Arkansas-Pine Bluff Athletic Director Lonza Hardy said Saturday that football Coach Monte Coleman has signed a two-year contract extension.
L̶a̶r̶s̶o̶n̶ Hardy* cited financial obstacles that would be tough for any coach to overcome and a plan to improve the team's financial standing as reasons for the extension.
Coleman is officially 18-52 in eight seasons as Golden Lions coach after vacating 19 victories in 2014 because of NCAA sanctions concerning how UAPB certified athletes.
UAPB was 2-9 this season and is 8-25 in the three seasons since winning its first Southwestern Athletic Conference title in 2012. But Hardy on Saturday expressed confidence in Coleman, who coached this year with 38 scholarship players, a total similar to what he's had to work with in previous years.
The limit for a Football Championship Subdivision team is 63 scholarships, and Hardy said all but Mississippi Valley State awarded more scholarships in the SWAC than UAPB this year.
"I think Coach Coleman is a great coach, and I think he's a good fit for our program," Hardy said. "Armed with a reasonable number of scholarships, he is the type of coach that we need to move our program forward."
A three-year contract extension Coleman signed in 2013 expired Dec. 31. Hardy said an agreement to extend him through 2017 was made before that date, and Coleman has been working on a verbal agreement at his previous salary of $157,967 since Jan. 1.
Hardy said he sees signs of an improving financial situation for UAPB football. A dinner the school hosted at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock in the fall featuring several of Coleman's former NFL teammates brought in about $40,000, and the Alcorn State game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock -- which UAPB lost 61-14 -- brought in about $180,000.
Hardy said the UAPB alumni association also has started a fundraiser to help with football scholarships.
All of that money will go toward the football scholarship fund, Hardy said, who added he wants more games in Little Rock.
Hardy said UAPB wants to be in the "mid-to-upper-40s" scholarship-wise for the 2016 season, and up to about 57 by 2017 to tap into even more resources.
Per NCAA rules, an FCS team can't play a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision unless it awards 90 percent of the allowable 63 scholarships. That's almost a necessity for UAPB, because those games can bring in $100,000-$250,000 in revenue. UAPB and Arkansas State have signed a contract to open the 2017 season in Jonesboro.
"It is our goal to be there by that point," Hardy said.
Hardy hopes that an increase in scholarships will turn around UAPB's on-field fortunes.
Coleman led the Golden Lions to the SWAC title in 2012 with 36 scholarships, according to an NCAA financial report requested by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But, the Golden Lions have just four other winning seasons since moving to Division I in 1998, a time in which Hardy said the scholarship allotments have never been competitive among their SWAC peers.
"We know the disadvantage and that the team is not competing on a level playing field," Hardy said. "Ever since UAPB has been in Division I it has always been competing at a disadvantage. It's time to take that off the table and do the things necessary to put the program in a position to be successful."
Sports on 01/17/2016
*CORRECTION: The Arkansas-Pine Bluff Athletic Director is Lonza Hardy. He was misidentified in this story.