Dr. Artis Davenport II created his own path.
Back in 1961, after a pair of successful two-year stints at Alcorn State University and Dillard University in which he won multiple conference championships in track & field, Dr. Davenport went to Southern University at New Orleans as an assistant professor of physical education. Dr. Davenport put his coaching career on hold because SUNO didn’t have an intercollegiate athletic program at the time – just intramural sports.
Being the visionary that he is and seeing the wealth of potential on campus from his vantage point, Dr. Davenport spearheaded a movement to build SUNO’s athletic department from the ground up. After 12 long years of unwavering diligence, the Black Knights – as they were then known – came to be.
Under Dr. Davenport’s direction, SUNO’s track & field program immediately left its mark on the NCAA Division III level when competition in the division started in 1974. After a runner-up finish outdoors that year, the Black Knights reeled off three outdoor team titles in a row from 1975 to 1977 and became the first of three programs to three-peat in NCAA DIII history.
SUNO put together a masterclass performance to win the 1975 crown. The Black Knights won five individual titles – a feat no program would match until 2003 – and won by 32 points, which was the largest margin of victory at the NCAA DIII Outdoor Championships for 29 years.
Dr. Davenport-coached sprinters dominated the NCAA DIII ranks from 1975 to 1982. SUNO won 19 NCAA sprinting titles in eight years, including five in the 4×400 relay, four each in the 200, 400, and 4×100 relay, as well as two in the 100.
The Black Knights finished on the NCAA DIII outdoor podium three more times before their move to the NAIA in 1987. The men’s team was third in 1980 and 1982, while the women were hard-luck runners-up in 1985 when SUNY Cortland topped them by one point.
Success followed SUNO across divisions as it won four NAIA national team titles and captured 40 event titles with Dr. Davenport. His women’s team swept the indoor and outdoor team titles in 1995 and 1997, while the men’s team took runner-up honors in 1998.
Dr. Davenport stepped down from his position at SUNO in 1999 and then worked at Bethune-Cookman College as a part-time assistant track & field coach beginning the following year. He proved that his coaching works in any sport at any level when he guided the Bethune-Cookman women’s bowling team to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2005.