September will be one year on the job for UAPB Director of Athletics Melvin Hines, and in his short time on the job, he has already made great strides towards leading the Golden Lions athletic programs towards success.
He has named several new head coaches while retaining others as he pushes the program towards his vision.
“We want to make sure that we increase our footprint within the South West Athletic Conference,” Hines said. “We want to make sure we are also nationally known. To do that we have to increase a lot of areas. We have hired Duane Lewis to run our strategic communications to tell our story so people will know what is going on at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.”
Hines noted that all decisions within the athletic department will be centered around student-athletes in mind.
“We are evaluating our coaches. We have hired three new coaches for our women’s sports, and our football coach had his first year last year,” Hines said. “Our vision is coach driven, student-athlete centered and administrative supported. Every decision we make is going to be around what our student-athletes needs. It is about them. The coaches are going to lead it. They are going to drive it. My job is to help them be successful.”
Hines said that the vowels – A, E, I, O, U – show the mission for UAPB Golden Lions athletics.
“It is about A for Accountability, E for Excellence, I for Integrity, O for Orientation, and U for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff,” Hines said.
“We want to be the front porch of this university. When they hear about our football program, basketball program, women’s programs, soccer, and track – they put the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff over everybody. As we do that it helps increase our enrollment and gives us a chance to show future students that this is a great institution. Going back to the days of Arkansas AM&N to today at UAPB, we have turned out a lot of great people from this institution, and we plan to turn out many more in the future.”
Hines also spoke about the biggest changes he has seen in the athletic department during his short tenure.
“We have upgraded some facilities in the last nine months. We have new coaches and a new strength coach who has come in and reenergized our coaches and student-athletes,” Hines said.
“Go look at them working out, and they are working to compete for championships in the weight room. Champions are built in the offseason, so that work they are putting in now and with all of them being in summer school, that is a change from what UAPB used to be like from an athletic standpoint.”
One big goal for Hines is to see the UAPB football team compete for the SWAC football championship once again. He believes head coach Cedric Thomas has put the Golden Lions on the right track by instilling discipline within the program.
“I think it starts at the top. Coach Cedric Thomas is an excellent motivator and an excellent coach who has instilled a lot of discipline within the program,” Hines said.
“Football is about being in the right place at the right time, and everybody has to do their own job. When you put discipline back in the program and make people hold themselves accountable for their own actions both on and off of the field it puts you on a path towards winning championships. They are beating the streets in recruiting and getting out letting everybody in Arkansas know that there is a school in Pine Bluff where you can come play locally. We are going to recruit nationally, but we want to get the local kids back into UAPB.”
Hines said he hopes to increase the athletic budget, a need that he considers to be one of the major needs for the athletic department.
“You always need an infusion of money to compete at this level,” Hines said.
“When you look at the three teams in the conference who are competing for championships year in and year out they are average around $13 million to $15 million in annual athletic budgets. For us to get to that point it is an immediate need for us. Right now we have one of the medium budgets in the conference around $7 million to $8 million, so we need to get up to between $10 million and $12 million, and I think that gives us the opportunity to do the things the other athletic programs are doing.
“We can make sure the student-athlete experience is enhanced. Everything we do is going to be centered on the student-athletes, so as our budget is increased it goes directly back into our student-athletes with how we travel, how we dress, how we eat, and how we upgrade our facilities. We just want our student-athlete experience to be great.”