There’s something special unfolding in a small southern town that hasn’t been relevant since the days of the cotton trade. Once the joke of the college basketball world, the Savannah State University Tigers have started the season 4-0. With resounding victories over Brewton-Parker, North Florida, Coastal Carolina and New Orleans, what seemed impossible only a few years ago has suddenly become very real.
To put things in perspective, in 2004-05, the season before current head coach Horace Broadnax took over the program, the Tigers won a grand total of 0 of their 28 games! An even more startling statistic: The total athletic budget for the university in 2007 was $2,398,400, which ranks 339 out of 339 Division I schools. By comparison, Ohio State University, which holds the #1 spot, spends approximately $106,799,512 more a year on athletics than Savannah State. To say that a coach has ever done more with less than Broadnax has at Savannah State would be a travesty.
Since joining the Division I ranks in 2002, the Tigers have played as an independent, with no conference affiliation and no legitimate chance of ever making the NCAA tournament. The team spends half the season on the road and in college basketball purgatory, playing up to a dozen so called ‘pay-out’ games, acting as a sacrificial lamb to big time programs in big time conferences. Each player knows full well that that at season’s end, there will be no conference tournament and no championship to play for. An independent has never made it to the NCAA tournament in the modern era, and only one, Oral Roberts, has made the NIT.
In 2005, Broadnax took over a program that almost no one else wanted, and that was just fine with him. Broadnax was never one to take the easy road, ending up at Savannah by taking the most unusual of routes. After helping lead Georgetown University to the 1984 NCAA Men’s National Championship Title and as National Championship runner-ups in 1985, Horace continued on in his studies, obtaining his law degree from Florida State University in 1991. Today he remains the only head coach in NCAA basketball to have such a prestigious post-graduate degree as a Juris Doctorate.
Unlike other college coaches who preach about playing for championships and getting to the next level, Broadnax has recruited players to Savannah State with the only promise he can make, that they will leave as better men than that in which they came. Broadnax has been on the wrong side of some of the worst losses in college basketball history during his first few years at Savannah, and yet his philosophies have not changed. At the end of the day, with no championships to play for, no tournament titles, no future professional career in any league, Broadnax knows that all he can do is ready each of his players for the true game… the game of life.
“Life is getting ready to hit them upside the head. If you think losing to Florida is bad try to get married, raise a family and pay the bills. Being in college is about trying to develop a philosophy and trying to develop goals about how you want to attack life.”
The majority of Savannah State’s players held no other offers from Division I programs. They could have played at some D-II or D-III school, but Broadnax made them believe that they had the talent to play at the highest level. Discipline, perseverance, teamwork, and patience are the four cornerstones of the Savannah State program. Every player knows that they are blessed with the opportunity to play at this level, and they never take a moment of it for granted. They have bought into Broadnax’s philosophy and have shown each other that through hard work and dedication anything is possible.
If your looking to find a place where basketball is played in its purest form, void of the prying eyes of NBA scouts, big time boosters, and the pressure of big time athletics, you’ll find it on the banks of the Savannah river. No matter what happens the rest of the season, Horace Broadnax and the Savannah State Tigers have proved the basketball world wrong. In a world measured only by wins and dollars, Savannah State has shown that there is still at least one place in college basketball where the only thing the student-athletes play for is their love of the game and each other.
Horace Broadnax is a client at Dynasty Athlete Representation. You can learn more about Broadnax and the Savannah State Tigers at www.horacebroadnax.com