The Alabama softball team clinched its third consecutive Southeastern Conference regular season title and fourth overall, defeating the Florida Gators, 5-3. Photo by Kent Gidley | University of Alabama Athletics
The third ranked Alabama softball team (47-7 overall, 23-5 SEC) enters the Southeastern Conference Tournament as the top seed after winning its third straight and fourth overall, SEC title over the weekend. The Crimson Tide will open tournament play on Thursday, May 10, against eighth seeded Mississippi State at 7 p.m., on ESPN. The winner of that game will face off against the winner of fourth seeded Georgia and fifth seeded Kentucky in the semifinals, set for Friday, May 11, at 4:30 p.m. The finals are on Saturday night, May 12, at 7 p.m. All games will be played at Rhoads Stadium.
Traina, the 2012 SEC Pitcher of the Year who threw every pitch during last weekend's series against Florida, said she's fresh enough and up for the challenge if she has to do it again this weekend. The decision, though, lies with Murphy, who has another major variable to consider, one that is unique to this year's tournament. "We're at home, we want to pack the stands, we want to do whatever we can for the sport of softball," Murphy said. "It's huge for the state of Alabama -- for Alabama and Auburn. "The fans in the state and everybody on national television gets to see our awesome stadium for three straight days. That doesn't happen very often."
It started on a state-of-the-art, neutral-field stadium with an Olympic flag flying overhead. It migrated from Georgia to Tennessee to Florida, then found a rotating home that has taken it from campus to campus around the league. Over the years, 65,349 fans have flocked to see it live. The Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament was first held on an on-campus site at the University of Alabama in 2004, and now it's back. Today through Saturday, eight SEC teams will battle for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But with every team virtually assured of continuing into postseason play, the stakes are more personal. "You want to be the best of the best," Alabama senior first baseman Cassie Reilly-Boccia said. "Why not? If you're capable of it, go out and get it."
"When one team wins, everybody wins," Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy said. "If men's golf wins, it's good for everybody, it's great publicity for Alabama." Cameras are always rolling at athletic programs as large as Alabama's. Even if a coach attends another sport's event simply as a token gesture, it's better than nothing. It's one more chance to impress a recruit or convince a fan that your sport is worth his or her donation. Even though it's probably impossible for a high-revenue athletic department to act like one, big happy family, it doesn't hurt to promote that image on a national platform. "The more things you're good at, the more exposure you get as an institution," Saban said. "It helps us all be successful."
"His value’s as kind of an all-purpose fullback/tight end-type guy," coach Pat Shurmur said after the Browns picked Smelley. "He can play in the backfield. In the National Championship game, if you see, I think he caught like the first three balls. He’s got good instincts. He was in the Senior Bowl. He’s one of those hybrid-type guys. We feel good about him. He’s got good hands, good instincts. He can play in the backfield or on the line."
While Blake Sims may step in to the role of backup quarterback, coaches may want a more traditional passer to take the reins and allow for him to continue his progress at running back. Ely competed nicely in the A-Day scrimmage last month, connecting on 10 of 18 passes for 83 yards and no touchdowns. Morris has shown the ability to carry the load at quarterback as well, throwing for more than 3,200 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior year. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound quarterback from Texas won’t have the leg up that many other players have enjoyed, though, as he opted to finish high school on a regular schedule rather than enroll early. When Phillip Sims was still at UA that didn’t look to be an issue, but after his departure it leaves the question, "What if he were here four months ago?" It certainly would have allowed for him to be more familiar with the playbook and what coaches expect.
Alabama's first Rose Bowl appearance may have been partly due to a sleight of hand by one of the Crimson Tide's greatest promoters, Champ Pickens.
"I think defensive line is a top priority in every class for Alabama," said BamaOnline recruiting analyst Tim Watts. "Last year, Saban and his staff had a strong haul with an impressive finish with Korren Kirven and Dalvin Tomlinson right before national signing day. So far, no defensive linemen have committed for 2013 but Alabama is in pursuit of several of the nation's best."
AJ McCarron must at least be considered in the conversation of the whom is the SEC’s best quarterback. McCarron closed 2011 with a thunderous boom, working as the clear leader in the game against LSU in the BCS National Championship game in January. He threw more passes in that game – 34 – than he did in any other game in the season and matched his career high in completions (23) en route to throwing for 234 yards. Not a bad stat line for any game, but considering the competition, it’s not crazy to call it an outstanding stat line, and some of those completions were thrown directly over the head of LSU standout cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. That’s much better than the numbers Aaron Murray put up just a month earlier against LSU in the SEC Championship Game, when the Georgia quarterback completed only 16 passes on 40 attempts for 163 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
The call from Saban is particularly interesting, as current Georgia head coach Mark Richt serves a two week, NCAA mandated suspension from calling recruits. Richt committed a secondary violation of NCAA rules by commenting on television on safety Josh Harvey-Clemons before his letter-of-intent was received and approved by the university.
The former Jacksonville State, Clemson and Florida Coach Charley Pell will be one of eight to be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 12, 2012. A native of Albertville, Ala., Pell played collegiately at the University of Alabama and was a member of their 1961 National Championship team. He was an All-SEC guard and defensive tackle.
University of Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore will be one of eight to be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 12, 2012. A native of Dozier, Moore as a player and coach was a part of seven National Championships, 14 SEC Championships and 28 bowl trips.
The SEC is far and away first, with the Big Ten a clear second. The Big 12 just hopped above the Pac-12 last year after a steady rise, and the ACC is hanging in their in fifth with the Big East last. Of course, this order could get moved around some as the new expansion moves of the last year come into effect. One mystery I wanted to solve was why the Pac-12 median attendance fell so dramatically. My initial hunch was that the additions of Colorado and Utah had something to do with it, and sure enough, that's a small part (roughly 10% or so) of it. The median capacity of Pac-10 stadiums was 59,359, and the median capacity of Pac-12 stadiums is 58,792. For reference, only Vanderbilt and Mississippi State have smaller stadiums than either of those median capacity figures among current and future SEC schools. The larger problem is that many of the high capacity Pac-12 schools had bad years for attendance, while the best-performing schools have small stadiums. And also, Cal fans quit on the team in a big way.
For the Atlantic Coast Conference, more teams and more games means a lot more TV money. The ACC and ESPN have extended their television deal through the 2026-27 season. A person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press that it's worth $3.6 billion over the 15 years. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because financial terms weren't released when the two sides announced the deal Wednesday.
4. Will anybody step up at running back for Tennessee? For a school that has produced Travis Henry, Arian Foster, James Stewart, Jamal Lewis and a bunch of other really good running backs, it's hard for me to believe that the Volunteers do not have a big-time player at the position. But they don't. They have a bunch of guys who can play reasonably well. Marlin Lane was a four-star recruit out of Daytona Beach who ran for 280 yards as a true freshman last season. He had 136 yards in the spring game. Junior Rajion Neal had 134 yards last season and sophomore Devrin Young is small (5-feet-8, 171 pounds) but can give the Vols a change of pace. Nobody will say it out loud in Knoxville, but there doesn't appear to be anybody on this roster durable enough and physical enough (and tough enough) to carry it 20 times a game and go over 100 yards against a quality SEC defense. Tennessee finished 116th nationally in rushing last season. That has to change. Four-star running back Davante Bourque from Crowley, La., decommitted from LSU and signed with the Vols last February. But not everyone recruiting Bourque thought his future was at running back. New running backs coach Jay Graham may have to give him a shot.
Katzenbach helped steer U.S. civil-rights policy under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and famously confronted Wallace on June 11, 1963 in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama. Katzenbach argued with Wallace, who refused to yield until President Kennedy activated the Alabama National Guard, whose commanding general, Henry Graham, then directed Wallace to stand aside.
Petrino’s red 2007 Harley-Davidson is listed on a website called Copart.com, which describes itself as "sell[ing] more than one million vehicles each year through VB2, our patented two-stage internet sales technology." The bike, aptly dubbed "Hawg Wild", is being sold "as is — where is" and has a book value of $16,000, although the cost of repairs is estimated to be $18,481.