Cleve Abbott Named Winner of 2005 Trailblazer Award

Cleve Abbott, former Tuskegee University head football coach and athletic director, has been named the American Football Coaches Association’s winner of the 2005 Trailblazer Award.  The award will be presented posthumously to Abbott at the AFCA Kickoff Luncheon on Monday, January 9 at the 2006 AFCA Convention in Dallas, Texas.

The Trailblazer Award was created as a way for the AFCA to honor a historically significant minority coach who had a profound impact on his institution, the coaching profession, student-athletes and the game of football.  For a five-year period, the Trailblazer Award will be given to an individual who coached in a certain decade.  This year’s winner coached from 1930 to 1939.  The five-year cycle ends in 2009 with a winner coming from the 1960-1969 decade.  In 2010, the cycle will start over with the 1920-1929 decade.

“The Tuskegee University family is elated that Cleveland Leigh Abbott has been selected the 2005 AFCA Trailblazer Award winner,” Tuskegee University president Benjamin F. Payton said.  “Coach Abbott’s work with students at Tuskegee contained the demand for both academic and athletic prowess that led the Tuskegee Tigers through six undefeated seasons, six national championships and 12 conference titles.  Tuskegee University has long recognized Coach Abbott’s achievements and we are glad the AFCA will now have the privilege of honoring him for his stellar contributions.”

Abbott was hired as the Director of the Department of Physical Education and Athletics and head football coach at Tuskegee in 1923 and continued those duties until the time of his death in 1955.  He led the Golden Tiger football team to an overall record of 202-95-27 during his 32 years, including six Black College national championships and 12 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.  Abbott also led Tuskegee to six undefeated seasons and rolled off 46 games without a loss between the years 1923 and 1928.

For the decade of 1930-1939, Abbott led Tuskegee to a 66-34-7 record with five Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and one Black College national title in 1930.  It was in 1939 that Abbott first joined the AFCA and remained a faithful member until the time of his death.

Abbott also coached basketball, tennis and women’s track and field at Tuskegee during his tenure.  He led those teams, including football, to a staggering 61 conference or national titles.  Abbott gained a lot of success as head coach of the women’s track and field team from 1936 to 1955.  During that period, his Golden Tigers won 14 national outdoor titles, including eight in a row, and Tuskegee athletes won 49 indoor and outdoor individual titles.  Six of his athletes made the U.S. Olympic team, including two gold medalists.

During his tenure, Abbott made many far-reaching contributions to the growth and development of athletics at Tuskegee and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  Those contributions include starting the annual Tuskegee Relays and the SIAC Basketball tournament.  

Abbott was inducted into the South Dakota State Hall of Fame in 1968, the Tuskegee Hall of Fame in 1975, the SIAC Hall of Fame in 1992, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1996.  In recognition of his outstanding contributions to athletics at Tuskegee, university officials renamed the football stadium, Cleve L. Abbott Memorial Alumni Stadium, in 1996.

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