June 25, 2016
Reflecting on 2015-16 with an Eye Toward the Future
We have reached the end of the 2015-16 competitive calendar and what a year it has been! I am so proud to lead your Athletics Department during this important and dynamic period in our history. As this is our final Battle Plan blog for this year, I want to share with you some things of which I am particularly proud – a collection of facts about the achievements of our student-athletes over the past year that exemplify how they are living up to the tenets of our Mission every day.
However, before I highlight those outstanding achievements, I wanted to share some personal thoughts with you regarding an announcement that I made earlier this week. As you probably know, on Tuesday afternoon I announced that I will undergo the latest in a series of treatments for a form of cancer called multiple myeloma. This is a condition that I have been successfully dealing with for more than two years. I will be away from my office for a few weeks, but I am continuing to direct our daily business of the department with the help of the members of our Executive and Administrative staff.
The outpouring of concern and sentiment regarding this situation has been heartwarming to me and my wife, Mary, as well as my entire family. I can’t thank everyone enough. However, I can assure you that you can expect me back at work and in the middle of everything very soon as I look forward to continuing to serve our great University.
Greg Goff Takes Over Crimson Tide Baseball
I was pleased and proud to introduce Greg Goff as our new head baseball coach on Friday, June 17. I am excited about the future of our program with Greg as our leader. He has been successful in all three of his head coaching stints, turning programs at Montevallo, Campbell University and Louisiana Tech into contenders.
While he takes over a situation at Alabama that is far from destitute, I also know that any coaching transition has its own set of challenges. Greg’s optimism, drive, energy and commitment shine through. I know I speak for our entire staff and all of our supporters when I say that we are all in this together, and we all look forward to contributing together to make our program a national contender again.
As I’ve said many times, our goal is to compete for championships, as well as recruit and develop players to become champions on and off the fields and courts. Those high standards apply to all our programs. In Greg, we found the best coach available to lead our program. He is a man of high integrity with great values. We share the same goal: to return the Crimson Tide to championship levels in baseball. We can do that, and I hope you will all join in to help us along the way.
Stallings Era Reunion Caps a Great Weekend
More than 180 people, ranging from athletic trainers to managers to players to coaches to support staff, gathered in Tuscaloosa last weekend for a terrific reunion to commemorate the Gene Stallings era of our football history. More than 100 former players traveled back to campus to visit and honor their former head coach, including Shaun Alexander, John Causey, Derrick Oden, Garry Hollingsworth, Siran Stacy and Sherman Williams. The group also included six members of Clemson’s current football staff, led by head coach Dabo Swinney, all of whom coached or played for Gene at Alabama – Woody McCorvey, Danny Pearman, Thad Turnipseed, Lamanski Hall and Paul Hogan.
I was proud that the Athletics Department could host dinners for the group on Friday and Saturday night in the North End Zone. One of the neatest things about the weekend was an idea that Michael Newman, who was involved in organizing the weekend, had for a dinner talk. He decided to select certain players to talk about Coach Stallings prior to each meal. I have to tell you, those talks were outstanding – they set the right tone for the weekend, providing the right balance of humor, gratitude and context while remembering a time that obviously shaped each one of their lives on through the present day.
On Saturday, the group had an outing to a farm near Eutaw, Ala., at the True Vine Foundation. They spent the day skeet shooting, fishing, golfing, and even had a Navy SEAL on hand to guide everyone through a combat pistol competition. Of course, there was plenty of storytelling. On Sunday, the reunion had a special church service in the Team Meeting Room of the Mal Moore Facility. I really think that service not only touched everyone’s hearts, but also revealed the true collective character of a special time in our football history. There were moving testimonials of faith by several, but a couple of particularly touching talks by Craig Sanderson, who spoke eloquently about the courage and fortitude of the late Kevin Turner, and Siran Stacy, who movingly shared his story about the tragic accident involving his family several years ago. As only he can, Coach Stallings wrapped up the proceedings with his own talk about his faith and his journey through life.
Crimson Tide Foundation Update: Buildings & Facilities
Approximately 75 donors recently toured the Mal M. Moore Athletics Facility and the new Sewell-Thomas Stadium. We had a wonderful weekend sharing these outstanding facilities while demonstrating the positive impact private contributions have to Alabama Athletics. We are so grateful for the loyal support of so many faithful donors and we are honored when we have the chance to share the significance of their contributions with them.
Our buildings and facilities are such a dramatic and tangible way for donors to see the difference they make in this program. Our facilities serve as a prime recruiting tool and are a home for our student-athletes where they train, practice and compete. While facilities alone do not win championships, we know that when our facilities lead the conference and nation our teams are typically competing at the same level. While touring the facilities, one of our donors inquired about future projects and funding for them. While some construction will have their own funding initiatives, like Sewell-Thomas Stadium, we are constantly maintaining, updating, renovating and building. If you are considering a way to positively impact the Athletics Department, now and in the future, a gift to our Buildings and Facilities Fund will help provide the financial means necessary to keep our buildings and facilities ahead of the competition. As always, please contact any of our development staff with any questions or visit our website at http://crimsontidefoundation.org/ for more information about how you can help us by investing in champions.
Living Up to the Tenets of our Mission
Our Mission is to recruit and develop student-athletes to compete at the highest levels in intercollegiate athletics, educate and prepare our student-athletes to compete at the highest levels in life after graduation, and accomplish both with honor and integrity. That Mission is what drives us each and every day.
I am proud to share the following facts about the recently completed 2015-16 academic year. Please read through this carefully, as there is plenty here that should make you very proud of the Crimson Tide:
Grade Point Average
The overall cumulative grade point average (GPA) of our more than 500 student-athletes in 2015-16 was 3.164. That’s up from 3.031 for the 2014-15 year. A total of 47 current student-athletes have a 4.0 cumulative GPA. Six of our teams had cumulative GPAs above 3.5 for 2015-16, that’s one more than last year and marks the sixth straight year to have at least five teams above that threshold. Twelve of our teams had cumulative GPAs above 3.0 for 2015-16. Over the last three years, our teams have achieved a cumulative GPA above 3.0 a total of 39 times.
- 106 students who are Crimson Tide athletes graduated in 2015-16.
- Included among the 106 graduates were 3 individual NCAA champions, 12 who earned All-America honors on the field, and seven who earned Academic All-America honors.
- The graduation rate for student-athletes is currently 72 percent while the graduation rate of the general student body is currently 66 percent.
- Our Graduation Success Rate (GSR) improved to 92 this year, which ranked second in the SEC and is up one point from the previous year. The GSR spans the period covering students who attended the University during 2005-08.
- In addition to standing in the top two in the SEC with its overall GSR, the Crimson Tide was first or tied for first in nine different sports (football, men’s basketball, gymnastics, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, softball and men’s swimming & diving. Men’s track & field and women’s soccer were second in the SEC with scores of 96 and 94, respectively.
- Alabama led the SEC in total teams achieving perfect GSR scores of 100 with eight (men’s basketball, gymnastics, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, softball and men’s swimming & diving).
- 14 Alabama programs recorded a GSR score of 90 or better and all 17 posted marks of 83 or above. The average GSR for student-athletes is 82 for all of NCAA Division I.
- For the third consecutive year, Alabama football led the nation in graduates on its roster for postseason play in 2015 with 29 – a national record for the most graduates ever playing on a single team. This is not a new trend. In fact, our last 4 national title teams (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015) included a combined total of 89 players who had earned their degrees prior to game time. From 2009 through the 2015 season, 146 Alabama football players earned their degrees (undergraduate and graduate) while still active on the Crimson Tide roster.
- We had the highest Graduation Success Rate among the four teams selected for the College Football Playoff. Alabama produced a score of 86 while Clemson posted an 84, Michigan State a 66 and Oklahoma a 65.
- The 2015 season marked the seventh consecutive year that the Crimson Tide football team suited up more than 20 graduates for a bowl game.
- Three Tide football players – quarterback Jake Coker, center Ryan Kelly, and offensive lineman Isaac Luatua – graduated with master’s degrees in the fall semester.
- In December, 31 student-athletes received their degrees, including 23 members of the football team.
SEC Academic Honors
- In 2015-16, Alabama student-athletes won the SEC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year in five sports (men’s swimming and diving’s Connor Oslin, gymnastics’ Lauren Beers, men’s basketball’s Retin Obasohan, football’s Ryan Kelly and soccer’s Abby Lutzenkirchen) after winning in five sports in 2013-14 and four sports in 2014-15.
- Crimson Tide students have won 28 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in their respective sports in the last six years (2011-16).
- Haylie McCleney was named the 2016 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year honoring the finest overall female student-athlete in the SEC spanning all sports.
- With Haylie’s honor, 10 Alabama students have earned the SEC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, which spans all sports offered by the league, since 1987.
- So far, 141 students earned SEC Academic Honor Roll status (82 in the fall of 2015; 59 in the winter of 2016. The SEC’s spring list is slated for release in July. In 2014-15, 221 earned that distinction. In 2013-14, 196 earned the honor.
- We had 10 Academic All-Americans during the 2015-16 academic year, our third consecutive year to post double-digit honors while running that three-year total to 35.
- Since 2000, Alabama has produced 113 Academic All-America honors, which ranks third nationally over that span behind only Nebraska and Notre Dame.
- In 2014-15, Alabama produced 12 Academic All-Americans, one off the school record set in 2013-14 when we led the nation with 13. Alabama led the nation in those honors in both years.
- The 113 honorees since 2000 ranks first in the SEC in Academic All-American honors. Alabama has averaged more than 10 per year over the past five years.
- In an unprecedented feat, Alabama swept the 2015-16 Academic All-American of the Year titles for the at-large team selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) as swimmer Anton McKee and gymnast Lauren Beers were selected as the 2016 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans of the Year for the Division I Men’s and Women’s At-Large programs. The at-large teams include the sports of fencing, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rifle, skiing, swimming & diving, tennis and water polo for both men and women, as well as beach volleyball, bowling, crew and field hockey for women, and volleyball and wrestling for men.
- In 2015-16, Alabama became the first school to have three Academic All-Americans of the Year in the same academic year, with Anton and Lauren joining Haylie McCleney, who earned the softball honor for the second year in a row.
- Anton is the first Alabama student-athlete to be named Academic All-American of the Year for the men’s at-large team while Laurent is the fifth Tide woman to earn the honor for the at-large team, the most in the history of the award. Tide gymnasts have earned the honor four times (Beers 2016, Kim Jacob 2014, Kayla Hoffman 2011, Stephanie Kite 2005), while golfer Brooke Pancake earned the honor in 2012.
- Tide student-athletes have earned Academic All-American of the Year for their respective sport 10 times in our history, making Alabama one of just five schools to total double digits.
- Over the last six years, we have had nine student-athletes earn Academic All-American of the Year honors, the most by any school over that span and four more than second-place Stanford.
- Overall, we had five student-athletes (three men and two women) earn a place on the 2016 Academic All-America At-Large Teams, making Alabama one of three schools to have more than three student-athletes earn the honor this year. Alabama is one of two schools (Navy being the other) to have three student-athletes earn a place on the men’s at-large team while Crimson Tide swimming and diving is the only team to have three honorees.
- With the three Capital One/CoSIDA Softball Academic All-America of the Year honors earned this year, the Crimson Tide has had a student-athlete serve as the Academic All-America of the Year for their respective sport each of the last seven years.
- Crimson Tide student-athletes have been named Academic All-American of the Year for all sports in three of the last four years (Brooke Pancake of women’s golf in 2012; Barrett Jones of football in 2013; Kim Jacob of gymnastics in 2014). Haylie McCleney (a two-time softball Academic All-American of the Year), Lauren Beers (gymnastics/at-large team) and Anton McKee (swimming and diving/at-large) are on the ballot for the overall 2016 Academic All-American of the Year. All three have excellent credentials to compete for this year’s honor, which will be announced in late July.
- From 2011 through the winter honorees of 2016, Alabama has produced an SEC-best 25 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship awardees. A school-record seven student-athletes earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships in 2014, a total that led the nation. Through the fall and winter honorees, Alabama has earned three in 2015-16.
- The NCAA Elite 90 Award goes to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average at the finals site of each of the NCAA’s 90 championships. With 15 honorees, Alabama leads the nation in NCAA Elite 90 Award winners since its inception in 2009-10, one ahead of second-place Stanford. No other school has more than nine over that span. Crimson Tide gymnastics has won the first seven for its sport. Lauren Beers was the 2016 NCAA Elite 90 Award winner for gymnastics, her third consecutive honor. The University of Alabama is the only school to earn the NCAA Elite 90 Award in the sport of gymnastics.
- The NCAA Today’s Top 10 is given to 10 college athletes from the preceding academic year who have brought distinction to themselves, their schools and college sports. Honorees must be a varsity letter-winner with a minimum GPA of 3.2 who has completed their intercollegiate eligibility during the previous academic year. There is no set male-female ratio and at least one winner will be selected from both Divisions II and III. The honor recognizes exceptional athletics ability and achievement, academic achievement, character, leadership and extracurricular activities including community service. Alabama students have won 13 NCAA Top 10 Awards, including 10 over the last 14 years.
- We won two SEC team titles during the 2015-16 academic year – football and women’s golf. Our single-year record is four, accomplished in both 2009-10 and 2013-14.
- We have earned eight SEC team titles over the last three years and 21 SEC team titles since 2008.
- In 2015-16, four of our 17 sports teams (two men’s, two women’s) finished their seasons ranked in the top 10 nationally and six of our 17 sports teams (two men’s, four women’s) finished their seasons ranked in the top 20 nationally.
- Individually, six student-athletes brought home three individual NCAA championships: Quanesha Burks (women’s indoor track – long jump), Katie Bailey (gymnastics – vault) and the men’s swimming 200-yard medley relay team (Connor Oslin, Pavel Romanov, Luke Kaliszak and Kristian Gkolomeev).
Alabama has long had a legacy of champions. Our success is built on the foundation of a tradition of excellence and the tenets of our ongoing Mission. A huge contingent of people make that success possible, but it is the student-athletes themselves who are the champions. We take the utmost pride in their continuing success.
See You in August!
With the end of June beckoning, this brings this year’s set of Battle Plan blogs to an end. We will take the next few weeks off from the blog before returning in August before beginning the 2016-17 academic and athletic year. At this writing, we are 71 days away from kicking off the 2016 football season against the USC Trojans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. While I hope you having an excellent summer, I also hope that you will take a little time to consider ways in which you can help us reach our goals. Your support is the difference for us. It is what separates Alabama from the pack. That support comes in many ways, from your presence at our events to your financial support to insure our future success. All of it is not only vital, it is deeply appreciated.
A rising tide lifts all boats and it really is up to all Alabama supporters to Keep the Tide Rising!