The Battle Plan

May 16, 2014

This week we received more good news on the academic front, as all of our teams once again scored well above the national cutoff standard of 930 in the latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) announced by the NCAA. Seventeen of our teams posted scores that were above the national average in their respective sports for the figures that cover the four-year period from the 2008-09 through 2012-13 school years. Our continued success in terms of our APR scores, coupled with the tremendous success we've enjoyed athletically over the four years that this report encompasses, shows that we are excelling at the highest level in all areas of our mission. Eight Crimson Tide teams ranked among the top three in their respective sports in the SEC. Baseball, men's and women's golf, soccer and women's tennis were all ranked No. 1, gymnastics was ranked No. 2 while football and men's outdoor track and field were ranked No. 3 in the league. There were 16 Alabama sports that either matched or exceeded their APR from the year before, including four teams - women's cross country, rowing, soccer and volleyball - that bettered their previous score by five points.

Our gymnastics program was honored this week when senior All-Americans and Scholastic All-Americans Sarah DeMeo, Kim Jacob and Diandra Millineradded NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships to their long list of accolades. These young ladies led the Crimson Tide to four top-four NCAA finishes (including back-to-back national titles in 2011 and 2012), accounted for two individual NCAA Championships, 23 All-American honors and nine Scholastic All-American accolades between them. They are the first class in Alabama gymnastics history to collect three of the prestigious scholarships , which are valued at $7,500 each. Alabama gymnasts have earned 18 NCAA postgraduate scholarships, the most of any program in the nation. The NCAA awarded only 29 postgraduate scholarships to women competing in the winter sports this year, and Alabama and Emory were the only schools to have three honorees. Additionally, Alabama was the only school to have three come from the same sport. There were five gymnasts among the 2014 winter recipients, with Sarah, Kim and Diandra making up more than half that total.

I was also pleased yesterday to learn that Alabama went a perfect eight-for-eight when it comes to the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District IV At-Large team this year. Schools are only allowed to nominate four men and four women for the prestigious honor, so this is an extraordinary accomplishment. We were the only school in our district to have all four of its nominees earn a place on the district list for both the men and the women and our honorees came from six different teams: men's golf (senior All-Americans Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett) and gymnastics (senior All-American Kim Jacob and sophomore All-American Lauren Beers) both had two honorees. Our other Academic All-District winners included senior All-Americans Stephanie Meadow (women's golf), Mary Anne Daines(women's tennis), Daniil Proskura (men's tennis) and senior Brian Carr (men's swimming and diving).

REACHING THEIR POTENTIAL & EARNING THE REWARDS

Alabama had eight players selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, one shy of the Crimson Tide's modern-era record of nine draft selections, set in 1987 and matched in both 2012 and 2013 - meaning that 26 different Alabama players (more than the starting 11 from both side of the ball) have been drafted over the past three years alone. Alabama had two players selected in the first round last Thursday evening with linebacker C.J. Mosley starting things off as the No. 17 pick by the Baltimore Ravens. A few moments later, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was selected by Green Bay with the 21st selection. The two first-round selections give Alabama 13 first round picks in the last four drafts. On Friday night in the second round, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjiowas selected by the Buffalo Bills with the 44th overall pick. Kouandjio is the 21st Alabama player to be selected in the first or second round since the 2009 NFL Draft.

Over the past six NFL drafts, 16 Crimson Tide players have been selected in the first round and five in the second round. Receiver Kevin Norwood was the first off the board on Saturday, going to the Seattle Seahawks with the 23rd pick of the fourth round. Then, we had three of our players taken within eight picks of each other in the fifth round. Ed Stinson was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 20th pick of the fifth round, quarterback AJ McCarron came off the board just four picks later to the Cincinnati Bengals, and safety Vinnie Sunseri was taken with the 27th pick of the fifth round by the New Orleans Saints. Defensive lineman Jeoffrey Paganwas the final Alabama player selected on Saturday as the Houston Texans took him with the first pick of the sixth round.

In the last six NFL Drafts, Alabama has had 41 players selected, including 16 players in the first round, five in the second round and five more in the third round. The Crimson Tide has had more draft picks over the last five years (37), four years (30), three years (25) and two years (17) than any school in the country. Alabama also leads the nation in first-round draft picks in the last five years with 15. These stats reflect the tremendous job Coach Saban and his coaches have done in recruiting and developing football players at Alabama during his time here.

As an interesting side note, the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl between Alabama and LSU has produced an astounding 43 NFL Draft picks. Twenty-three Crimson Tide players from that 2011 national championship team have been drafted, including 15 of the 22 starters from that title game with five of the going in the first round.

WORLD-CLASS GOLF

Our men's and women's golf programs have firmly established themselves as perennial national contenders, while also producing model scholar-athletes who have been tremendous examples of our mission in action. Coach Jay Seawell and Coach Mic Potterhave built Hall of Fame careers by recruiting top talent, then molding and mentoring those young people, and fundamentally helping them reach their potential both on the course and in the classroom.

In previous blogs, I've told you at great length of the outstanding achievements of postgraduate scholarship recipients Stephanie Meadow and Cory Whitsett(the 2014 SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year). This week, I want to share with you some amazing information that I heard about recently. As of this writing, six of our golfers (four males, two females) are ranked among the top-75 amateur golfers in the world! Even more astounding, four of them rank among the top-10 amateurs on the planet!

On the men's side, Robby Shelton is the nation's No. 1-ranked college golfer and he ranks No. 7 in the current World Amateur Golf Rankings. Bobby Wyatt ranks No. 6 in the collegiate rankings and is the No. 17 amateur in the world. Trey Mullinax is currently No. 8 in the collegiate rankings and No. 62 in the world amateur rankings). Cory Whitsett is the No. 35-ranked collegiate player but is ranked No. 21 in the world amateur rankings. With the Tide women's team, Stephanie Meadow carries the Alabama banner (and the flag of her native Ireland) as the No. 4-ranked collegiate player and the No. 8-ranked amateur in the world, while Emma Talleyranks 17th in the world and 35th in the collegiate rankings. Emma is also the reigning United States Amateur champion and Stephanie was the 2012 Ladies British Amateur champion.

It also is worth noting what our men's program as a whole is in the midst of accomplishing. Over the past two seasons, Coach Seawell's team has won 15 of 20 tournaments and 20 of its 30 over three years, including an unprecedented 11 consecutive tournament titles at one point. That run includes winning three SEC titles, two NCAA regional titles and one NCAA title. Meanwhile the women's team has a 2012 NCAA title and a 2013 SEC title over the same period. Folks, that's the kind of consistent success that is reminiscent of Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan or Tiger Woods. It is simply amazing!

One of the little-known joys of working in college sports is the opportunity to work with and observe world-class talent on a regular basis. We are blessed to have that kind of talent in abundance at Alabama, and it spans the full spectrum of our sports from gymnastics to track and field to swimming to softball ... and on and on.

NATIONALLY-RANKED TEAMS THIS WEEK

This week, six of our teams remain nationally ranked among the top 20 in their respective sports, including three ranked in the top five. As I said last week, we are in the midst of an impressive year across the board as eight of our 17 sports teams (four men's, four women's) either finished or are currently ranked in the top 10 nationally, and 11 of our 17 sports teams (six men's, five women's) either finished or are currently ranked in the top 20 nationally. Here's a glance at this week's rankings:

Men's Golf - 1st
Women's Tennis - 2nd
Softball - 5th
Men's Track - 11th
Women's Golf - 12th
Baseball - 19th

THE TIME IS NOW

We've reached "crunch time" in our spring sports season. With their win Thursday, our women's tennis team is among the final 8 teams competing at the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships in Athens, Ga., men's golf is at the NCAA Central Regional at Auburn, track and field is at the SEC Outdoor Championships in Lexington, Ky., our softball team is hosting an NCAA Regional at Rhoads Stadium on campus, baseball is hosting a crucial three-game series with Mississippi State at The Joe that will determine our seeding heading into the SEC Baseball Tournament. Next Tuesday, May 20, our women's golf team begins play at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships in Tulsa, Okla.

Our No.2-ranked WOMEN'S TENNIS team defeated No. 16 Notre Dame today by a 4-2 score in the round of 16 at the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships at Athens, Ga. With the victory, the Tide advances to take on 7th-seeded North Carolina in the round of eight on Saturday, May 17, at 12 p.m. ET (11 a.m. CT) at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the University of Georgia campus. The victory gives the Tide its first appearance in the NCAA's final eight. Luicelena Perezkeyed the win for us by picking up her 14th consecutive win at No. 6 singles. She overcame a 3-0 deficit in the second set to win 6-1, 6-4 over her opponent. Last weekend, we knocked off Jackson State and Princeton in front of outstanding home crowds to earn a spot in the round of 16.

Meanwhile, the team continues to earn honors for their outstanding season as Mary Anne Daines and Emily Zaborboth were recognized by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association as the organization released its regional award winners this week. Mary Anne was named the Southern Region Senior Player of the Year, while Emily took home ITA/Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sportsmanship & Leadership Award honors. Mary Anne is the 2014 Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year and a two-time All-American. She is a three-time first team All-SEC selection and earned SEC Freshman of the Year and ITA Southern Region Rookie of the Year honors in 2011. She graduated summa cum laude in 3.5 years with a bachelor of science in education, majoring in human performance exercise science, all while holding a 4.000 cumulative undergraduate GPA. She is enrolled in a master's program in human environmental sciences majoring in sport management. Emily was a 2014 SEC All-Tournament Team selection and has been nationally ranked in both singles and doubles this season. Emily was voted this season's Team MVP by her teammates.

Coach Jenny Mainznotes that Emily's leadership is a major reason why the team has reached new heights this season, highlighted by a No. 2 national ranking and winning the SEC regular season title. Emily graduated in three years with a degree in commerce & business administration, majoring in marketing. She currently has a 4.0 cumulative GPA and has been a member of the President's List and Dean's List throughout her academic career. Emily also is the recipient of the Elite 89 Award for the 2014 NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship. This is the second consecutive year she has won this relatively new award - and it is the third Elite 89 in a row for the Crimson Tide, as Mary Anne collected the honors in 2012. The Elite 89 Award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average, among those who are participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA's championships.

Coach Patrick Murphy'sSOFTBALL team enters the 2014 NCAA Softball Tournament as the No. 2 overall seed, hosting South Alabama, USC Upstate and SIU Edwardsville this weekend. Three days of games will start on Friday. This marks the 10th consecutive year that Alabama has earned a hosting seed and it is the sixth time in the last seven years the Tide have been ranked in the top four. We're one of only 10 schools with an active NCAA Tournament appearance streak of at least 16 years. Joining us this weekend at Rhoads Stadium will be South Alabama (40-12), South Carolina Upstate (45-7) and SIU Edwardsville (30-21). South Carolina Upstate will play South Alabama at 3:30 p.m. CT on Friday with Alabama playing SIU Edwardsville at 6 p.m. The regional tournament uses a double-elimination format, so the game times Saturday are set for 1 p.m. (if we win our first game), 3:30 (if we lose our first game), and 7 p.m. (an elimination game). Sunday's game times are 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Our WOMEN'S GOLF team finished second at the NCAA Central Regional Championship last weekend in Oklahoma to advance to the NCAA Championships. Despite fielding a new lineup, Coach Mic Potter's team was runner-up to regional champion UCLA. The Tide's newly-aligned group responded with a strong showing. Sophomore Emma Talley had her best finish of the season with a top-five finish and senior Stephanie Meadowalso placed in the top 10. Alabama now has advanced to the NCAA Championships for the 10th time in our history and the ninth time in nine seasons under Coach Potter. The Crimson Tide has posted top-10 finishes at the NCAA championships for the past four years, including winning the NCAA title in 2012. The NCAA Women's Golf Championships will take place at the Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club on May 20-23.

The BASEBALL team remains ranked 19th nationally this week and is 33-20 overall after a loss to No. 16 Mississippi State last night and splitting two games at LSU last weekend and getting a 15-10 win at Jacksonville State on Tuesday night. Hats off to pitcher Justin Kamplain, who was outstanding in a complete-game performance last Saturday night in a 5-1 victory at LSU. Justin went the distance in just 98 pitches, allowing four hits with three strikeouts without walking a single batter. In fact, our starting pitchers went the distance in both games as Spencer Turnbull was the hard-luck losing pitcher in the first game of the series, a 2-0 loss. A pair of two-run home runs from Ben Moore and Georgie Salemhighlighted the victory in the second game. Bad weather prevented the teams from completing the series on Sunday.

The SEC race is incredibly tight heading into the final weekend of the regular season. There simply isn't enough space here to summarize all of the possibilities of where we could end up in the standings or what that will do to our seeding for the upcoming SEC Tournament. However, here are a few things to keep in mind: the Tide entered the Mississippi State series in fourth in the SEC Western Division and seventh in the overall SEC standings, 2.5 games behind West Division leader Ole Miss. With a 14-12 mark in SEC play, we have secured a spot in the SEC Baseball Tournament and can finish no lower than 10th in the overall standings. If things break right, we can finish with a much higher seed in the SEC Baseball Tournament.

Coach Dan Waters' TRACK & FIELD team competes at the SEC Outdoor Championships this weekend. Our men's team is ranked 11th in the latest edition of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I National Team Computer Rankings. The Crimson Tide remains third in the men's rankings for the NCAA South Region, while the women maintained their No. 5 rank in the region. Alabama athletes rank among the nation's top 20 in 8 events and two Tide athletes currently own the SEC's best time or mark in their events - Diondre Batson (men's 100, 10.01) and Elias Hakansson(men's hammer, 71.38 meters/234 feet, 2 inches). The SEC is, by far, the nation's finest track and field conference. Nine of the nation's top 25 ranked men's teams are from the SEC while eight of the top 25 women's teams come from our conference. Dan's program has come far in three years. Keep an eye on this team as it could be on course for a solid SEC showing in both divisions, but could have an even higher team finish at the NCAA meet in June.

FOLLOW THE ACTION AS IT HAPPENS

There are several ways to follow our teams in action. The methods vary according to the sport, but here's where you can follow our teams via TV, radio or online:

Baseball vs. Mississippi State
Television - CBS Sports Network (Friday) CSS (Saturday)
Radio - Tide 99.1 FM (Tuscaloosa) and Crimson Tide Sports Network (CTSN)
Live Stats - www.rolltide.com/sports/m-basebl/gametracker.html

Softball in the NCAA Tournament Regional (Tuscaloosa)
Television - ESPN3 (All Games)
Radio - 95.3 FM (Tuscaloosa) and CTSN (All Games)
Live Stats - www.rolltide.com/sports/w-softbl/gametracker.html

Women's Tennis in the NCAA Championships (Athens, Ga.)
Live Scoring & Video Streaming - www.ncaa.com/division-i-tennis-championships

Men's Golf in the NCAA Central Regional (Auburn, Ala.)
Live Scoring - www.golfstatresults.com/public/indexh.cfm?tournament_id=5225

UPCOMING ACTION

Here's a summary of athletics events over the next several days (times listed are for the location of the event):

Friday, May 16
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
6 p.m. Softball NCAA Regional vs. SIU-Edwardsville Tuscaloosa
6:05 p.m. Baseball Mississippi State Tuscaloosa
All Day Men's Golf NCAA Regional Auburn
All Day Track & Field SEC Championships Lexington, Ky.
Saturday, May 17
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
12 p.m. Women's Tennis NCAA Quarterfinal vs. North Carolina Athens, Ga.
3:05 p.m. Baseball Mississippi State Tuscaloosa
6:30 p.m. Softball NCAA Regional Tuscaloosa
All Day Men's Golf NCAA Regional Auburn
All Day Track & Field SEC Championships Lexington, Ky.
All Day Rowing Conference USA Championships Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Sunday, May 18
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All Day Track & Field SEC Championships Lexington, Ky.
Monday, May 19
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
1 p.m. Women's Tennis NCAA Semifinal vs. UCLA or Duke Athens, Ga.
Tuesday, May 20
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
1 p.m. Women's Tennis NCAA Championship Finals Athens, Ga.
All Day Women's Golf NCAA Championships Tulsa, Okla.
Wednesday, May 21
Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All Day Women's Golf NCAA Championships Tulsa, Okla.

If you are in Tuscaloosa, Athens, Auburn, Lexington, Oak Ridge or Tulsa, I encourage you to make a special effort to come out and support our teams. Your presence means the world to our teams. A rising tide lifts all boats and it's up to all of us to Keep the Tide Rising!

     
    Alabama Thanksgiving Sale
    The Battle Plan