The SEC Network Is a Reality

Aug. 18, 2014

The SEC Network Is a Reality
The fall semester begins this week and, with it, the start of another competitive calendar for the Crimson Tide. I hope each of you had a terrific summer. While this blog took a hiatus for several weeks, it has been an eventful summer on many fronts as the ever-evolving landscape of college athletics has seen some milestone moments that will affect our future in ways great and small.

I'll delve into several concerns about the future of college athletics in upcoming blogs. However, today I want to focus on the SEC Network which debuted Thursday evening. The network's launch was an historic day in the SEC and for Alabama. The efforts of many people made the network a reality, chiefly SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, whose vision, persistence and steady leadership has made this groundbreaking venture come to life. But I would be remiss in failing to mention several others: ESPN's Justin Connolly and his crew did an incredible job of securing distribution and Charley Hussey of the SEC Office was a constant source of insight and assistance as the project developed. ESPN's Chris Turner has been a steady guide for each institution, making visits to all 14 campuses and walking us all through the many questions and challenges involved in such a complex undertaking.

Commissioner Slive, Justin, Charley, Chris and countless others were integral in a spirit of collaborative teamwork that involved every SEC school and the many ESPN locales throughout the nation. Eight of the nation's 10 largest pay-tv providers have signed on to carry the SEC Network, and conversations with the others are ongoing. Completed distribution agreements cover approximately 90 percent of the multi-channel homes across the country - an incredible reach for a new network. Because of this incredible achievement, the SEC Network will be one of the most successful launches of a new cable network ever with access to an estimated 91 million households on Day One.

The SEC Network will provide fans with more than 1,000 live events combined across linear and digital platforms. It will debut original content with shows such as "SEC Now" and the "SEC Storied" film series. But the network is not simply a television channel, it also will reach SEC fans across their device of choice with a state-of-the-art website and a collection of exclusive digital events on SEC Network+, which will be available through SECNetwork.com and WatchESPN.

A Few Things You Need to Know About the SEC Network
Where you can find it on your satellite or cable system. The SEC Network Channel Finder may be accessed via this link: www.getsecnetwork.com/channel-finder. This is the best destination for fans looking to find the SEC Network channel on their TV provider's lineup. The link also provides information about all the SEC Network and SEC Network + events on mobile devices, tablets and computers. The channel finder will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months, so check back regularly if you have any difficulties.

How you can get the SEC Network. Contact your local cable or satellite distributor. AT&T U-verse® TV, Bright House Networks, Charter, Comcast Xfinity TV, Cox Communications, DIRECTV, DISH, Google Fiber, LUS Fiber, PTC Communications, Suddenlink, Time Warner Cable, Wilkes Telephone, and members of the NCTC, NRTC and NTTC and will carry the television network nationwide at launch. And if you experience problems with the Network, call ESPN Customer Care 888-549-3776.

What kind of shows you will see on the SEC Network. At the outset, the network will offer SEC sports and sports-related studio programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week, such as "SEC Nation", the network's traveling football pregame show that will air every Saturday during the fall, a television simulcast of "The Paul Finebaum Show" and "SEC Now", a daily news and information show. More than 1,000 live events will also be available in the first year across the television network and its digital platforms. This will include approximately 45 football games, more than 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games, 75 baseball games and events from all 21 SEC-sponsored sports. Fans will be able to access content on a range of devices.

One Era Ends, Another Begins
As you know, Sarah Patterson stepped down as our gymnastics coach in July ending a remarkable 36-year run in which she created a dynasty that ranks among the greatest in college sports history. Now the program will be in the hands of Dana Duckworth, whose outstanding work as an assistant coach created the possibility for the seamless transition that Sarah wanted to take place. We all know of Sarah's tremendous accomplishments, including six national championships and eight SEC titles, but perhaps her proudest achievement was the advent and growth of the "Power of Pink" events that lend visibility and awareness to those who struggle with breast cancer.

Sarah is a person that always sees the big picture and always thinks of benefiting others. This was clearly evident during the process that led to her decision to step down. Her guiding thought throughout was how to make the transition as seamless as possible to avoid any negative impact on recruiting and the health of the program overall. Her main priority above all others was making sure that the student-athletes did not have any uncertainty about the direction of the program. I was very pleased that we were able to meet those objectives and keep the program on course. I was also very pleased that Brian Raschilla will stay on as Associate Head Coach. Between them, Coach Duckworth and Coach Raschilla have 38 years of experience under the tutelage of Sarah and David Patterson. They make an excellent team, and the addition of new assistant coach Bill Lorenz from Ohio State completes an outstanding staff to take us into the new era.

Each year we honor our SEC and NCAA championship teams from the previous year in a ceremony at the Sarah Patterson Champions Plaza adjacent to Sewell-Thomas Stadium and across the street from the Mal Moore Athletic Facility and Coleman Coliseum. This year's ceremony will take place on Friday, Sept. 19, at 4:30 p.m. - one day before our football game against Florida. In addition to honoring our 4 SEC and 1 national championship teams and coaches, I look forward to further honoring Sarah and her husband David for all of their remarkable achievements at that time. I encourage you to look for further details on the event at rolltide.com, and join us for what we hope will be an annual unveiling of championships earned by Alabama teams.

Kim Jacob: Simply the Best
Kim Jacob, our outstanding gymnast, was presented the 40th annual Honda Cup as the Collegiate Women Sports Awards Athlete of the Year in Los Angeles during the live awards broadcast on the CBS Sports Network on July 1. The 2014 NCAA All-Around Champion and the Honda Award winner for the sport of gymnastics, Kim was one of 12 women from 12 different sports under consideration for the prestigious accolade that honors the best collegiate NCAA Division I female athlete in the nation over the past academic year. She is the first Crimson Tide student-athlete to be a finalist and the first to win the Honda Cup.

The epitome of what we hope for our student-athletes, Kim was a champion in the gym, in the classroom and in the community as she led Alabama to four consecutive top-four national finishes, including back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2011 and 2012. The 2014 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year for the at-large team, Kim was also a two-time member of the Southeastern Conference Community Service Team. Kim represents the best of the best of collegiate athletics. An 11-time All-American, she earned four first-team honors in 2014, the most of any gymnast at the national championships. She also led Alabama to SEC titles in 2011 and 2014. A hearty congratulations to Kim, her family, her coaches, her professors and our Academic Services staff.

Making a Big Difference
The eighth annual Nick's Kids luncheon was held July 31 in The North Zone at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and the work that Nick and Terry Saban have done in Tuscaloosa continues to amaze me. Checks totaling more than $440,000 were presented to 125 local and state organizations. Since Nick and Terry arrived in Tuscaloosa seven years ago more than $4.6 million has been distributed to numerous charities and organizations throughout the state and surrounding areas. In addition to their work with Nick's Kids, the Sabans have also made generous donations to The University of Alabama for scholarships, including a $1 million pledge to the University for First-generation Scholarships back in 2008.

This year's total in terms of funds distributed through Nick's Kids initiatives was over $600,000. For the past two years, the Sabans have also assisted in raising money for various areas affected by the tornado that hit Alabama on April 27, 2011, as well as creating the 15 for 15 Home Building Project with Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa. It was also very gratifying to see several of our football players at the luncheon including Arie Kouandjio, Jalston Fowler, Christion Jones, Robert Foster, Austin Shepherd, Ryan Kelly, Brian Vogler, Landon Collins, Jarrick Williams, Blake Sims, DeAndrew White, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Tomlinson, Geno Smith and Maurice Smith. All of them were on hand to take pictures with the kids and sign autographs.

An Outstanding Academic Year Comes to a Close
*11 student-athletes received their degrees on August 1 during The University of Alabama's commencement activities, including starting football players Ryan Kelly (center) and Cade Foster (kicker), who completed a master's degree. Ryan will be one of 15 members of this year's Crimson Tide football team that will suit up with a degree already in hand. All-American gymnast Kayla Williams and All-American sprinter Akeem Haynes also graduated, along with men's basketball guard Levi Randolph. Kayla and Levi will enter their senior seasons working on a second degree. Overall, more than 100 student-athletes earned their degree during the 2013-14 academic year. Other graduates from the summer term were: Tyler Campbell (men's track and field/cross country), Philip Dockery (men's swimming and diving); Dee Hart (football); Brittany Jack (women's basketball); Dacia Mays (women's track and field); and Katie Schroeder (women's swimming and diving).

*86 student-athletes were named to the 2014 Southeastern Conference First-Year Academic Honor Roll. Alabama and South Carolina were the only schools with more than 80 honorees. The women's basketball, men's swimming and diving and women's swimming and diving teams led the SEC in their respective sports. The men's swimming and diving team led all UA and conference teams with 15 honors. The women's swimming and diving squad had 10 honorees while women's basketball tallied five honors. The 2014 SEC Champion gymnastics (5), softball (4) and women's tennis (3) teams were second in the league as were the soccer (8), men's track and field (8), rowing (5) and men's tennis (3) teams. The 2014 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll is based on grades from the 2013-14 academic calendar year. To earn a place on the honor roll a student-athlete must have a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or above at the nominating institution, be on scholarship or a letter winner, have completed 24 semester hours of non-remedial credit at the nominating institution and have been a member of the varsity team for the sport's entire NCAA championship segment.

*We placed 99 student-athletes from nine different teams on the SEC's Spring Academic Honor Roll. The Crimson Tide was one of three schools with 95 or more honorees. Our 2014 NCAA and SEC Champion men's golf team had six players named to the list; the 2014 SEC champion women's tennis team placed five on the list; the softball team, winner of its fifth SEC title in 2014, placed 13 players on the honor roll; the women's track and field team led the way for the Crimson Tide in the spring with 19 honorees, followed by the 18 members of the rowing team and the 16 members of the men's track and field team; the baseball team placed 14 members on the honor roll; women's golf placed five on the list and men's tennis had three. To earn a place on the honor roll, a student-athlete must earn a 3.0 or better grade point average for either the preceding academic year or their career and be a sophomore or better in academic standing. The spring list honors those student-athletes that participate in baseball, men's and women's golf, rowing, softball, men's and women's tennis, and men's and women's track and field. A total of 1,181 SEC student-athletes earned the honor during the spring season.

*Kudos to head coach Dan Waters and the men's track & field squad, which was named the 2014 Indoor Scholar Team of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). As the highest-placing team with at least a 3.00 cumulative team grade point average at this season's indoor NCAA Division I Championships, Alabama stood out among 116 men's programs that combined academic and athletic achievement to earn All-Academic Team honors. The Tide was the highest-finishing men's team at the NCAA Indoor Championships to earn All-Academic Team honors, finishing sixth place overall with a 3.14 cumulative team GPA. This marks the first time the Crimson Tide men have earned Scholar Team of the Year honors. The Tide men also finished 15th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Tide women also had an outstanding year both on the track and in the classroom, ranking 13th nationally by cumulative grade point average with a 3.52 and finishing 19th at the NCAA Indoor Championships and 18th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. This season marked the first time in school history that both the Alabama men and women finished in the top-20 at both the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships and posted cumulative team GPAs better than 3.0. These student-athletes are living our Mission and preparing for life after competition.

*For the 2013-14 academic year, our 525 student athletes earned a cumulative 3.2 GPA. Congratulations to all involved for a job extremely well done in this vital component of our Mission in athletics.

*We're all excited to get the 2014 football season underway. Our first game is less than two weeks away. Fall practice has gone well and two a days are over. The time has come to rest them up a little, fine tune the systems, and put in the game plan for West Virginia. We hope to see you in Atlanta, fired up and ready to help lead our team to play its best. And if you do make the trip, please make time to visit the Grand Opening of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. It is being finished as we speak and the reports from those who have gotten a sneak peek, say it is extremely impressive in every aspect.

I look forward to keeping you informed about the great things I see around the University every day, as well as speaking to issues we face on campus, as well as in collegiate athletics in general. There is much going on now that will impact the future of collegiate athletics. I'm confident that the leadership in college athletics will make wise decisions that will protect and preserve the good things that are happening, while shoring up some of the problem areas. I have enjoyed communicating with you over this last year and especially enjoy hearing from you.

Your support is very much appreciated. It takes all of us pulling together to Keep the Tide Rising!

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