While new membership in the football-elite Colonial Athletic Association means some of Hampton University’s toughest on-field battles are ahead, the program will enter the season on a note of triumph off the gridiron.
The HU athletic department announced this week that its football team ranked first during the 2020-21 school year in NCAA Academic Progress Rate numbers among all historically Black colleges and universities.The Pirates’ APR was also first in the league from which it recently departed to join the CAA, the nine-team Big South, of which only two of the football teams in 2021 were HBCUs.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time Hampton has ever had the highest APR among all HBCUs and in the Big South,” Pirates coach Robert Prunty said. “So much of the credit goes to the athletes who put in the work in the classroom as they play football and fight through injuries.
“Being a football player and a student-athlete is like having two jobs, so their excellence in the classroom is a testament to their families.”
Prunty said it is also a testament to Dr. William Harvey, who is retired after 44 years as school president, and to his staff.
“Dr Harvey has always preached a high standard of excellence and he instilled this culture long before I became football coach,” Prunty said. “This is also a tribute to a faculty that goes far beyond to help students, and to the hard work put in by our provost, Dr. JoAnn Haysbert.”
Prunty said the players’ focus on academics not only eases him of potential headaches, but is important as the Pirates enter the CAA — long considered one of the top football leagues in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“It just seems the timing is right, especially as we join a conference with academically prestigious programs such as Villanova, William & Mary, Richmond and others,” Prunty said. “I’ve always said there’s a lot of similarities between those institutions and Ivy League schools.”
There are also a number of academically renowned HBCUs such as Howard and Tuskegee, the Pirates’ opponents to open the 2022 season. Prunty indicated the Pirates’ football APR numbers ranking HU ahead of them and former Big South foes is a feather in the program’s cap.
“There’s no question I’d rather the team be ranked the No. 1 HBCU football program academically than being ranked No. 1 in football alone,” he said. “I’m also proud we had the highest APR in the Big South.”
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While the football program’s score is the highest since the NCAA began reporting APR numbers in 2003, several programs at HU were even better. Women’s basketball, men’s cross country, men’s tennis, women’s soccer and softball earned the school’s highest APR scores.
Hampton University also announced this week that the men’s basketball team will play a series of exhibition games in the inaugural Ballin’ in the Bush HBCU Hoops Safari Classic, set for Aug. 2-9 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Among the Pirates’ opponents will be several national teams.
“I am grateful to be at the helm of a program that provides our student-athletes with infinite opportunities to play this game in different settings and at every level of collegiate competition,” Pirates’ coach Buck Joyner said in an HU release. “It’s exciting for us to witness them ultimately experience all the possibilities that this world offers at such a pivotal time in their lives.”
Junior guard Russell “Deuce” Dean, who averaged 14.9 points for the Pirates this past season, and hit a game-winning 3-pointer against rival Norfolk State highlighted on ESPN, is excited about the trip.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my teammates and me,” he said. “The game of basketball can take you so many places in life, and that is something I am forever grateful for.”
Hampton’s men’s basketball team also will play in the Boost Mobile HBCU Challenge, Dec. 17-18 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Rival Norfolk State, Texas Southern and North Carolina A&T also want to participate.