The Battle Plan

March 19, 2014

The Importance of Student Support

Our new right field section at the Champions Plaza has been a rousing success, and it is a tremendous example of the positive effect that student support can have at our athletic events. I cannot overstate the tremendous benefit that strong, vocal and consistent support by our students can provide for our teams, and the difference it can make in our teams' success.

That support has been obvious in recent weeks at our baseball games at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The new section behind right field has been everything we hoped it would be, and it got there sooner than we expected. The area has been great for students and the team while also having a transformative effect on the atmosphere throughout the entire stadium. While we have made some minor adjustments to ensure that we achieve a balance between our students having fun and the danger of creating headlines that don't make us proud, we have received great cooperation from Student Government Association (SGA) President Jimmy Taylor , the Greek community, and our general student body in making this new fan section a tremendous success. We will continue to make it a work in progress to make it and the rest of our stadium the best in college baseball.

Enthusiasm and positive energy is contagious. It can quickly spread through a small section of the stadium to other parts, and then the whole stadium, and ultimately the student body and fan base. How can our teams not be affected by that? They have been, and our baseball team has shown their appreciation by thanking the fans verbally and by rushing to the outfield after games for high fives, hugs and handshakes. Our teams do notice how many fans attend our games and how passionate they are in support.

And, by the way, it has been clearly illustrated that fans can actually help make walk-off home runs happen (as was the case last weekend in that dramatic win over Kentucky!). It happens regularly at football and softball games, gymnastics meets and tennis matches. It can happen in every sport. So let's figure out a way for students with an interest in a sport, to get themselves and their friends engaged more directly in that sport, and to help make a difference in the overall experience and the outcome.

Our next challenge in baseball is in how to find another site inside the stadium that we can make cool enough to compete with the right field section when it fills up. Heck, let's make the whole stadium look like that! So come on out, students, and be a factor in the outcome, regardless of where you are seated. There is plenty of room in our stadium now for lots of groups to gather. We may need to be creative in seating but, like I said earlier, it's a work in progress and in many of our venues, we can start with a clean sheet of paper. We want all our sports venues to be fun, exciting, entertaining, and most of all supportive of our teams.

Track & Field Making an Impact

In just three short seasons under the leadership of coach Dan Waters and his excellent staff, our track and field program has made tremendous progress in developing into a complete team that is strong in all facets. The progress made is truly remarkable, and the hard evidence of that came into full view last weekend at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque.

Two Crimson Tide athletes - men's sprinter Diondre Batson and women's sprinter Remona Burchell - won individual national titles. Diondre won the gold in the men's 200 meters and finished third in the 60-meter dash, while Remona won the women's 60-meter dash. Diondre shattered the school record in the 200 with a time of 20.32, the sixth-fastest in NCAA history and the fastest time in the world in 2014, while also winning Alabama's first 200-meter indoor national title. Remona became the first woman in school history to win an indoor national championship in the 60, doing so in a school record-setting 7.11, earning the first indoor title by an Alabama woman in any event since 1989. While setting the school record, her time is the second-best time in NCAA history.

Overall, the men's team earned its best NCAA indoor finish since 2002 by tying for sixth place in the team standings while the women's team finished 19th, the first top-20 showing by our women's team since 1995. Overall, all 10 Alabama athletes that competed at the NCAA meet earned either first-team or second-team All-America honors. We had the fifth-most athletes competing at the meet of any school in the nation, from sprinters to jumpers to pole vaulters to throwers. That's the kind of depth and diversity that a true team showcases. To see that variety on display at the national meet is an impressive indicator of the progress that Dan, his staff and the student-athletes have made.

This weekend we host the John Mitchell Alabama Relays at the Sam Bailey Track Stadium. Action starts on Thursday and things heat up on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. We have some outstanding young athletes competing and they would love your support. If you have never been to a collegiate track meet, it is a great experience. Excellent athletes are competing in a variety of events and showcasing incredible skills. I urge you to check it out, learn about the events, the athletes and the scoring. The weather is expected to be nice, so make your way out to support the Tide!

SEC Gymnastics Championships This Weekend in Birmingham

There's another great opportunity for you to help one of our teams earn an SEC title this weekend. The SEC Gymnastics Championships will be held this Saturday and Sunday in Birmingham at the BJCC. The Crimson Tide will compete in the second session this Saturday starting at 6:00 p.m. Please make plans to have the BJCC covered in crimson-clad fans in support of coach Sarah Patterson and her team. Tickets can be ordered via this link at http://gymnasticschamps.com/

Also, please remember that the NCAA Gymnastics Championships likewise will be held in Birmingham at the BJCC. The NCAA team competition will be held on Friday-Saturday, April 18-19, with the individual event finals slated for Sunday, April 20. Keep that in mind, as the Tide continues striving to get back for a shot at another national championship. NCAA tickets also are available at http://gymnasticschamps.com/, so hurry and order yours today. We are very fortunate to have the NCAA championship in our backyard this year. Let's make sure our great gymnasts enjoy a strong home court advantage that will propel them to their seventh national championship.

More Academic Success

We are all so accustomed to reading about the tremendous academic performance of our student-athletes, that I think our fans may sometimes take for granted how much they have accomplished over so many years. I certainly don't! It was recently reported by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America that our women's swimming and diving team posted the highest team grade-point average in the nation this fall while the Crimson Tide men were ranked in the top 25 among NCAA Division I programs. The Tide women posted a 3.60 team GPA in the fall, finishing .05 ahead of three schools that tied for second place. The Tide men earned a 3.21 team GPA in the fall semester, which ranks them first in the Southeastern Conference and 25th among NCAA Division I schools. Kudos to our coaches, led by head coach Dennis Pursley, and our excellent academics staff, led by Associate Athletics Director for Academic Services Jon Dever, as well as our hard-working student-athletes!

This Weekend's Activities

We have tremendous venues on campus to watch events. If you've never been to a track meet or gymnastics meet, you should not miss out on these upcoming events. I think you will be entertained and want to come back again. Here's a summary of this weekend's action:

Thursday, March 20
TimeSportOpponentLocation
1 p.m. Track & Field Alabama Relays Tuscaloosa
All Day Swimming & Diving NCAA Championships Minneapolis, Minn.

Friday, March 21
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
3 p.m. Men's Tennis South Carolina Columbia, S.C.
5 p.m. Softball Florida Gainesville, Fla.
5 p.m. Women's Tennis South Carolina Tuscaloosa
6:35 p.m. Baseball Arkansas Fayetteville, Ark.
All Day Swimming & Diving NCAA Championships Minneapolis, Minn.
All Day Track & Field Alabama Relays Tuscaloosa

Saturday, March 22
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
12 p.m. Softball Florida Gainesville, Fla.
2:05 p.m. Baseball Arkansas Fayetteville, Ark.
6 p.m. Gymnastics SEC Championships Birmingham
All Day Men's Golf Linger Longer Invite Greensboro, Ga.
All Day Rowing Sacramento Open Sacramento, Calif.
All Day Swimming & Diving NCAA Championships Minneapolis, Minn.
All Day Track & Field Alabama Relays Tuscaloosa
Sunday, March 23
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
12 p.m. Softball Florida Gainesville, Fla.
1 p.m. Women's Tennis Florida Tuscaloosa
1 p.m. Men's Tennis Florida Gainesville, Fla.
1:05 p.m. Baseball Arkansas Fayetteville, Ark.
All Day Men's Golf Linger Longer Invite Greensboro, Ga.
All Day Rowing Sacramento Open Sacramento, Calif.
All Day Swimming & Diving NCAA Championships Minneapolis, Minn.

If you are in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Ga., Minneapolis, Sacramento or Gainesville, please get out and support the Tide. Let's do all we can do to Keep the Tide Rising!

     
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