The Battle Plan

April 24, 2014

A VIVID EXAMPLE OF OUR MISSION

This past Monday evening I attended our annual Student-Athlete Awards Banquet at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This impressive event is planned and run entirely by our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Its purpose is to recognize and honor student-athletes and their teams primarily in areas outside of sport; e.g. academics, community service and spirit. To me this is one of the coolest events of the year, as it speaks volumes about the well-rounded quality of Alabama student-athletes, and provides an up-close view of the contributions these young men and women are making now, and will continue to make, in society when they graduate and enter the work force.

I wish all our fans and supporters could see this event. A major purpose of this blog is to let you see and hear the great things going on every day in our department with our teams, coaches, and individual student-athletes.

At this banquet, our student-athletes come dressed in their finest attire. Well, at least our women do, our men still need a little coaching in that area! As competitors, they have a strong desire to excel in everything they do. They work hard to win these awards. It is neat to see how teams erupt with pride when their teams or teammates win accolades. But it is even neater to see the camaraderie between our teams when major awards are announced and everyone loudly voices their approval and congratulations. There is no better example of our Mission in action than what I saw Monday evening. It was truly inspiring and uplifting.

The highlight of the program is the presentation of the Paul W. Bryant Student-Athlete Award, the highest honor given to an Alabama student-athlete and presented by the Tuscaloosa Chapter of the University of Alabama Alumni Association. The honor recognizes one male and one female student-athlete who achieves excellence in all facets of the college experience - athletics, academics and community service. The women's nominees this year were Mary Anne Daines (tennis), Andrea McQuaid (volleyball), Kim Jacob (gymnastics), Kendall Khanna (soccer), Paige McCleary (swimming and diving), Lynsey Marshall (rowing), Nikki Hegstetter (basketball), Ryan Iamurri (softball), Stephanie Meadow (golf) and Palee Myrex (track and field). The men's nominees were BJ Hornikel (swimming and diving), Retin Obasohan (basketball), Cary Baxter (baseball), Daniil Proskura (tennis), Arie Kouandjio (football), Cory Whitsett (golf) and Kamal Fuller (track and field).

This year's Bryant Award winners - men's golfer Cory Whitsett and women's golfer Stephanie Meadow - are terrific representatives of their teams and our University. Both are great examples of what a student-athlete should be.

The newly crowned Southeastern Conference champion women's tennis team and the men's tennis squad were honored as the teams with the highest grade-point averages (GPAs) during the calendar year of 2013 (January to December). The women's team earned the honor while posting a 3.74 team GPA, and the men's team earned the distinction with a 3.34. We currently sponsor 21 teams in 17 sports programs. Overall, 13 of our 17 programs had GPAs of 3.00 or better. Nine of our 10 women's programs had GPAs of 3.00 or better and 10 of our 17 programs had GPAs of 3.30 or better.

Community outreach efforts of our student-athletes were recognized. Crimson Tide student-athletes put in more than 1,600 hours toward community service projects this year. The women's basketball team (202 hours) led the women while baseball (307 hours) earned the honor for the men. Individually, swimmer Philip Dockery and track and field's Claire Turner were recognized for their outstanding service to the community. Philip was involved with Kid's Club and International Service Learning in Nicaragua, along with various other community service outreach efforts. Claire spent time in Zimbabwe with Athletes in Action and also helped with maintenance, food prep and construction of a new orphanage in Mexico as a youth leader. The annual impact on our community by Alabama student athletes is significant.

Other honorees included Ellen Pate, an instructor within Alabama's Life Calling and Leadership Development curriculum, who was honored with the Finest Faculty Award for her dedication to student-athlete achievement. Emma Talley of women's golf was named the Newcomer of the Year, which covers the 2013 season (spring and fall). Shafontaye Myers of women's basketball earned the Comeback Athlete of the Year award. Lindsey Fowler of gymnastics earned the Spirit of the Game Award, which honors the individual whose dedication and love for their sport is unmatched.

ANOTHER MAGINIFICENT A-DAY WEEKEND

With perfect weather, a great showing by our fans and an excellent turnout by former athletes for our A-Club events, last weekend's A-Day Weekend was a rousing success. As usual, it was our fan support that made the weekend truly memorable as 73,506 fans attended the Golden Flake A-Day Spring Football Game on Saturday afternoon, the top attendance for a spring game so far this year.

Since Coach Saban's arrival, our fans have made it a point of pride to pack the stadium to show the nation the strength of our program and their devotion to the Crimson Tide teams. He is quick to tell our fans how much they mean to our team from a competitive perspective, but also how their presence and spirit influences our recruiting efforts.

I continue to be impressed with our staff, and the university as a whole, for their efforts in putting on events that attract 70,000 to 130,000 people, handling traffic, parking, concessions, and all the details that make our fans feel welcome and special. The UAPD, Tuscaloosa Police, state troopers, Bruno Event Team (for traffic), Event Operations Group (for stadium security), city & county governments and many others go out of their way to assist in these efforts. We occasionally learn of not so good experiences from fans but, by and large, the huge majority is positive. Our staff spends a great deal of time planning for ways to improve customer service and the overall fan experience.  Our fans are the life's blood of our program, and I want to know how we can make things better in every way.

NATIONALLY-RANKED TEAMS THIS WEEK

Our remarkable spring season continues! This week, seven of our teams remain nationally ranked among the top 11 in their respective sports, including three ranked in the top four and six ranked in the top 10. This is a special time in our athletics history. It can be validly argued that, in many ways, we have never had it better. We still have chances to win SEC and national championships. Excitement is building. Come on out and be a part of this special era. Go see our teams compete whenever you have the opportunity. Here's a glance at this week's rankings:

TeamRank
Men's Golf 1st
Women's Tennis 3rd
Gymnastics 4th
Softball 7th
Baseball 8th
Men's Track 9th
Women's Golf 11th
SPRING SPORTS ROLL ON

• A hearty congratulations to Coach Sarah Patterson's GYMNASTICS team, which came extremely close to pulling off another national championship for the Tide last weekend as they came within one point of winning the team title at the NCAA Championships in Birmingham. In front of a boisterous pro-Alabama crowd, our ladies competed very well and were in position to take the crown entering the final rotation but Oklahoma and Florida tied for the team title with Alabama ending up a very close fourth.

Over the last four seasons, the Tide has won two NCAA Championships, earned four top-four national finishes, won two SEC Championships and four NCAA Regional titles. In addition to earning the team's sixth consecutive top-four finish, Alabama is also the only school in the nation to advance to the NCAA Super Six Team Finals each of the last six years. We lead the nation with 20 Super Six appearances.

Senior Kim Jacob was crowned the NCAA All-Around champion, the highest individual honor of the championships. Kim scored a 39.625 in the all-around during Friday's semifinal, and then on Sunday competed on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise, boosting her overall event total to 11 of a possible 12 over the three days of NCAA competition, the most of any gymnast in the competition. She was fifth on the floor exercise with a 9.9375, sixth on the uneven bars with a 9.85 and, after a fall, scored a 9.375 to finish 15th on the beam.

Our gymnasts led the nation with seven student-athletes earning a total of 13 All-American honors. Kim led the nation in First-Team All-America honors with four of a possible five. In addition to the all-around, she earned first-team honors on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. She closes her career with 11 All-American honors. Seniors Diandra Milliner and Sarah DeMeo also closed out their careers with first-team accolades, Diandra in the floor exercise and Sarah on the balance beam. Sarah also earned second-team honors on the uneven bars. Diandra finished her career with seven All-American honors while Sarah tallied five.

Sophomore Lauren Beers, the 2014 NCAA Elite 89 Award winner as the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average, earned a pair of All-America honors: first-team on the floor exercise and second-team on the vault. Junior Kaitlyn Clark was second-team on the vault, making her a two-time All-American in the event. Freshman Katie Bailey and junior Lora Leigh Frost earned All-America recognition for the first time. Katie was second team in the all-around and on the uneven bars while Lora Leigh was second team on the floor exercise.

• Senior Bobby Wyatt and freshman Robby Shelton of our MEN'S GOLF team have been named among 10 semifinalists for the 2014 Ben Hogan Award presented annually to the top men's college golfer, taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions during a 12-month period. Robby leads the Crimson Tide in scoring average (70.48) this season. He has two medalist honors to go along with six top-five finishes in nine events and he ranks second in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and fourth in the Golfstat.com rankings. Bobby ranks ninth in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and 11th by Golfstat.com. He is second on the team with a 71.13 scoring average and has had eight top-10 finishes in nine events this season. Coach Jay Seawell's team plays at the SEC Championships this weekend at St. Simons Island, Ga.

• By winning two of three games at Tennessee last weekend, our BASEBALL team remains atop the SEC standings with a 12-6 conference record and is 28-13 overall heading into this weekend's three-game series at South Carolina. The Tide was very close to getting a sweep of the Tennessee series before letting one get away in a loss on Sunday, but the team showed plenty of grit in a comeback 7-6 win on Saturday in which the Tide erased a 6-1 deficit.

Closer Thomas Burrows was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday. Thomas made three appearances last week and he picked up saves in all three games, a mid-week win over UAB and wins in the first two games at Tennessee. Right fielder Ben Moore had an outstanding week at the plate, hitting .500 (10-for-20) with eight RBI and eight runs scored as the Tide in five games. Ben had had two hits in each of the five games. With the score tied 1-1 against Jackson State, he hit his first career grand slam in the seventh inning to put the Tide ahead for good and spark a seven-run inning. After having a two-run double in the sixth inning of the series finale at Tennessee, he hit his second home run of the week in the top of the ninth inning to put the Tide ahead 9-8.

• The Tide SOFTBALL team took a break from SEC play last weekend, traveling to North Carolina for games against Georgia Southern and North Carolina before taking a 12-0 win at Southern Miss on Tuesday night. This weekend the Tide hosts its final regular-season home series with a three-game set against Georgia at Rhoads Stadium starting tonight.

Alabama remains atop the SEC standings with a 15-3 conference record for a three-game lead over Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri who all are 12-6 in conference play with six SEC games remaining in the regular season. Florida and Georgia both are four games back at 11-7. How popular is our softball team? Last weekend, Alabama helped set attendance records at Anderson Stadium at the University of North Carolina twice on Friday, drawing a stadium-record 1,863 fans vs. Georgia Southern before besting that mark later that afternoon against North Carolina with 2,048 fans, eclipsing the previous record of 1,250 by nearly 800!

• Our third-ranked WOMEN'S TENNIS team continued its remarkable season last week by advancing to the finals of the SEC Tournament at Georgia before falling to the Bulldogs in the championship match. The Tide defeated South Carolina (4-2) in the quarterfinals and Texas A&M (4-2) in the semifinals before falling to the Bulldogs in Alabama's first finals appearance ever.

Coach Jenny Mainz's team continues earning accolades for their outstanding season. Jenny was named Coach of the Year, the third SEC Coach of the Year nod of her Alabama career, having also won the award in 2011 and 2012. Erin Routliffe earned Co-Freshman of the Year honors and Mary Anne Daines became the fourth consecutive Scholar-Athlete of the Year from Alabama. Erin was First-Team All-SEC and an All-Freshman selection, Maya Jansen and Luicelena Perez were both Second-Team All-SEC picks and Danielle Spielmann was an All-Freshman honoree.

The team's lone senior, Mary Anne Daines has been the consummate student-athlete both on and off the court. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in 3.5 years with a bachelor of science in education, majoring in human performance exercise science while holding a 4.0 cumulative undergraduate GPA. Mary Anne is currently enrolled in the master's program in human environmental sciences, majoring in sport management. She was the 2012 Elite 89 Award winner as well as a three-time ITA Scholar-Athlete and three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection. She has played at the No. 1 singles position throughout her entire career at Alabama and has been ranked nationally in singles and doubles all four seasons.

• The WOMEN'S GOLF team finished fourth at the SEC Women's Golf Championship at the Greystone Golf and Country Club last weekend, carding a 32-over 896 over 54 holes to finish. Vanderbilt captured the title with a 15-over-par 879. Senior Stephanie Meadow and sophomore Janie Jackson led the way for the Tide, both finishing tied for fifth at 3-over-par 219. Sophomore Emma Talley was close behind in 13th at 7-over 223. Next up for the Crimson Tide is NCAA regional play on May 8-10 at a site to be determined. The team will find out their destination to one of three NCAA regional locations on Monday, April 28.

• Coach Dan Waters' TRACK & FIELD team had a solid weekend at the Mt. SAC Relays last weekend in California. Senior Diondre Batson won the men's 100-meter dash to lead the way. Our athletes combined for three individual event victories while 15 Crimson Tide athletes finished in the top five of their respective events, posting 12 performances that rank in the top 10 in Alabama history in their respective events. The team takes this weekend off from competition before resuming action on May 3 with a meet at Mississippi State.

• Our MEN'S TENNIS team lost to seventh-seeded South Carolina in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament last week. With the loss, the Crimson Tide stands at 14-15 overall. Coach George Husack's team has made significant improvement in two seasons and is ranked No. 36 among the 75 schools nationally ranked in collegiate tennis. Our team has played a very tough schedule this season, playing 14 teams currently ranked in the top 30, including six teams currently ranked in the top 15. Coach Husack is building a winner. Three of our players were named All-SEC performers. Daniil Proskura repeated as the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year while also earning First-Team All-SEC honors. Becker O'Shaughnessey was named Second-Team All-SEC for the second straight year and Nikko Madregallejo earned All-Freshman Team honors.

THIS WEEKEND'S ACTION

Here's a summary of this weekend's action (times listed are for the location of the event):

Thursday, April 24

TimeSportOpponent/EventLocation
7 p.m. Softball Georgia Tuscaloosa

Friday, April 25

TimeSportOpponent/EventLocation
3:30 p.m. Rowing Dale England Cup Regatta Bloomington, Ind.
6 p.m. Baseball South Carolina Columbia, S.C.
6:30 p.m. Softball Georgia Tuscaloosa
All Day Men's Golf SEC Championships St. Simons Island, Ga.

Saturday, April 26

TimeSportOpponent/EventLocation
7:30 a.m. Rowing Dale England Cup Regatta Bloomington, Ind.
11 a.m. Softball Georgia Tuscaloosa
1 p.m. Baseball South Carolina Columbia, S.C.
All Day Men's Golf SEC Championships St. Simons Island, Ga.

Sunday, April 27

TimeSportOpponent/EventLocation
12 p.m. Baseball South Carolina Columbia, S.C.
All Day Men's Golf SEC Championships St. Simons Island, Ga.

If you are in Tuscaloosa, Bloomington, Columbia or St. Simons Island, please support the Tide. Let's all do our part to Keep the Tide Rising!

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