The Battle Plan

April 10, 2014

MEETING OUTSTANDING STUDENTS FROM AROUND THE S.E.C.

Last week the University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Commerce hosted the 2014 SEC MBA Case Competition on Saturday afternoon. This competition is part of the SEC's SEC-U initiative designed to raise awareness of academic excellence of the league's schools.

On Friday morning, a team of four MBA students from every SEC university was presented a business case from an event sponsor. The teams were separated into four divisions, met around the clock to prepare their solutions, and made their presentations to a panel of business executives on Saturday morning in divisional rounds. The top proposals from each of the four divisions moved on to the final round that determined the winner of the competition.

While the students were busily engaged in the competition, I was asked to speak to the group of advisors representing all 14 SEC institutions regarding my business experience with the Collegiate Licensing Company and now as the Athletics Director at Alabama. In addition, Coach Saban met with the group's Alabama advisor for about 45 minutes and recorded an on-camera interview that was shown to the competitors and advisors during the opening event at Bryant-Denny Stadium. His talk centered on the commonalities between success in athletics, business and academics.

Coach Saban does many things of this type that go unnoticed and unpublicized, and his effort to take the time to devote is evidence of his commitment to helping young people. That effort definitely transcends the confines of his role as our football coach.

The SEC is doing great work in areas outside of athletics that don't get much attention. After our experience last week, I plan to highlight more of these in upcoming blogs.

RECOGNITION FOR Kristy Curry

Congratulations to our women's basketball coach, Kristy Curry, who has been named the 2014 recipient of the Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award, presented by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The award recognizes a women's basketball coach who has coached according to Biblical principles, and to the heart, body and mind of the athlete. Kristy took over the women's basketball program prior to the 2013-14 season and has made significant progress in turning it around.

But the thing about Kristy that struck me throughout the interview process last year was her genuine nature and her love for her family, university, community and, especially, for the student-athletes in her charge. It is very gratifying to see Kristy recognized nationally for not only being an excellent coach but an outstanding person.

NATIONAL RANKINGS UPDATE: 6 TEAMS IN THE TOP 10!

Seven of our 10 teams currently active are ranked in the top 20 nationally of their respective sports this week, including an incredible six teams ranked in the top 10 while all seven are ranked 11th or better. Here's a look at Alabama teams that are nationally-ranked this week:

Team Rank
Men's Golf1st
Softball2nd
Gymnastics4th
Baseball9th
Women's Tennis9th
Men's Track9th
Women's Golf11th

HITTING ON ALL CYLINDERS

Our impressive spring sports season continues. Here's an update:

* Coach Sarah Patterson reached an incredible career milestone last weekend, earning her 1,000th victory as a head coach as the Crimson Tide GYMNASTICS team won the NCAA Regional championship in Seattle. Sarah is only the second coach in collegiate gymnastics to earn 1,000 wins and she is the fastest to reach that total, getting there in the 12th meet of her 36th season. Utah head coach Greg Marsden, who passed the 1,000 win barrier earlier this season, did so in the fourth meet of his 39th season as head coach.

The regional crown is Alabama's 29th, the most of any school in the country, and came against stiff competition by Nebraska among a field of six schools. Senior Kim Jacob led the way with a 39.500 in the all-around while fellow senior Sarah DeMeo scored a 39.425 in her first all-around appearance since Feb. 14. Freshman Katie Bailey scored a 39.400 in the all-around, her second highest score of her season.

The victory enabled the Tide to advance to the NCAA Championships which will be held April 18-20 in Birmingham. The Tide will compete in the evening session of the NCAA Championships Semifinals on Friday, April 18, in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center (BJCC) starting at 7 p.m. central time. The Crimson Tide will face defending NCAA champion Florida as well as past champions Utah, UCLA, Penn State and Nebraska in the semifinal round. LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, Stanford, Michigan and Illinois compete in the first semifinal session on Friday starting at 1 p.m. CT. Three teams from each semifinal round will advance to the finals on Saturday starting at 6 p.m.

* Coach Patrick Murphy's SOFTBALL team continues to climb up the rankings at No. 2 this week after another sweep of an SEC series, this time over Arkansas at Rhoads Stadium last Friday-Saturday. The Tide earned a No. 2 spot in this week's ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and a No. 3 spot in the USA Today/NFCA rankings, in addition to holding the No. 1 spot nationally in the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). The Tide is 36-5 overall this season and 14-1 in SEC action. The team is undefeated in nine SEC home games.

The Tide picked up a win last week over No. 11 South Alabama (3-0) before taking three games from the Razorbacks by scores of 8-0, 12-1 and 4-3. Alabama remains atop the SEC standings and has swept four of its five SEC opponents so far this season. The 14-1 conference record is its best SEC record through 15 games since the 2006 season.

Leona Lafaele (first base) went 6-for-8 at the plate against Arkansas with nine RBI, driving in more than twice as many runs as the entire Arkansas offense. Leona had a career-high four RBI in Friday's game, hitting her first career triple. Pitcher Jaclyn Traina went 2-0 against the Hogs, allowing three earned runs over 12.2 innings pitched with eight strikeouts. She earned her first win of the weekend on Friday, throwing 5.0 shutout innings in the team's run-rule victory. In game two on Saturday, she threw 6.1 innings, exiting with the lead, but re-entered the game with the potential go-ahead run at first base to force the final out of the game and secure the series sweep. She is now 15-2 this season and has won 12 straight starts. Outfielder Andrea Hawkins went 6-for-12 at the plate last week with a double and three RBI.

* The Crimson Tide BASEBALL team is in the midst of a strong season as the Tide has moved into the top 10 of the Collegiate Baseball rankings at No. 9, marking the first time since 2009 that Alabama has been so highly ranked. We picked up a big SEC series win last weekend at Texas A&M by winning two of three games over the Aggies. The Tide is 22-1 this season when scoring more than three runs in a game and is off to a 22-10 start while going 8-4 in SEC play.

Third baseman Chance Vincent had an outstanding week, hitting .462 with six hits in 13 at-bats while batting in four runs. Chance was 5-for-9 (.556) in the Texas A&M series, scoring four runs and knocking in four more against the Aggies. Relief pitcher Thomas Burrows was excellent on the mound last week picking up two saves in three appearances while retiring all nine batters he faced in three innings of work, including two flawless appearances in the A&M series as he closed out both wins over the Aggies. Freshman left fielder Hunter Webb drove in the winning run with a double in the ninth inning of the series finale at A&M. Hunter hit .417 in four games last week and had key RBI in the A&M series.

* Coach Jenny Mainz's WOMEN'S TENNIS team is ranked ninth nationally now, and the Tide picked up two more victories over the weekend. The team knocked off 10th-ranked Texas A&M, 4-1 on Friday, then closed out the weekend on Sunday with a 4-0 win over Missouri on Senior Day. The team honored their lone senior, Mary Anne Daines, on Sunday and finished the home portion of their regular season schedule with an unbeaten record.

The Tide is 18-3 overall this season and 10-1 in SEC action. They will close out the regular season on the road this weekend, playing at Georgia on Friday and at Tennessee on Sunday. Friday's match against the Bulldogs will start at 4 p.m. CT, while Sunday's match versus the Lady Volunteers is slated to begin at Noon CT.

* Our top-ranked MEN'S GOLF team returned to the win column on Sunday with a nine-shot victory at the Mason Rudolph Championship at the Vanderbilt Legends Club near Nashville. The Tide shot 12-under-par 272 in the final round to overcome Vanderbilt's two-shot lead entering the day, winning by nine strokes for our sixth win of the season. Freshman Robby Shelton and senior Bobby Wyatt keyed the Tide on Sunday with a pair of 4-under-par 67s. Sophomore Tom Lovelady shot 68 in the final round to earn an eighth-place finish at even-par 213. He also scorched the backside with five birdies in his final eight holes! Trey Mullinax carded a 1-under 70 on Sunday to finish at 2-over 215 in a tie for 12th. Cory Whitsett's 72 was dropped from the team score Sunday, and he finished tied for 17th at 3-over 216.

Coach Jay Seawell's squad now takes some time off until the start of the SEC Championships on April 25-27 on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simon's Island, Ga. Alabama has won the last two SEC titles and will be looking for the fifth SEC men's golf crown in school history.

* Coach Mic Potter's WOMEN'S GOLF team dropped a 3-2 decision to Auburn on Sunday in the final round of match play at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic at the University of Georgia Golf Course to finish sixth. Before the Tide could get their final match underway Sunday morning, they had to finish their second match from Saturday that was called due to darkness.

Janie Jackson was 1 down with one hole to play when her match resumed and she won the hole to halve the match. The match finished tied at 2.5 each and the Tide earned the win based on margin of victory to move on and face Auburn in the fifth-place match. Against the Tigers, Hannah Collier led the team with a victory in which she prevailed on the fourth, sixth, seventh, ninth and 14th holes. Janie never lost a hole Sunday and finished match play with a perfect 3-0 record.

Coach Potter's team is in its usual place among the nation's best, and this team is starting to round into form. It will be exciting and interesting to see how they fare with the SEC Tournament coming up on the weekend of April 18-20.

* Our TRACK & FIELD team won 18 events and set seven meet records while winning the men's team title on Saturday at the Crimson Tide Invitational in Tuscaloosa. The men's team netted 11 event victories and finished first in the team standings with 165 points while Penn State scored 115 points to finish second, and Louisville placed third with 86 points. The women's team earned a runner-up finish with seven event victories and 125 points while Penn State topped the women's team standings with 164.5 points and Florida State took third with 74 points.

Coach Dan Waters' team continues to develop as the outdoor season progresses. Star sprinter Diondre Batson made his outdoor debut last Saturday with a 200-meter victory in which he ran 20.49 seconds and made it look easy. As has become commonplace recently, our athletes set numerous personal bests and posted victories in all facets - the sprints, the throws and the jumps.

Alabama continues its outdoor season this Friday with the Border Clash in Tuscaloosa, a cooperative team scoring meet in which three Alabama schools compete as one against schools from the state of Mississippi. Head out to the Sam Bailey Track Complex on Friday evening to take in this unusual event as Alabama teams up with Auburn and Samford to take on Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.

* Our MEN'S TENNIS team currently is ranked just a few spots outside the national top 25. Coach George Husack continues to rebuild our program and has made significant strides. Last Friday night, the Tide lost a tough match at No. 10 Texas A&M, a loss that dropped our record to 11-12 overall and 4-6 in SEC play. Our team needs your support in its final three home matches of the regular season, all of which will take place this weekend as we host Georgia this Friday and Tennessee and Nicholls State on Sunday.

* Our ROWING team hosted a regatta last Saturday morning on the Black Warrior River against SMU and Eastern Michigan, earning wins in three of the four races. Coach Larry Davis's team continues to improve and is in the midst of its most successful season yet. The Tide continues its season next weekend in Camden, N.J., at the Knecht Cup Regatta.

THIS WEEKEND'S ACTION

Our busy spring schedule continues this weekend. We have a big baseball series with the Auburn Tigers at The Joe, so come out and support Coach Gaspard and the Tide. This weekend we host events on campus in baseball, men's tennis and track & field. All of these teams are in crucial parts of their seasons, so they definitely need your presence and support. Here's a summary of this weekend's action (times listed are for the location of the event):

Friday, April 11

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
5 p.m.Women's TennisGeorgiaAthens, Ga.
5 p.m.Men's TennisGeorgiaTuscaloosa
5 p.m.SoftballMississippi StateStarkville, Miss.
5 p.m.Track & FieldBorder ClashTuscaloosa
6:35 p.m.BaseballAuburnTuscaloosa

Saturday, April 12

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
6 p.m.SoftballMississippi StateStarkville, Miss.
6:05 p.m.BaseballAuburnTuscaloosa
All DayRowingKnecht Cup RegattaWest Windsor, N.J.

Sunday, April 13

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
1 p.m.SoftballMississippi StateStarkville, Miss.
1 p.m.Women's TennisTennesseeKnoxville, Tenn.
1 p.m.Men's TennisTennesseeTuscaloosa
1:05 p.m.BaseballAuburnTuscaloosa
6 p.m.Men's TennisNicholls StateTuscaloosa
All DayRowingKnecht Cup RegattaWest Windsor, N.J.

If you are in Tuscaloosa, Athens, Starkville, Knoxville or West Windsor, N.J., please get out and support the Tide. Let's do all we can do to Keep the Tide Rising!

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