June 30, 2014
I am very proud of the competitive success of our athletics teams over the 2013-14 academic year, as we had one of our finest years ever across all of our sports teams. We are equally proud of their successes in the classroom and graduation. On the athletic fields and courts, nine of our teams finished in the national top 20, with 7 of those teams placing in the top 10. Fourteen of our teams earned postseason berths. It is very gratifying to see our student-athletes and coaches earning recognition as they pursue excellence in all facets of our Mission.
Our teams combined to rank among the top 10 percent nationally this year in both all-sports rankings for college athletics - the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup and the Capital One Cup. We posted our highest finish in the Directors' Cup in 19 years and earned our third consecutive top-20 finish in the women's standings of the Capital One Cup.
The Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings, which began in the 1993-94 academic year, encompass the combined men's and women's programs. We finished the 2013-14 academic year ranked 17th out of 297 schools. In these Directors' Cup rankings, 20 total teams (10 men and 10 women) can be scored for the final standings. We currently sponsor 21 scholarship teams (9 men and 12 women) in 17 sports programs. Stanford, this year's winner and the winner of the last 20 Directors' Cups, has 37 total varsity teams.
This year's No. 17 finish was our highest overall ranking in the Directors' Cup since finishing 15th in the 1994-95 academic year, and our third-best ranking ever. Last year (2012-13), the Crimson Tide was 26th in the standings. We were the fifth-ranked Southeastern Conference squad in the standings behind Florida (2nd), Texas A&M (10th), Kentucky (11th) and Georgia (16th). Six SEC programs were ranked in the top 25 and all 14 schools were in the top 54 overall.
In the Capital One Cup standings, Alabama's women's teams finished tied for 14th, our third top-20 finish in the four-year history of the Cup. Top-10 national finishes in softball (second), gymnastics (fourth), women's tennis (sixth) and women's golf (ninth) keyed our showing. Alabama was one of five SEC women's programs to finish in the top 25 this year, along with Florida (first), Texas A&M (fifth), Georgia (11th) and Kentucky (23rd).
Two years ago, our women's teams posted what remains their highest finish in the Capital One Cup standings. Led by NCAA team titles in gymnastics, women's golf and softball, Alabama women's teams finished in third place following the 2011-12 season. Points toward the Capital One Cup are based on final standings of NCAA Championships and final official coaches' polls. The Capital One Cup counts only top-10 national finishes and uses a tiered points system. That tiered system awards greater value to "marquee sports" (football, basketball, etc.) and lesser value to others.
WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS AND BUILDING CHAMPIONS
Since 2009, Crimson Tide athletics teams have won nine NCAA championships in five sports (3 in football, 2 in gymnastics, 2 in men's golf, 1 in women's golf, and 1 in softball). On the SEC level, we tied our single-year best this year by winning SEC team titles in four sports (men's golf, gymnastics, softball and women's tennis) matching the standard set in 2009-10. Since 2009, Alabama teams have won 16 SEC team championships in seven sports (4 in softball, 3 in men's golf, 3 in gymnastics, 2 in football, 2 in women's golf, 1 in cross country, and 1 in women's tennis).
As stated earlier, nine Alabama teams finished their competitive season in the national top 20, either via ranking or actual NCAA postseason finish: men's golf (1st), softball (2nd), gymnastics (4th), women's tennis (5th), men's indoor track & field (6th), football (7th), women's golf (9th), men's swimming & diving (12th), men's outdoor track & field (15th), women's outdoor track & field (18th), and women's indoor track & field (19th). Fourteen Crimson Tide teams earned NCAA/BCS postseason berths: baseball, football, men's golf, women's golf, gymnastics, softball, men's swimming & diving, women's swimming & diving, women's tennis, men's indoor track & field, women's indoor track & field, men's outdoor track & field, women's outdoor track & field, and volleyball. Hats off to the players and coaches on these fine teams. We are extremely proud of what they are doing and how they are doing it.
Our competitive season ended on June 14 at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Our Crimson Tide men's and women's teams posted top-20 team finishes, marking the first time since 1984 that Alabama has finished among the top 20 in both the men's and women's standings.
TRACK & FIELD: Two of our student-athletes won NCAA individual national titles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Freshman Hayden Reed won the discus on his final throw, and junior Remona Burchell won the 100-meter championship. Hayden unleashed a throw of 205 feet and 10 inches on the last of six throws to beat two-time NCAA champion and collegiate record holder Julian Wruck of UCLA by more than two and a half feet. It was Hayden's second-best throw of the season, as he became only the second freshman in NCAA history to win the outdoor discus title, and the third men's thrower in Alabama history to win an NCAA championship.
This past Friday night, Hayden completed a rare double by winning the discus title at the USATF Championships. In that competition, Hayden defeated a field that consisted of all comers - from collegiate competitors to veterans of the professional world circuit, including Olympians. It was an impressive win for Hayden in his first competition at that level. Hayden just completed his redshirt freshman season at Alabama, and he definitely has a very bright future ahead, so keep an eye on him.
In the women's 100-meter final, Remona raced away from an outstanding field of sprinters to win the Crimson Tide's first women's NCAA 100-meter title. She overcame a strong headwind to clock a time of 11.25, well ahead of the rest of the field. Remona is the first Alabama woman since 2005 to win an outdoor national title in any event. She added the outdoor 100 title to her NCAA title in the 60 meters during indoor season, becoming the first Alabama sprinter to win indoor and outdoor titles in the same year. She has dropped almost three-tenths of a second off her personal best in the 100 meters this year.
Eight members of the men's team and six from the women's squad officially earned All-America honors for their performances during the 2014 outdoor season, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced. Remona was a two-time All-American, picking up first-team honors for her victory in the 100 meters and a sixth-place finish as a member of the women's 4x100-meter relay. Senior Sarah Thomas, junior Dominique Kimpel and freshman Quanesha Burks also garnered first-team status as part of the women's 4x100-meter relay team. Senior Yanique Malcolm (800 meters) and freshman Lakan Taylor (pole vault) earned second-team All-America honors.
For the men's team, Hayden earned first-team All-America honors after winning the discus title. Sophomore Justin Fondren earned first-team status with a fifth-place finish in the high jump while the four members of the Tide's 4x100-meter relay team (Diondre Batson, Akeem Haynes, Alex Sanders and Dwight Davis) also earned the honor. Junior Charodd Richardson (hammer throw) and redshirt freshman Kyle Felpel (shot put) earned second-team All-America status. Five more Alabama student athletes (three men and two women) earned honorable mention: junior Alex Amankwah (800 meters), sophomore Imani Brown (triple jump) and Josh McCullan (long jump) were named on the men's honorable mention list, while junior Nia Barnes (hammer throw) and freshman Quanesha Burks (long jump) received honorable mention for the women's team.
BASEBALL: Four Crimson Tide players who were recently selected in the Major League Baseball Draft have signed professional contracts. After being selected in the second round, Spencer Turnbull signed with the Detroit Tigers on June 19. The 63rd overall pick in this year's draft, Spencer reported to Lakeland, Florida, to start his professional career. As a junior in 2014, Spencer had a 5-7 record with a 2.22 ERA. He had 61 strikeouts, while holding opponents to a .192 batting average, allowing only 61 hits in a team-high 93.1 innings pitched.
Left-handed pitcher Justin Kamplain signed with the New York Yankees on June 18. Justin will be placed with the Staten Island Yankees, which is the short-season Class A affiliate in the New York-Penn League. After pitching as the Crimson Tide's Saturday starter for the 2014 season, Justin was selected by the in the 18th round of the 2014 First-Year Major League Baseball Draft. Justin finished his junior season with a 7-3 record and a 2.90 ERA in 15 appearances, all as a starter. His career-high seven wins led the Tide in 2014, while his 69 strikeouts in in 90 innings also led the club, holding opponents to a .205 batting average.
Outfielder Ben Moore signed with the Boston Red Sox on June 27 and will forego his senior season. Drafted by the in the eighth round, Ben finished his junior season second on the team with a .305 batting average, led the team with nine home runs and tied for the team lead with 39 RBI and 73 hits. He was one of the toughest players in the country to strikeout, as he went down swinging just 16 times in 239 at-bats, an average of one strikeout for every 15 at-bats. He also led the team with eight stolen bases. Ben finished the season with eight outfield assists, tied for the seventh most in the country this season and the fourth most in a single season at Alabama, bringing his career total to 15, the third most in a career at UA. Ben started 178 straight games for the Tide, while playing in all 179 games Alabama has played over the last three seasons.
Senior first baseman Austen Smith began his professional career after he was selected in the 33rd round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins. Austen finished his senior season at Alabama with a team-high .316 batting average, while tying for the team lead with 39 RBI, and he was a Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List honoree with a team-high .487 slugging percentage.
Freshman closer Thomas Burrows was named a First Team Freshman All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Thomas finished his freshman season with a 4-2 record and a 2.15 ERA and a team-leading 11 saves (second in the SEC). He was 11-for-11 in save opportunities in 2014 and led the team with 24 appearances, totaling 37.2 innings pitched with 34 strikeouts. Thomas allowed a total of nine runs in his first season at the Capstone, while holding opponents to a .192 average, allowing only 24 hits all season. In addition to his All-American selection by the NCBWA, Thomas was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and was selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
WOMEN'S GOLF: After wrapping up her amateur career with her second appearance in the Curtis Cup for Great Britain and Ireland, Stephanie Meadow made her professional debut a memorable one with a third place finish at last week's U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Her third-place finish all but assures her an LPGA Tour card for the 2015 season. Stephanie's performance lifted her from 601st in the world rankings to 95th. Next up for Stephanie is a trip home for the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club on July 10-13. Stephanie recently added one more first in the history of the Alabama women's golf program when the Women's Golf Coaches Association and Golfweek selected her as a 2014 first-team All-American, making her the Crimson Tide's first four-time first team selection. Emma Talley, a second-team selection a year ago, garnered honorable mention honors from both the WGCA and Golfweek. Alabama now has earned 19 Golfweek All-America honors by seven different players in Coach Mic Potter's nine-year tenure with the Crimson Tide.
MEN'S GOLF: Coach Jay Seawell was named the Dave Williams National Coach of the Year by Golf Pride Grips, the Golf Coaches Association of America announced. Jay just completed his 12th year as our men's golf coach and led the Crimson Tide to its second straight NCAA Championship this season, after finishing as runner-up to Texas in 2012. Jay has won three straight SEC Coach of the Year honors and four in his Alabama career. His Crimson Tide teams have captured four SEC Championships and four NCAA Regional Championships while winning 42 tournaments during his tenure. The Tide has won 27 tournaments over the last four years, including eight in 2012-13 and a school-record nine in 2013-14. His 2012-13 and 2013-14 teams also combined to win an NCAA-record 11 consecutive tournaments. Jay has coached 28 All-Americans during his career, including four in 2011-12, five in 2012-13 and then four again in 2013-14. In the classroom, Jay's teams have put 59 players on the SEC Academic Honor Roll in the past 11 years. Three players have garnered six first team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors two of his golfers have won the SEC's H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Award and Alabama's Bryant Award, as the top male student-athlete from any sport.
Four players from this year's team earned places on the 2014 Golfweek All-America teams with senior Bobby Wyatt and freshman Robby Shelton earning first-team honors. Senior Trey Mullinax was named to Golfweek's second team while senior Cory Whitsett received honorable mention. Over the course of their respective four-year careers, Bobby and Cory were honored on the final Golfweek awards list at the end of each season. Robby, who was also named the Phil Mickelson Award winner as the National Freshman of the Year during the NCAA Championships, finished second in the final Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and third in the Golfstat.com rankings. He led the Crimson Tide in stroke average and was the SEC Player and Freshman of the Year, joining Bud Cauley (2009) and Justin Thomas (2012) as the only Alabama freshmen to earn first-team All-America honors. This was the second straight year (the second time in school history) that Alabama has produced more than three All-Americans in one season and the second time in as many years that the team has been led by multiple first-team All-Americans in the same season. The Crimson Tide has had at least one first-team All-American in seven straight seasons.
Trey and Robby played for Team USA at last week's Palmer Cup at Walton-On-The-Hill, England. The USA dropped an 18.5-11.5 decision to Europe as the Europeans took control in the final round. Trey Mullinax, in his final amateur event, and Robby Shelton secured two points each for the Americans. The Crimson Tide has now been represented in five of the last seven Palmer Cups, including three straight. Coach Seawell led last summer's USA Palmer Cup squad that included Cory Whitsett, Bobby Wyatt and Justin Thomas to a commanding win in Delaware.
WOMEN'S TENNIS: National champions Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe have been named the National Women's Doubles Team of the Year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. The All-Americans surged to the No. 1 ranking on the heels of their 2014 NCAA doubles championship, the first national championship of any kind in tennis for Alabama. The ladies won the title with a commanding 6-1, 6-0 victory over Georgia's second-ranked team. It was my pleasure to watch their dominating performance in Athens, Georgia, the home court of their Bulldog competitors. Maya and Erin finished the season with a 22-4 record and won their final 10 matches, helping the Tide achieve a final ranking of No. 6 by the ITA - the best final ranking in program history.
SOFTBALL: After guiding our team to its ninth Women's College World Series and earning the team's fifth SEC Championship in 2014, the Crimson Tide coaching staff has been named the NFCA South Region Coaching Staff of the Year. Head coach Patrick Murphy, associate head coach Alyson Habetz, assistant coaches Stephanie VanBrakle and Adam Arbour, and director of operations Kate Harris are in their third season together as a staff, winning this award twice in those three seasons. Overall, this is Alabama's ninth South Region Coaching Staff of the Year award. This season was Patrick's 16th as head coach and he has an 842-226 (.788) record at Alabama.
Centerfielder Haylie McCleney and pitcher Jaclyn Traina have been selected to the 2014 USA Softball Women's National Team roster that will compete in numerous events this summer, including the International Softball Federation Women's World Championship. Haylie is making her first appearance on the national team after competing with the Junior National Team last season, while Jaclyn is making her second appearance on the team. The national team will regroup next month for an exhibition game in Morgantown, W. Va., before traveling to Irvine, Calif., for the General Tire World Cup of Softball July 7-13. In preparation for the ISF Women's World Championships, August 15-24 in Haarlem, Netherlands, the team will compete in exhibition games as well as three tournaments that include the General Tire World Cup of Softball IX in Irvine, Calif., July 7-13, the Canadian Open Fast Pitch International in Surrey, British Columbia, July 15-21 and Italian Softball Week in Azzano, Italy, August 6-10.
A SUMMER BREAK
I plan to take a break from blogging for a few weeks as we enjoy the respite prior to things starting up again. However, I want to remind you - yet again - of the incredible value your support brings to our ability to successfully pursue our Mission. That value is evident in every facet of our athletics endeavors, and in every conceivable way. Our charge is to keep providing championship facilities and programs to attract and keep championship coaches and championship student-athletes on the path to Winning Championships and Building Champions.
Our prestigious new baseball stadium goes out to bid in a few weeks and we hope the bids will come in on budget. If so we will break ground very soon. We also have other facility needs, as well as additional academic and athletic programs we are trying to provide. So I encourage you to ponder ways in which you can continue the great support you have given (or thought about giving) in the past, of your presence, your thoughts and prayers, and your financial contributions if feasible. I assure you, the University of Alabama athletics programs are worth investing in.
It will soon be football season and a new academic and athletic year is just around the corner. I hope you have a fantastic summer and if there are ways you believe that can improve our programs, we'd appreciate hearing from you.
A rising tide lifts all boats and it's up to all of us to Keep the Tide Rising!