Nov. 27, 2015
In this week of Thanksgiving, we are thankful for our many blessings, and enjoy spending time (when possible) with family and friends. This year, in addition to that, I am especially thankful to be associated with The University of Alabama and the Southeastern Conference. There is tremendous leadership throughout our University. From Dr. Bob Witt at the system level, to Dr. Stuart Bell at the university level, to Coach Nick Saban and all our outstanding head coaches, assistant coaches, and administrative staff, we are all grateful for the opportunity to work with our 550 student-athletes as we strive to help them become champions in competition in their respective sports, in the classroom, and in life after graduation. We are all blessed to be at this special place at this special time in history.
There’s No Denying It – Iron Bowl Week is a Big Deal
In addition to being Thanksgiving week, it’s also Iron Bowl Week. You can say whatever you want about college football rivalries, but no one who ever played in an Iron Bowl game believes any other rivalry comes close.
I remember the first I played in. It was 1960, my sophomore year. Rules of the game were drastically different than they are today. Substitution was very limited, to the point that a player who entered the game each quarter could only come out twice during that quarter. As a result, coaches had to teach players to play all phases of offense, defense and the kicking game. It was hard for big guys to play in those days, as they had to cover punts and kickoffs as well as play offense and defense. There were two wild cards, so usually the quarterback and, maybe, a linebacker could come in and out of the game as they pleased. Our quarterbacks had to learn how to play safety or cornerback, and our centers played linebacker.
The 1960 Auburn game was a defensive struggle that ended with Alabama winning, 3-0. Strong defense, a good kicking game, and field position football won games in those days. Quick kicks would often occur on first or second downs if teams were backed up deep in their end of the field, and that surprise move could change the field position and the course of the game.
The game today, with unlimited substitution, makes for a much more sophisticated game and allows many more people to play and specialize in certain situations in which their skills can be utilized. It allows for a lot more scoring. I don’t remember seeing a 3-0 game in years, but we had some very low scoring games back in those days. As a matter of fact, our 1961 national and SEC championship team only gave up 25 points the entire season. Alabama played great defense then, too!
Whatever the rules, the records of the teams don’t matter much in these games as adrenaline and emotion add to individual pride, which pumps up underdogs to play at extraordinary levels. Many of the players know each other from high school or all-star games, and that familiarity also fuels competitive juices. The fans cherish the 364 days of bragging rights that go to the victor. It has been said that if people in the state of Alabama didn’t have Alabama and Auburn football to talk about all year, that there wouldn’t be much conversation.
As we reflect on the history of this series, the many great coaches that have walked the sidelines, the numerous great players who executed the game plans and went on to successful careers in sports and life, and the number of fans whose lives have been touched by the competitive nature of the rivalry, we can easily come to the conclusion that Alabama-Auburn Week is a very big deal!
I still miss the atmosphere that existed in the old days when the games were played in Birmingham and Legion Field was “The Football Capital of the South”. One half of the stadium was filled with people dressed in crimson and white attire, and the other half was dressed in orange and blue.
While the atmosphere since the games were moved to the two campuses is still electric, and I totally understand the economic benefits of the change, I feel that the overwhelming home-field fan advantage isn’t nearly as cool to be a part of as the 50/50 split that created the atmosphere back in the day.
This year’s Alabama team has clawed its way back into the College Football Playoff conversation after an early loss to Ole Miss. Coach Saban and his staff have our team playing very well in all phases. They play a tough, physical brand of football and play unselfishly. I still believe our best game is ahead of us and this team is special. Auburn got off to a slow start early in the season and lost some key players during that part of their season that had an impact. It appears that several of the injured have returned, and they are near full strength and playing their best football of the season. It should be a typical Alabama-Auburn game that features hard hitting, excitement and great play.
As with every game at this time of the year, it is truly a “survive and advance” scenario. Our team has played exceptionally well on the road this year, and I look for that to continue as we enter a very hostile environment. Our fans have a way of neutralizing those kinds of environments and we are counting on you to hold your own on Saturday, even though you will be vastly outnumbered.
A Milestone Victory for Avery Johnson and Alabama Basketball
Coach Avery Johnson’s men’s basketball team picked up a signature victory for Coach Johnson and Alabama Basketball earlier today when the Tide knocked off 20th-ranked Wichita State, 64-60, at the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Fla. The game was tight throughout, the teams were never separated by more than five points the entire game. A 5-0 Alabama run at the end of the first half gave the Tide a 32-30 lead at halftime. After Wichita State made a run early in the second half, our three-point shooting created a decisive run with junior Shannon Hale and sophomore Riley Norris hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the final minutes to put the Tide in the lead. Shannon was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points, while Riley finished with 12 points off the bench, and freshman Dazon Ingram added 11 more.
The Crimson Tide opened action in Orlando yesterday against the 23rd-ranked Xavier Musketeers, taking a 64-45 loss. Xavier is one of eight AP Top 25 teams on our 2015-16 schedule (including the second round match-up vs. No. 20 Wichita State). Our mercurial squad scored 105 points in a win over Louisiana last Friday (Nov. 20) at Coleman Coliseum, marking the first time in 10 years (to the day) that a Tide team has scored that many points in a game. We made 15 three pointers in 25 attempts (60 percent) in the win, matching the third-most made threes in a game in program history. It was the most in a game since 2004. Now the Tide moves on to the fifth-place game, which is scheduled for a 6 p.m CT tip on Sunday, Nov. 29, against the winner of the Iowa and Notre Dame matchup. The game will air on ESPNU.
Fulfilling the Mission: The Finest Academic All-Americans
There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a golden age when it comes to Crimson Tide Athletics, and not just competitively, but in the classroom as well. One of the highlights of our academic excellence can be found in the Academic All-American of the Year listings. Gymnast Stephanie Kite became our first Academic All-American of the Year when she earned the honor for the women’s at-large team in 2004. Greg McElroy was then named the Football Academic All-American of the Year in 2010, starting an active streak of six years in a row that a student-athlete from Alabama has earned that honor for their respective sport. Greg was followed by gymnast Kayla Hoffman (2011), golfer Brooke Pancake (2012), Barrett Jones (football, 2013), gymnast Kim Jacob (2014) and Haylie McCleney (softball, 2015). Haylie will have a chance to repeat her title this spring during her senior season. To have seven Academic All-Americans of the Year over the past dozen years – and six in a row – is an amazing feat, and one that should make all of us who cheer on the Crimson Tide extremely proud.
Consider the Crimson Tide Foundation on “Giving Tuesday”, December 1
As you may know, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been designated “Giving Tuesday” – a day to give back to charities and non-profits around the country. For the first time, the Crimson Tide Foundation (CTF) will participate in “Giving Tuesday” on December 1. If you follow the CTF on Twitter or Facebook, you have probably noticed the posts describing the impact our donors’ contributions make on the lives of our student-athletes. Those posts include the hashtag #GiveCrimson. As a former student-athlete, I can attest to how an athletic scholarship can be life changing. We are not just providing a scholarship, we are providing the tools these young people need to build a successful future for themselves.
You can make a difference in the life of a student-athlete and help them create the foundation for a successful future with an education at The University of Alabama and an experience as a Crimson Tide student-athlete. I certainly hope that you will join me on Tuesday, December 1, and #GiveCrimson. The Crimson Tide Foundation will send emails throughout the day with a link for you to donate. You can also go to www.crimsontidefoundation.org and make a donation. Remember, the Athletics Department and our student-athletes need you to show your generosity to the Crimson Tide next Tuesday. Any gift makes a difference. After all, it takes all of us pulling together to keep the Tide Rising! #GIVECRIMSON
Coach Kristy Curry’s team is off to a 4-0 start and faces its first test away from Tuscaloosa this weekend when it plays at the Nugget Classic in Reno, Nev. The Tide will first take on Middle Tennessee, the favorite to win Conference USA, this afternoon before matching up with Utah Valley on Saturday. We’ve been able to score lots of points early on this season and have had at least four players score in double figures in each game. Our sophomore class has been particularly productive, accounting for 215 of the 359 points scored thus far. The Tide will be back at home on Sunday, Dec. 6, hosting Alcorn State at 2 p.m. at Foster Auditorium.
Swimming and Diving
Coach Dennis Pursley’s team enjoyed a very successful weekend at the Georgia Tech Fall Invitational in Atlanta last week, winning 20 events and breaking four school records. Tide swimmers also posted 30 times that stand among the national top 25 spanning 18 individual events, led by junior Anton McKee, who is ranked No. 1 in the 200 breaststroke, and sophomore Luke Kaliszak who is No. 1 in the 100 backstroke. Sophomore Mia Nonnenberg broke a 30-year old school record on the meet’s first day, when she swam a 4:43.98 in the 500 freestyle, bettering Laurence Bensimon’s 1985 mark by more than three seconds. Mia also bettered her own school mark in the 400 individual medley by a second and a half. Senior Emma Saunders also broke a pair of school records, bettering her own mark in the 200 backstroke to 1:53.88, becoming the first UA woman under 1:54. She also broke Ida Persson’s 2009 mark in the 100 freestyle with a 48.89, making Emma the first Alabama woman under 49 seconds. All in all it was a very good three days for this rapidly rising program.
Track & Field
Coach Dan Waters and his staff continue to fill our men’s and women’s track & field rosters with some fine student-athletes, both from the United States and overseas. Among the 23 that the staff added to the 2016-17 signing class during the early signing period were several high school, national, and junior college champions. For the women, a total of 14 signed, including seven distance runners, four sprinters, two throwers and one pole vaulter. Of the nine men who signed, five are sprinters, three are distance runners and one is a thrower. The job that Dan, now in his fifth season, and his staff have done on the recruiting trail since he stepped on campus has been tremendous, and this latest class of outstanding athletes is certainly no exception.
Coach Ed Allen’s squad made its final road trip of the regular season last weekend, earning a three-set win at Georgia on Friday before winning in four sets on Sunday at South Carolina. Despit a loss to Ole Miss on Wednesday night at Foster Auditorium, the team has rebounded from a rough start to stand 17-14 overall, 11-5 in conference play, entering the regular-season closer against LSU. The Tide and the Tigers will square off tonight at Foster with the match slated for a 7 p.m. start. Tonight is senior night for five seniors: Kryssi Daniels, Bruna Evangelista, Laura Steiner, Mattie Weldy and Sierra Wilson. The group was Coach Allen’s first recruiting class at Alabama and have helped facilitate massive growth in the program’s competitiveness and talent in a short period of time. A particularly strong weekend from sophomore Kat Hutson and senior Sierra Wilson helped them earn SEC weekly honors, as Kat was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Sierra was named the Co-Setter of the Week. This is the second time this season that the pair have earned weekly honors in the same week. The SEC announced its annual postseason awards on Wednesday and, for the second straight season, Alabama’s Krystal Rivers and Kat Hutson were both named to the All-SEC team. This is Kat’s second honor in as many seasons and Krystal’s third, making her the first three-time All-SEC player for Alabama since Bridget Fuentez did so from 2005-07. Alabama is one of five SEC teams to place multiple honorees on the list. The future of Alabama volleyball was inked earlier this week as well, as we announced five signees that will join the program next season. Alabama will add junior college transfer Abolanle Onipede (Stafford, Texas – Blinn College) along with Hayley McSparin (Highland, Ill. – Highland HS), Cidavia Hall (Dothan, Ala. – Dothan HS), Alexa Tomlack (Oakland, Mich. – Stoney Creek HS) and Kayla Whitner (Lawrenceville, Ga. – Mountain View HS).
Here’s a summary of athletic events over the next several days (times listed are for the location of the event: CT is Central Time, ET is Eastern Time, MT is Mountain Time, PT is Pacific Time):
Saturday, November 28
|Football||at Auburn||Auburn, Ala.||2:39 p.m. CT|
|Women’s Basketball||vs. Utah Valley||Reno, Nev.||4 p.m. MT|
Sunday, November 29
|Men’s Basketball||Iowa or Notre Dame||Orlando, Fla.||6 p.m. CT|
Wednesday, December 2
|Women’s Basketball||at Tennessee-Martin||Martin, Tenn.||5:30 p.m. ET|
Friday, December 4
|Men’s Basketball||at Southern Mississippi||Hattiesburg, Miss.||7 p.m. CT|
Where to See, Listen and Follow Alabama Sports
Here’s how to follow Crimson Tide teams in action this week via TV, radio, rolltide.com and social media (access a complete listing of Alabama Athletics social media platforms here):
TV: Sunday – ESPNU; Friday – Fox Sports 1
Online Streaming: Sunday – ESPN3
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (check local listings)
Live Stats: www.rolltide.com
Online Streaming: None
Live Stats: www.rolltide.com
TV: CBS Sports
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (check local listings)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 112; XM 190
Live Stats: www.rolltide.com
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. If you can’t make it to our games in person, catch us on radio or TV.
(All times listed are Central Time)
Sunday, November 29
|6:30 p.m.||REPLAY: Football at Auburn||SEC Network|
|9 p.m.||REPLAY: Football at Auburn||SEC Network|
Monday, November 30
|11:30 a.m.||REPLAY: Football at Auburn||SEC Network|
|12 p.m.||Alabama Football Weekly Press Conference||SEC Network + (If Needed)|
Our teams need your support, so please plan to attend to do your part! A rising tide lifts all boats and it takes all of us to Keep the Tide Rising!