Jan. 7, 2015
Strong Leadership Made a Special Season Possible
Happy New Year! 2014 was an outstanding year for the Crimson Tide. SEC championships in football, men’s golf, gymnastics, women’s tennis, and softball were brought home to the Capstone. Academic and community service accolades exceeded athletic accomplishments. 2014 was, indeed, a good year!
Our football season ended in New Orleans on a disappointing note but, to me, there is absolutely no disappointment in our team. My only disappointment is that time ran out on us before we retook the lead. Hats off to the Buckeyes. They are a very good team and we wish them well in next week’s championship game.
This year’s College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl may have been the most exciting game of the season, as evidenced by viewership totaling 28.3 million viewers, the largest cable television audience in history. Two elite heavyweight football teams representing two outstanding educational institutions and two proud fan bases went back and forth for 60 minutes. The physicality of the game was ferocious. It was not a place for the faint of heart. The game was not decided until the very last play.
The “winning edge” is a razor-thin line. With each game from the Ole Miss game on, the margin for error for this year’s Crimson Tide grew slimmer and slimmer. I am extremely proud of this team, this coaching staff, and our tremendous fan base. We had a lot of talent on this team. We had some weak spots as well, due to losses from graduation and six juniors leaving early last year to go to the NFL. In my view, this team overachieved as it fought through the meat grinder schedule of the SEC Western Division to win the conference championship.
The mark of great teams is that, when someone falters, another steps up to take his place. We had many different heroes emerge throughout this season. We had our All-Americans, but we also had lesser-known players who made plays throughout the season to lead us to the SEC championship and the first College Football Playoff.
I would like to congratulate four players, in particular, who were chosen by their teammates and coaches as the captains of the 2014 Crimson Tide football team: Landon Collins, Amari Cooper, Jalston Fowler, and Blake Sims. Each contributed significantly to this team’s championship run; each made plays on the field throughout the season that led to victories; and each provided strong leadership on and off the field to keep the team close and focused. It took strong leadership to get this squad through the difficult spots we faced throughout the season.
The leadership by our captains, and many others who developed a “refuse to lose” spirit, is why this 2014 team will go down as one of my all-time favorite Alabama teams.
With the postseason coming to a close, it bears noting that the overall strength of the SEC has proven itself, yet again. However, this year that proof did not develop as many observers thought it would. It is amusing to me to hear people questioning the strength of the SEC West after the bowl season. While pundits have focused on the SEC teams that did not win their bowl games this year, it should be noted that the SEC this year tied its own NCAA single-season record for bowl wins by a conference with seven, matching a record previously set by the SEC in 2007 and 2013. The SEC leads the nation in bowl victories this postseason and ranks second among the “Power Five” conferences in bowl winning percentage in the first year of the College Football Playoff era. The SEC sent an NCAA-record 12 teams to postseason bowl games in 2014.
Congratulations go to Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M for winning their bowl games against non-SEC opponents. I feel fairly confident that not many would have made it through unscathed over the last half of the season against the likes of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn and Alabama. In my opinion, the SEC still is the strongest league in the country. I know that every team in the conference already is hard at work figuring out how to reach next year’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
• Coach Anthony Grant’s MEN’S BASKETBALL team is playing its best basketball of the season right now. Alabama has won five straight games to improve to 11-3 after closing out a season-long five-game homestand on Tuesday night with an impressive 65-44 win over Texas A&M (recap here) in the SEC opener for both teams. The Crimson Tide led pretty much the entire game while moving to 10-0 this season in Coleman Coliseum. Senior guard Levi Randolph leads the Crimson Tide in scoring (15.7 ppg), assists (2.9 apg), steals (1.6) and minutes (32.8 mpg) through the first 14 games of the season. Junior guard Ricky Tarrant ranks second on the team with 13.2 points per game, while also leading the squad in three-pointers made (19) and attempted (65). Senior guard Rodney Cooper is third on the team in scoring with 10.5 points per game this season and ranks second on the team in three-pointers made (18) and three-point shooting (39.1 percent). As a team, the Tide is outscoring the opposition by 8.2 points per game (71.6-63.4). Alabama owns a narrow +0.9 advantage on the glass (34.4-33.5), while also averaging 7.9 steals and 3.9 blocks per game. Prior to the win over the Aggies, the Tide went 4-0 over the holiday break with wins over Stillman (recap here), Appalachian State (recap here), UCLA (recap here) and North Florida (recap here).
• Coach Kristy Curry’s WOMEN’S BASKETBALL team is 11-6 this season, 0-2 in SEC action, after a tough home loss to 11th-ranked Kentucky (66-78 on Jan. 2) (recap here) and at 19th-ranked Georgia (47-64 on Jan. 4) (recap here). The SEC may be the nation’s toughest conference this season with six schools currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (No. 1 South Carolina, 7-Tennessee, 9-Texas A&M, 10-Kentucky, 14-Mississippi State, and 20-Georgia) and a seventh team that is receiving votes (Arkansas). The Tide split four games since my last blog entry, defeating New Orleans on Dec. 21 (87-58; recap here) and Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 28 (71-40; recap here) before falling to the Wildcats and Bulldogs to start SEC play. Top-ranked South Carolina comes to Foster Auditorium this Thursday night with tipoff slated for 6 p.m.
• A new era in Crimson Tide GYMNASTICS begins this Friday night as head coach Dana Duckworth and the 2015 Crimson Tide start their season at 7 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum against 21st-ranked Arizona of the Pac-12 Conference. Friday’s meet will be streamed on SEC Network + and can be found at WatchESPN.com or the WatchESPN app. The SEC Network provides all our teams with unprecedented national exposure. However, with that exposure comes a different timeline for our events. You will want to be in Coleman Coliseum at the published start time of 7 p.m. so as not to miss out on “The Show before The Big Show”: pre-meet entertainment, exciting giveaways and our traditional lights-out introductions with videos, music and fireworks. Our gymnastics meets are family-friendly, affordable entertainment for families and students. Tickets for all of our home meets are on sale through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum and online at RollTide.com.
• As the spring semester begins, please keep in mind the following opening days for our spring sports upcoming over the next several weeks:
|Gymnastics||Friday, Jan. 9||vs. Arizona|| |
|Women’s Tennis||Friday-Sunday, Jan. 16-18||vs. Georgia Tech, Northwestern & Yale|| |
|Track & Field||Saturday, Jan. 17||at Auburn Indoor Invitational||Birmingham|
|Men’s Tennis||Monday, Jan. 19||vs. Samford and UAB|| |
|Softball||Thursday, Feb. 5||at South Alabama||Mobile|
|Women’s Golf||Sunday-Tuesday, Feb. 8-10||at Northrop Grumman Challenge||Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.|
|Baseball||Friday, Feb. 13||vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore||Hoover|
|Men’s Golf||Sunday-Tuesday, Feb. 22-24||at Puerto Rico Classic||Rio Grande, Puerto Rico|
Here’s a summary of athletics events over the next several days (times listed are for the location of the event):
Thursday, January 8
|6 p.m. CT||Women’s Basketball||South Carolina||Foster Auditorium|
Friday, January 9
|1 p.m. CT||Swimming & Diving||at Texas A&M||College Station, Texas|
|7 p.m. CT||Gymnastics||Arizona||Coleman Coliseum|
Saturday, January 10
|1 p.m. ET||Men’s Basketball||at Tennessee||Knoxville, Tenn.|
Sunday, January 11
|2 p.m. CT||Women’s Basketball||at Ole Miss||Oxford, Miss.|
Tuesday, January 13
|8 p.m. ET||Men’s Basketball||at South Carolina||Columbia, S.C.|
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)
Wednesday, January 7
|12:30 p.m.||REPLAY: Men’s Basketball vs. Texas A&M||SEC Network|
Thursday, January 8
|6 p.m.||Women’s Basketball vs. South Carolina||SEC Network +|
Friday, January 9
|7:30 p.m.||Gymnastics vs. Arizona||SEC Network +|
Saturday, January 10
|1 p.m.||Men’s Basketball at Tennessee||SEC Network|
Sunday, January 11
|2 p.m.||Women’s Basketball at Ole Miss||SEC Network +|
So, with 2014 in the rear view mirror, the football staff already is focused on finishing another successful recruiting class and preparing for the 2015 season. The SEC portion of the basketball schedule is underway. Our gymnastics team debuts Friday night against No. 21 Arizona. Baseball, golf, softball, swimming and diving, rowing, tennis, and track and field will all crank up soon.
It is my hope that you all enjoyed the holidays, and I hope that 2015 is a great year for all the Bama Nation. Our teams need your support, so please plan to attend to do your part! A rising tide lifts all boats and it’s up to all of us to Keep the Tide Rising!