Dr. Artis Davenport – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
Track and Field, 1961-2003
Southern University of New Orleans
Doing more with so little would be the best way to describe the legacy of Dr. Artis Davenport, II. In his 42 years as a coach on the collegiate level he won seven national titles, three national runner-up finishes, coached 40 individual track champions and 178 All-Americans. These accomplishments were done without a paid assistant, limited scholarships and virtually no budget. As head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at Southern University at New Orleans, and with stints at Dillard and Alcorn State, he was named the NAIA National Coach of the Year four times and was selected the top coach nationally three times by the NVAA. Although SUNO is an NAIA institution, the track teams competed primarily against the NCAA Division I schools. The Monroe, La, native received degrees at both Tuskegee Institute and Louisiana State University, he also served in the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer.
Under Dr. Davenport, who coached the University’s track and field and cross country programs, SUNO enjoyed multiple championships. Most notable are the men’s outdoor national championships in the NCAA Division III in 1975, 1976, and 1977 as well as the NAIA Division I women’s outdoor national championships in 1995 and 1997 in addition to the women’s indoor championships in 1995 and 1997. Southern University at New Orleans is the only institution in the state of Louisiana to have won national championships in both the NCAA and the NAIA in any sport.
In years that SUNO did not win national championships, the University remained a formidable force on the college track and field scene. The Black Knights (as they were called until the mid-1980’s) finished second in the NCAA Division III outdoor national championship in 1974 and third in 1980 and 1982. The men would later finish second in the NAIA outdoor national championship in 1998. The Lady Knights also achieved success in 1985, winning third place in DIII (outdoor) and finishing fourth in the NAIA in 1994 (outdoor), 1996 (indoor and outdoor).
Under Dr. Davenport’s leadership, SUNO also established a presence in cross country. The University’s teams won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championships in 1988 and 1989 (men) as well as in 1986, 1988, 1989, and 1990 (women).
During his tenure, Dr. Davenport was named NAIA Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1997. Nearly 100 of SUNO’s runners were named NCAA and NAIA All-Americans under Dr. Daveport, as well.
The following obituary for Dr. Davenport by Ro Brown was published at CrescentCitySports.com on Sept. 10, 2019. Reprinted by permission.
Dr. Artis Davenport II, one of the most successful track and field coaches in Louisiana history and one of the founders of the intercollegiate athletic program at Southern University in New Orleans (SUNO), passed away Saturday, September 7, 2019. He was 92.
Davenport arrived at SUNO in 1961 as an assistant professor of physical education when the school had intramural sports only. A decade later he led the New Orleans branch of the Southern University System into the world of intercollegiate athletics.
The Black Knights (as they were called at the time) became a dominant force immediately as the SUNO men ran away with three consecutive NCAA Division III Outdoor National Championships in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
SUNO won the 1975 title by a whopping 32 points, a record winning-margin that stood for 29 years.
The SUNO men placed third nationally in 1980 and 1982 while the women were national runners-up in 1985, falling one-point short of a national title.
Dr. Davenport’s teams experienced success after moving to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) directing the women’s team to four national championships with indoor and outdoor crowns in 1995 and 1997. In 1998 the men’s team was national runner-up.
A 2003 inductee into the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, the Tuskegee University graduate also excelled in cross country. The SUNO women took Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) championships in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1990 while the men’s cross country squads went back-to-back in 1988 and 1989.
In 2018, Dr. Artis Davenport was inducted into the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame.
“I always admire people who do things for the right reasons. He was in it for the right reasons and he was never a look-at-me-guy,” said Sam Seemes, CEO of the USTFCCCA.
“Amazingly, he did it with next to nothing—virtually no assets. What he had were good kids who performed well and won national titles. He got that out of them because winning national championships is not easy. I’m so glad this great contributor to the community was here to experience induction into our hall of fame”
During Dr. Artis Davenport’s time at SUNO, over 100 student-athletes were named NCAA and NAIA All-Americans.