Dec. 17, 2014
A Salute to Dr. Bonner
As many of you are likely aware, I heard the news on Wednesday afternoon that University of Alabama President Dr. Judy Bonner has decided to step down from her post by September of 2015. In Dr. Bonner, the University of Alabama has a rare person – a strong leader who also has the heart of a servant. I have been extremely fortunate to work for her as Director of Athletics these past 21 months. She is a woman who commands respect, not by the mere force of her personality, but by the dignity, class and thoughtfulness that she brings to any conversation. While I will miss having her as my President, I am glad to see that she plans to remain at the Capstone in the coming years. Her advice, counsel and support has been infinitely vital to our continued success in fulfilling our mission.
Taking Student-Athlete Wellness to New Levels
I was very pleased and proud to learn recently that the NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brian Hainline, has selected our athletic department’s Behavioral Medicine/Mental Health program as one of three model programs in the nation that are administered by universities to be used as an example and standard for best practices in these areas. Dr. Hainline has visited numerous campuses and has deemed our athletic department as one of three in the nation to have what he describes as “exceptional mental health programs for student-athletes.”
As you’ve no doubt been aware in recent months, the subject of student-athlete wellness is a hot-button issue in all levels of athletics. All of us here at the University of Alabama are aware of the many challenges that are prevalent in the lives of the modern-day student-athlete. Behavioral medicine is one of the chief areas of care in which we have devoted staffing and emphasis over the last several years. In our Department of Athletics, behavioral medicine encompasses areas of student-athlete mental health, substance abuse, crisis intervention, domestic violence, and other behaviors that may cause harm to self or others.
Headed by our Director of Behavioral Medicine, Ginger Gilmore, we are fortunate to have a Behavioral Medicine Team that includes Director of Sports Medicine Jeff Allen; Head Team Physician Dr. James Robinson; two psychiatrists (Dr. Stephen Bonner and Dr. Alicia Austin); a psychologist (Dr. Bhrett McCabe); three family counselors (Suzette Smaller, Susan Goertz and Greg Evans); and five addiction therapists (Chuck Wint, Erin Hinz, Hilary Weaver Beatty, Hannah Williams and Randall Campbell).
Our athletic department operates “in house” by way of Ginger Gilmore, who serves as the conduit for informational input from self-referrals of student-athletes in need or distress, or input from awareness by teammates, coaches and staff members. The goal of our program is for each student-athlete to create an awareness of behavioral health concerns in the athletic environment. Awareness leads to identification of sub-clinical or clinical issues. Identification then becomes intervention in a way that is confidential and highly sensitive for the individual who is struggling. Intervention then moves into treatment involving our team of behavioral medicine professionals.
Last week, Dr. Hainline initiated a conference call with Ginger and behavioral medicine directors from the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. He feels that there is a need to share these best practices with every school in the NCAA to develop more insight into the area of behavioral medicine and mental health programming, thus building a bridge for mutual support among all institutions in collegiate athletics.
Our Behavioral Medicine Team is pioneering this process by developing programming, individual treatment plans, and daily care of our student-athletes. Ginger hopes to continue to refine processes and learn as new challenges develop with student-athletes. She and her team are working with the best professionals in the areas of psychiatry, psychology, counseling, testing and substance abuse to work with our student-athletes. We are blessed to have such people available to care for them.
In discussing this programming with Ginger and Jeff, it is clear to me just how vital it is that we continue to bring an awareness of behavioral and mental health concerns to our athletic department. Initiating an awareness of behavioral and mental health opens the door for athlete self-referral, as well as facilitating the recognition of red flags when a teammate is in distress. Once awareness is fully established, our department can work together with teammates, coaches, and support staff to offer help to those who are struggling.
We are fortunate and blessed to have developed the program that currently is in place for our student-athletes, and I am extremely proud of Ginger, Jeff and our entire team in this effort. They are making a positive impact on the lives of our student-athletes well beyond the classroom and the competitive arena. In doing so, they are bringing further distinction to our University through their innovative approach to this growing area of concern.
Campus Smoke-Free Policy Takes Effect on January 1
As we approach the start of a new year, I want to make you aware of a new campus-wide policy that could affect and, hopefully, enhance your experience at our athletics events. Beginning January 1, the University of Alabama will become a “smoke-free” campus, including all of our athletic facilities. The University is instituting this as part of an effort to ensure the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. Smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, will be prohibited in all facilities, grounds and parking areas on the UA campus.
This is the latest step in a long-standing policy prohibiting smoking inside University buildings and limiting smoking areas outside buildings. The Faculty Senate, the Professional Staff Assembly, the Office, Clerical and Technical Assembly, the Black Faculty/Staff Association and the UA Association of Residential Communities have passed resolutions in support of a smoke-free campus. The policy is designed to protect the UA community from the dangers of second-hand smoke, promote a healthier environment and reduce the problem of littering and the risk of accidental fires due to discarded cigarettes.
The University is confident that both smokers and non-smokers will be cooperative, responsible and understanding during this time of transition as the campus-wide policy takes effect. By instituting this policy, our University joins more than 1,400 colleges and universities across the country that have become smoke-free.
22 Student-Athletes Receive Diplomas at Winter Commencement
Twenty-two Crimson Tide student-athletes received their degrees last Saturday at winter commencement in Coleman Coliseum, including 14 members of the Crimson Tide’s 2014 Southeastern Conference champion football team. Seven football student-athletes (All-SEC linebacker Trey Depriest, Christion Jones, D.J. Pettway, Malcolm Faciane, Isaac Luatua, Leon Brown and Josh Dickerson) earned bachelor’s degrees. Seven others (All-SEC offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, Jalston Fowler, All-SEC offensive lineman Austin Shepherd, Brian Vogler, Nick Perry, Daniel Geddes and MK Taylor) earned their master’s degrees.
Arie Kouandjio, who was named a Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American earlier this month, leads the list of 22 Crimson Tide players who will have their degrees in hand when Alabama takes the field against Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. Seven-time All-America gymnast Diandra Milliner, a member of our 2011 and 2012 NCAA Championship squads, the 2013 NCAA vault champion and seven-time All-American, received her degree, as did All-American swimmer Vlad Caciuc. Swimmers Hunter Hinson, Stephanie Kinsey and George Wong, Hannah Merrill (rowing), Caitlin Bernardin (volleyball) and Claire Turner (track and field) also received their diplomas.
That’s an impressive group of student-athletes, young men and women who have applied themselves in the classroom and in competition. They have made the most of the opportunities that college athletics provides while giving us all plenty to be proud. I want to pass along my personal congratulations to each one of them, as well as to their parents and families.
Amazing Amari Earns a National Honor
Our incredible junior wide receiver, Amari Cooper, is the winner of the 2014 Biletnikoff Award as the outstanding receiver in college football regardless of position. That honor is richly deserved and comes as no surprise to any of us who have watched him wear the Alabama uniform over the last three seasons. Last weekend, Amari was one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, finishing third in the voting and representing our University and our football team in a classy and dignified manner throughout the week.
Amari has handled himself with dignity, class, and humility throughout his career at Alabama. I have been especially impressed with how he has handled success all season and especially during the recent Biletnikoff and Heisman Award ceremonies. We are grateful for his contributions to Alabama on and off the field.
• Coach Anthony Grant’s MEN’S BASKETBALL team is 6-3 on the season after a win over Tennessee Tech (recap here) last Saturday night in Coleman Coliseum and a tough loss at 11th-ranked Wichita State (recap here) on Tuesday night. Our team this year is very different from last year’s team. I was impressed with our effort and ability in an extremely difficult environment at Wichita State, and believe that experience will make us better in the future. The Tide hosts two games this weekend – on Friday against Stillman (6 p.m. tipoff) and on Sunday against Appalachian State (6:30 p.m. tipoff) – before taking a week off for the holidays and hosting UCLA on Sunday, Dec. 28, at 5:30 p.m.
• Coach Kristy Curry’s WOMEN’S BASKETBALL team stands 9-4 this season after a disappointing loss to Mercer (recap here) on Sunday at Foster Auditorium and a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (recap here) on Tuesday in Coleman Coliseum. More than 4,200 attended Tuesday’s game against UAPB, many of them very excited fifth graders from around Tuscaloosa who came to lend their very vocal support to our team as part of our annual Fifth Grade Fastbreak game.
• Two members of Coach Ed Allen’s VOLLEYBALL team – junior setter Sierra Wilson and redshirt sophomore right side hitter Krystal Rivers – have been named CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, with Sierra named to the First Team and Krystal named to the Third Team (read more here). This is the first time in the program’s history to have multiple Academic All-Americans and these two outstanding young ladies are our first volleyball honorees since 2001. This season, Alabama is the only SEC school to produce volleyball Academic All-Americans, and just one of two schools in the `Power Five’ conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) to place a student-athlete on the first team, along with Washington’s Krista Vansant, who was named the Academic All-American of the Year. Sierra has a 4.0 grade-point average (GPA) as an english and political science major and is the only junior on the first team and one of just four Academic All-Americans who are not seniors. Krystal has a 3.98 GPA as a biology major.
Here’s a summary of athletics events over the next several days (times listed are for the location of the event):
Wednesday, December 17
|All Day||Diving||at LSU Diving Invitational||Baton Rouge, La.|
Thursday, December 18
|All Day||Diving||at LSU Diving Invitational||Baton Rouge, La.|
Friday, December 19
|6 p.m. CT||Men’s Basketball||Stillman||Coleman Coliseum|
Sunday, December 21
|2 p.m. CT||Women’s Basketball||New Orleans||Foster Auditorium|
|6:30 p.m. CT||Men’s Basketball||Appalachian State||Coleman Coliseum|
Sunday, December 28
|2 p.m. CT||Women’s Basketball||Mississippi Valley State||Foster Auditorium|
|5:30 p.m. CT||Men’s Basketball||UCLA||Coleman Coliseum|
Catch Alabama Athletics on The SEC Network
Here’s a summary of our athletic events to be televised over the next week on The SEC Network and its platforms. Read this schedule closely as some events can be seen via SEC Network +, which is available online via ESPN3 here. If you can’t make it to our games in person, catch us on radio or TV.
(All times listed are Central Time)
Friday, December 19
|6 p.m.||Men’s Basketball vs. Stillman||SEC Network +|
Saturday, December 20
|2 p.m.||SEC IN 60: Alabama||SEC Network|
Sunday, December 21
|2 p.m.||Women’s Basketball vs. New Orleans||SEC Network +|
|5:30 p.m.||Men’s Basketball vs. Appalachian State||SEC Network|
Monday, December 22
|2 a.m.||REPLAY: Men’s Basketball vs. Appalachian State||SEC Network|
|11 a.m.||REPLAY: Men’s Basketball vs. Appalachian State||SEC Network|
Wednesday, December 24
|11:30 p.m.||REPLAY: 2014 Football at Ole Miss||SEC Network|
Friday, December 26
|11:30 p.m.||REPLAY: 2014 Football vs. Auburn||SEC Network|
Saturday, December 27
|1 a.m.||REPLAY: 2014 Football vs. Auburn||SEC Network|
Sunday, December 28
|11 p.m.||TAPE DELAY: Men’s Basketball vs. UCLA||SEC Network|
Monday, December 29
|11 a.m.||REPLAY: Men’s Basketball vs. UCLA||SEC Network|
On behalf of the entire department, I extend to you my best wishes to you and your families during this meaningful part of the year. Thanks for all you do for our great University. It takes all of us to Keep the Tide Rising.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!