponsored teams were on the NCAA’s watch list for being on the brink of being assessed penalties for subpar performances in the classroom;
In 2015, Hardy launched the UAPB Football Investment and Scholarship Fund, an initiative aimed at leveling the playing field for the program by increasing the number of scholarships for the football program. The program Hardy inherited was awarding only 33 full scholarships out of a permissible 63. Thanks to more than $640,000 raised over the past two-and-a-half years, UAPB has awarded over 60 scholarships for both the 2016 and 2017 seasons;
The athletics program, under Hardy’s guidance, has set records for its fundraising successes. In 2017 alone, the athletics program secured more than $1.2 million in grant funding, including a $900,000 grant from the NCAA for academic support and another grant of $315,000, which is being used for various student-athlete welfare programs, including the hiring of additional personnel in athletics training. The athletics program has also raised more than $400,000 for completion of the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex on the UAPB campus;
After a lack of adequate progress in the football program, Hardy hired Cedric Thomas as the new Golden Lions’ head football coach in December. Thomas previously served as defensive coordinator at Alcorn State University, where he helped lead that institution to four consecutive appearances in the SWAC Football Championship Game in Houston, Texas;
The UAPB men’s basketball team, under head coach George Ivory, is atop the SWAC standings this season and appears to be on course for a second trip to the NCAA’s postseason tournament;
The school’s softball team won more games last year than ever before in its history;
Carlos James’ baseball team has won the SWAC’s Western Division championship three out of the last four years.
“Under adverse conditions, our coaches have leaped over hurdles and are doing some great things for this university,” said Hardy. “With the additional resources that we are now providing them, great things are in store for their respective programs.”
Associate Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator Alyse Wells-Kilbert will serve as interim Athletics Director. Wells-Kilbert has been with the university since 2012 and brings to this role more than 25 years of coaching and athletics administrative experience. She has also served as a member of the SWAC Task Force for more than eight years.
~UAPB Communications contributed to this report