The tournament final also capped a flip in the SEC's balance of power. While Alabama won the league's regular-season title in 2010 and '11, Florida won the series with Alabama both times. The Gators had also eliminated UA from the Women's College World Series with a two-game sweep last year and sent Alabama home from the World Series two years before. Alabama won two games out of three to take this year's series on the weekend before the SEC Tournament - winning one of those by the mercy rule - and ran the Gators out of Rhoads Stadium on Saturday. "While that was in the back of our minds, if we let that interfere with how we play we weren't going to be successful," Lunceford said. "We couldn't let that affect us."
The weekend set a three-day attendance record for the SEC Tournament, with 10,044 fans attending the games at Rhoads Stadium. "The fans have supported us like none other," Murphy said. "My vote is to leave the tournament here every single year, if I have a vote. I thought that yesterday was awesome, but today was even better and even more fun. It's the 40th anniversary of Title IX, so to have this type of crowd and this type of media presence for women's softball is just incredible in my mind."
The win capped one of the most successful seasons in Alabama softball history – it’s just the second time that Alabama has won both the regular season and SEC Tournament titles. But regular season and SEC accolades aren’t the focus for Murphy and his team any more. The focus now shifts to the post-season, where the Tide is still looking for its first College World Series win. Alabama finished tied for third in 2008, 2009 and 2011. And a stunning, walk-off loss to Hawaii in 2010 denied Alabama the chance to even play in Oklahoma City. And so as the the championship hats were handed out at Rhoads Stadium on Saturday, the Alabama softball team left happy, but not yet satisfied. The Tide is guaranteed a spot in a regional round, which will be held in Tuscaloosa, where the real season begins. “One thing that really keeps this team strong is the bond that we have,” Locke said. “It’s easy to come out every day and play a game every day and play against the best teams in the country because our team is such a unit. We play together and we play for each other.”
"Locke is the kind of teammate that has your back no matter what," senior Jazlyn Lunceford said after returning the favor with a three-run home run. "Whether it's talking you up in the dugout, giving you confidence, she has all the confidence in the world, and she should. So when she says something to you, you're going to believe her and you're going to take it to heart."
Saturday's win over Florida provided some hope in the form of senior pitcher Amanda Locke. It would be wise not to read too much into Locke's performance since tournament motivation for any team can be a tricky thing to read, and whatever spark Florida had might have gotten was extinguished early on by UA's offensive output. Still, Locke was solid - "even-keeled," as she put it - and that is encouraging, because every effective inning that Locke can throw (perhaps against a No. 4 seed in next weekend's regional) is an inning SEC Pitcher of the Year Jackie Traina doesn't have to pitch. Rest assured, Alabama is going to go just as far this postseason as Traina can carry it. She's already been a workhorse, but now the Tide's fate rests squarely on her right arm.
Taking a look at the NCAA Softball RPI it is apparent the West is still the most dominant region. Seven out of the top ten teams come from either the Pac-12 or the Big 12. The other three teams in the top ten – Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee – are all members of the SEC. What does the Crimson Tide have to compete with? As of May 7, Alabama sits in third in the NCAA RPI with California and Arizona State in front of them.
Few know University of Alabama athletics history like Ken Gaddy. The director of the Bryant Museum has worked there 20 years. Not many years in Tuscaloosa compare to the one still in progress. The 2011-12 athletics season is making an argument for its place in school history. Never before had two Crimson Tide programs won national titles in the same season, and it’s not unreasonable to expect another before June. Three of the four Alabama programs still competing — men’s and women’s golf and softball — rank in the top three in their respective sports. Each carries realistic goals of joining the Tide football and gymnastic teams at the top soon. “In recent times,” Gaddy said, “It’s the best in a long, long time.”
If he'd have known he would be playing college football at a place like Alabama -- or anywhere for that matter -- Alec Morris might have started down the path toward early graduation at the beginning of his junior year. At that point, Morris, Alabama's newest freshman quarterback, was just trying to get on the field with the varsity squad at Allen High in Texas. "I wasn't even 100 percent sure I was going to play college football," Morris said. "It all just happened pretty quickly."
"It just means a lot for me to have my dreams come true," Hightower said before taking the field at Patriots minicamp. "And obviously doing something that you love to do with so much passion means a lot to me and it's definitely No. 1 on my priority list right now."
As coordinator with the St. Louis Rams, Shurmur’s feature back Steven Jackson stood 6-2 and weighed 240 pounds. Mike Holmgren’s MVP workhorse in Seattle, Shaun Alexander, was 5-11 and 225. Adrian Peterson, whom Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress had when Vikings head coach, is 6-1 and 217. Richardson’s unique dimensions enable him to take advantage of scatback height and fullback power. “Depending on how they’re built, runners get used to their size and it drives their running style,” Shurmur said. “Trent can get his foot down and slash it up in the line of scrimmage. By the nature of his build, it’s hard to get your arms around him and tackle. That natural leverage that he has also gives him great balance.”