Athletics Looks Back
The First QuarterSince its founding in 1935, Armstrong has had a rich history of athletics in the Coastal Empire area. As a junior college, the program known as the Geechees sponsored several sports, including men's and women's basketball, men's golf and, yes, even football — before the outbreak of World War II.
Early triumphs came in 1938, when the men's basketball and men's tennis teams both captured state titles. The United States' involvement in World War II, however, brought about the suspension of all programs.
Men's basketball picked back up after the war and won the state tournament title in 1948. Many other programs also cropped up after WWII and students often competed against other junior colleges in sports such as badminton, ping-pong, volleyball, table tennis, basketball, track, softball, swimming, and bowling, while club sports and intramurals were also quite popular.
In 1967, when Armstrong Junior College became a four-year institution, Armstrong State College's athletic department joined the ranks of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Pirates were born.
Joining the NCAALater, in 1973, a move into the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) meant greater opportunities for the Pirates for postseason success, and Armstrong State College joined the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) to do battle with long-standing, in-state rivals Valdosta State, Columbus College and Augusta College. This association would last into the early 1980s and feature much success, especially on the hardwood, where the Pirates would earn NCAA DII Championship berths in 1975 and 1977, while also ascending to a No. 1 national ranking in 1979-1980.
Savannah residents could see the Pirates in action during the 1970s at the Savannah Civic Center, as well as on their local television set as ASC basketball was broadcast locally by WTOC-TV. Savannah State and Armstrong State battled yearly for the city championship, sponsored by the Savannah News-Press, and the "Runnin' Pirates" would routinely excite with high-flying basketball action.
Armstrong State College made a brief foray into NCAA Division I in the 1980s, becoming a charter member of the Big South Conference in 1985 and winning regular season division championships in baseball and regular season conference championships in men's tennis, while hosting the Big South Conference men's basketball championship in 1986 and 1987.
Baseball took the lead in the late 1980s, marking a pair of trips to the NCAA Division II College World Series in both 1988 and 1989, while achieving No. 1 national rankings in the coaches' poll.
While individual successes could be found throughout the years, the Pirates needed a home where the athletic department as a whole could thrive.
At Home in The Peach Belt ConferenceIn 1990, Armstrong found that home in the Peach Belt Conference and Armstrong Atlantic was once again at the forefront of an athletic conference's inception. The Pirates were one of seven charter members in the new NCAA Division II league, headquartered in Augusta.
Since its inception, the Peach Belt Conference has been one of the premier NCAA Division II conferences in the nation, and AASU is one of the most successful — if not the most successful — athletic program in the league.
Men's tennis featured a pair of individual NCAA Division II national champions in singles with Pradeep Raman in 1991 and Philip Schertel in 1992, the first NCAA champions in AASU athletic history.
The Pirates baseball made an appearance in the 1994 World Series, but the first team championships would come a few years later with the AASU women's tennis team. Under the direction of Andreas Koth and former All-American Mark Beyers, the Lady Pirates would capture back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1995 and 1996.
New Programs and More National TitlesSuccess in the Peach Belt era has not been limited to existing programs as the athletic department expanded into new sports, providing more opportunities for student-athletes at AASU. Women's fastpitch softball began in 1998 and achieved a No. 1 national ranking in 2000 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll.
Men's golf was reinstated as an NCAA program in 2001 and helped bring the first NCAA National Championship event ever held in the city of Savannah in 2005 when the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort & Spa and AASU co-hosted the 2005 NCAA DII Men's Golf National Championships, with the Pirates finishing second.
Women's soccer and women's golf were added in 2005, with the soccer program earning an NCAA Championship berth in just its second season of existence.
And within the last five seasons, the national championship count has risen to seven with the women's tennis team capturing the 2005 title, then both the men's and women's teams pulling off the rare double-double of each winning the team title in the same season, in 2008 and 2009 — an accomplishment that has only been achieved once before in college tennis history.
The history of Armstrong Atlantic State University athletics contains very impressive numbers indeed. Along with seven national championships, the Pirates have captured 25 Peach Belt Conference Championships, made 75 NCAA DII Championships appearances and have featured 172 All-Americans.
Checkout the Armstrong jersey styles throughout the years on our Flickr site.