TUSCALOOSA, Ala. What a difference five years has made for the University of Alabama Athletic Department. On February 1, 2002, after hearing the somber news that the NCAA had placed the University of Alabama football program on five years probation, Athletics Director Mal Moore had a decision to make.
“When the final word came down from the NCAA, we knew we couldn’t just stand still,” Moore said. “We could not wait until the end of the five-year probation to see where we were and to assess our needs. We had to do everything in our power to make a difference, and we felt that building new facilities and improving existing ones was the best way to do it. If we had waited until the end of the probation, we would have been too far behind.”
Shortly thereafter, under the leadership of Moore, the Board of Trustees, and University administration, the Crimson Tradition facilities campaign was created. A committee of 35 strong financial supporters was formed and a goal of $50 million was set for athletic facilities construction and renovations.
“The committee members knew what was at stake, and they hit the ground running,” Moore said. “They made personal commitments and they led us to many more donors. They spent valuable hours of their time making this a reality. We are truly indebted to them for their time, their sacrifices, and their gifts.”
As the committee began securing gifts, the wheels of progress began churning. New facilities for golf, tennis, and soccer were built. The old Bryant Hall building was gutted and transformed into the state-of-the-art Paul W. Bryant Academic Center. The Athletic Administration Building was remodeled and an adjoining football complex was constructed. A major renovation of Coleman Coliseum and a north end zone expansion to Bryant-Denny Stadium began and were later completed. As all these projects proceeded, donations and pledges came in at a record pace. In only three and a half years, the $50 million goal had been reached.
“After we achieved our initial goal of $50 million,” Moore continued, “the decision was made to go ahead and add another level of skyboxes in the Bryant-Denny Stadium expansion, as well as to build the north end zone plaza area. (UA President) Dr. (Robert E.) Witt gave us permission to re-set the goal to $70 million. He called it our fourth quarter drive.’”
The Athletic Department’s “fourth quarter drive” proved to be the game winner. Prior to Saturday’s record-setting A-Day game, members of the Crimson Tradition committee gathered at a luncheon in their honor to celebrate the official close of the five-year campaign. Shortly before kickoff, the group was given a hearty round of applause in pre-game introductions from the field.
“We finished the campaign with just over $70 million pledged,” Moore said, “and we wanted to honor those committee members who made it happen. Through their gifts, and through the gifts of 500 or so more donors, we reached our goal. Through some dark days, many people stepped up to make a difference, and we greatly appreciate them for it.”
UA President Dr. Robert E. Witt sees the new athletic facilities as a magnet to the Capstone. “With the construction or renovation of seven structures, our athletic programs and facilities are some of the most impressive in, not only the SEC, but the nation,” he said. “They continue to assist us in attracting the best and brightest students, while also bringing members of the UA family back to campus reconnecting with the pride and spirit felt each time the Crimson Tide takes to the playing field.”
Although the Crimson Tradition facilities campaign has ended, it certainly doesn’t signal the end of athletic fundraising. “We’re really just getting started,” Moore said. “The Crimson Tradition campaign served its purpose and provided us with the facilities we so desperately needed. Through the recently formed Crimson Tide Foundation, we will continue to aggressively raise scholarship monies for our more than 500 student-athletes in 21 sports. Many opportunities are ahead for our supporters to help our Athletic Department.”
Crimson Tradition committee members recognized at A-Day were Owen Aronov of Montgomery; Randy Billingsley of Mobile; Paul W. Bryant Jr. of Tuscaloosa; S.T. Bunn Jr. of Tuscaloosa; Terry Bunn of Tuscaloosa; Angus Cooper II of Mobile; Allen Cox of Spanish Fort; Garry Neil Drummond of Birmingham; Jerry Duncan of Birmingham; Elise Durbin of Birmingham; Melissa Durbin of Birmingham; Richard Ellis of Tuscaloosa; Billy Ezell of Loxley; Wayne Gillis of Birmingham; Joe Kelley of Nashville, Tenn.; Ed Labry III of Memphis, Tenn.; Archie Lamb of Birmingham; Elliot Maisel of Mobile; John McMahon Jr. of Birmingham; Robert “Bud” Moore of Catherine; Ozzie Newsome Jr. of Cockeysville, Md.; Tom Patterson of Birmingham; Johnny Plott of Tuscaloosa; Robert Pope of Douglasville, Ga.; Farid Rafiee of Huntsville; Ambassador Joe Rodgers of Nashville, Tenn.; Britt Sexton of Decatur; Bart Starr of Birmingham; Ted Taylor of Birmingham; Mike Thompson of Birmingham; Jamie Tisch of Beverly Hills, Calif.; Stanley Virciglio of Birmingham; Duncan Williams of Memphis, Tenn.; Warren Williamson of Greenville; and Jim Wilson III of Montgomery.