The Battle Plan

Jan. 8, 2014

Happy New Year!

While it is easy to view the Sugar Bowl trip as disappointing in the sense that we were so close to reaching our ultimate goal of playing in Pasadena for the national championship, to me it was very special. This marked my third trip to the Sugar Bowl with a team. The first was as a player after the 1961 season, the second as a coach after the 1970 season, and the third was this year as an Athletic Director.

My perspective on each trip was extremely different, but each one was very exciting and educational. Our trip this year illustrated to me the tremendous amount of effort and preparation that goes on all year from the Sugar Bowl Committee and the City of New Orleans. The Sugar Bowl Experience for Alabama fans, coaches, players and staff is always at the top of the heap.

In addition, I never realized the magnitude of effort and preparation required by our athletic department staff to mobilize our entire operation, on very short notice, and move it to New Orleans to continue to operate at full speed for a week without missing a beat. It required an advance team to go down, set up before and during Christmas, and have everything ready for the team to arrive on the 27th. Fortunately, our staff has incredible experience in managing big-time events at home and away, and they made a very difficult job look easy again this year.

And, of course, the coaching staff and team are also accustomed to bowl games and championship games. But I doubt many people understand the commitment of time and effort that goes into these events on their parts. Players are preparing for, and taking, final exams. Coaches are studying tapes and organizing practices to prepare for the game. But they are also preparing to spend time on fundamental football skills, and to work with young players to give them a jump start on next year, if not in the Bowl game.

All the while recruiting - the life blood of every sports team - is full speed ahead. Coaches and staff get very little rest pretty much all season, but during this period the pace is brutal. Our coaches were flying all over the country before the recruiting "dead period" started to solidify those who are committed, and convince those still undecided to join our team. At this point, our recruiting is going very well.

And now to the game! It was not the outcome our side anticipated, nor the outcome many even thought possible, but it was competition at the highest level of college football on one of the grandest stages in the game, between two outstanding teams, played before two great groups of fans and seen on national TV by millions.

I was able to watch a lot of practice both before and after the team went to New Orleans. In my opinion, the practices were extremely well-organized and the players worked hard and were focused on winning the game. They were focused during meetings, spirited during practices, and were well-behaved in New Orleans in their down time. From my view, they represented our University very well.

There's no doubt that the game of football is changing. Check out these scores: 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl, 41-31 in the Cotton Bowl, 40-35 in the Orange Bowl, and the losers of the Fiesta Bowl and the SEC Championship games scored 42 points in defeat! Are you kidding me?

Our game went like most hard-fought, competitive games do. The game lived up to the old adage that says, "The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins." Turnovers with our team are uncharacteristic, but they happen to everybody if you play enough games. But even with a 4-1 turnover margin deficit, when Derrick Henry caught a short pass from AJ and took it to the house 61 yards later to make the score 38-31 with 6:22 on the clock, I don't believe there was a fan in the Superdome from Alabama or Oklahoma that didn't believe the Crimson Tide would win.

After the game, Coach Saban told the team how proud he was of the way they competed after falling behind in the first half. And he saluted the seniors for their extraordinary accomplishments at Alabama.

I, for one, as a former player and alumnus, am very proud to be associated with this team and coaching staff. Let's appreciate all the joy this team has brought us with 11 victories and trust that valuable lessons will be learned for the future from two defeats. There are silver linings in every cloud and I trust there will be in this one as well.

Now, let's get on with basketball, gymnastics, baseball, softball, tennis, golf, swimming & diving, track and field, and rowing. Our goals are to get to the NCAAs, win championships, and fill up our venues with passionate fans and supporters. I hope you will get to know our coaches and teams, and come out and support them in true University of Alabama style.

Calendar year 2014 has arrived and each New Year allows us to start with a fresh new slate, even though we are halfway through our school (and fiscal) year. We have an aggressive agenda for 2014, some details of which I plan to share with you in upcoming blogs. I will use my next blog entry to recount the happenings from 2013, many of which you may already be aware of, and, hopefully, a few that you will find pleasantly surprising.

Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year! Let's keep the Tide rising!

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