100 Moments: 11 National Championships Remembered
Thursday, July 12, 2012
100 Moments: 11 National Championships Remembered

The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® series continues by recognizing Tennessee State University's 11 Black College Football National Championship teams.

There is nothing more memorable than winning a national championship. Winning 11 of these is legendary. During TSU's 11 title run, the Tigers posted a remarkable record of 101-8-2. Among those included seven undefeated teams (1946, 1954, 1955, 1965, 1966, 1970 and 1973).

The record-setting run started in 1946 when the Tigers went an unblemished 10-0 to earn the school's first ever football championship.

The 1946 team was coached by the legendary Henry Kean who is second on Tennessee State's all-time win list with 93 victories. That year's team only allowed six points through its first four games and scored 66 against Alcorn State later that season.

Kean repeated the feat in 1947 thanks to five Pittsburgh Courier All-Americans including second time winners quarterback Nathaniel Taylor and halfback Raymond Whitmon. 

In Kean's final season at TSU in 1954, the Tigers captured their third National Championship by defeating the Bluefield State Teachers 59-0.

Following Kean's departure, Howard Gentry became the second legendary coach to patrol the sidelines for Tennessee State.

In only his second season, Gentry led the Tigers to the team's fourth National Championship in 1956.

During the season, the Tigers only gave up 31 points total in their first nine games, winning all of them. Following the regular season, the team played Florida A&M in the illustrious Orange Blossom Classic where they surrendered 39 points, but still won the game by two over their bitter rivals.

Following two coaching changes, TSU hired 'Big' John A. Merritt in 1963 to become the school's 14th coach. The move was made right after Merritt won his second straight National Championship at Jackson State.

The addition paid off for Tennessee State as Merritt would go on to win eight titles during his tenure.

Under Merritt, the Tigers finished the season undefeated five times and the team won its first Division 1-AA playoff game in 1982. That year, the Big Blue captured its 11th Black College National Championship becoming the first school to win over 10.

TSU won many memorable games under Merritt including the 1966, 1970 and 1971 Grantland Rice Bowl that gave the Tigers three more National Championships. Also, the Tigers defeated rivals Jackson State, Alabama State, Grambling State and Bethune-Cookman by a combined score of 117-19 in 1982 in TSU's championship season. NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent was part of that championship squad.  

The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® highlights some of the greatest moments in honor of Tennessee State's centennial celebration. A new moment will be released each weekday for a total of 100. These moments were chosen by the TSU 100 Moments committee, which consists of alums from various departments. TSU has so many great moments, not all can be represented in these 100.