I've been a fan of Alabama for a fair amount of years, graduated when the Bear was going strong and started a family as Stalling brought us back and my youngest is now set to enroll in the fall. I was a straight football fan all my life until I stepped foot on campus and became very aware of the other programs here at the capstone. I remember by my senior year Title IX had caused a boom in the amount of teams in crimson and white so there was no shortage of programs in their infancy to choose from. (gymnastics in Foster Auditorium was my favorite, though it was no where near well attended at the time) Now, fast forward to today and I must say, I cannot remember two athletic years so fiercely contrasting as 2010 and 2012 for the teams from Tuscaloosa and this year in particular is the best I've ever seen.
We've had crummy years before, heck most of the last decade the football team was in flux. Basketball and Gymnastics had better years. I'd say 2006-2007 was also pretty all around a dud but 2010..... good grief.
2010 is remembered as mostly a down year for football (10 win season, down year? well here it is) as 2009 set the bar so high and we couldn't even manage a BCS bowl bid even with two of the most talented backs in Alabama history. The Tide suffered the most humiliating loss to the Barn since Punt Bama Punt, no SEC title and National Titled hopes killed early. (even then we pounded the co-Big 10 champion into oblivion)
How about our other programs with high expectations? Basketball, to cut it some slack, was never really expected to wow us as 2009-2010 was Anthony Grant's first year. Gymnastics, which which finished 2009 as #2 nationally and SEC Champions, the 2010 season was a let down. Bama was #1 or #2 all season and then faded in the post season. Florida captured the SEC and Alabama was shut out of bringing home so much as an individual title.
2010 was to deal softball the cruelest blow. Pat Murphy's ladies cruised through the season and captured the SEC tourney and regular season titles for the first time ever. Alabama was seeded #1 in the NCAA tournament and many tabbed them to be one of SEC's best shots in history of breaking the West Coast's death grip on the sport. Alabama humiliated all comers in the regionals and then faced 16 seed Hawaii in Tuscaloosa for the super regional with a berth in the World Series on the line. The Tide mercy ruled the Rainbow Wahine in the first game (best of 3) and then the unthinkable happened. Hawaii won the next two, K-Oing Bama in the final game with a walk-off home run, stunning 98% of Rhoads Stadium. Everyone else in Alabama was pretty.... meh. 2010 was a year most of us would like to forget..... Bama sports-wise (no offense to anyone whose kid was born, who got married or graduated that year).
The only real highlights was the baseball team almost reaching Omaha, the Wheel-Chair basketball winning a national title and women's basketball getting a surprise commitment from the #4 recruit in the country. Oh and technically we won the 2009 BCS Title in January of 2010 so I guess it saves the year a little..... no, the year as a whole is still a giant bitter memory.
Alright, now lets get to the fun part..... 2012. Oh what a difference two years make.
Now by the same logic as above, the 2011 BCS Title was won in 2012, so there's that. The 2012 Football season is under 100 days away so it will have an enormous say in whether or not the whole year is a giant party so let's talk about some other sports for now.... (jump!)Starting with the obvious.... Alabama Gymnastics and Golf are National Champions. Previously only football and gymnastics had ever won National Championships for Alabama and never in the same years, now we have an unprecedented 3 already with 3 more (football, men's golf and softball) still very much in reach. Basketball found itself back in the NCAA tourney for the first time since the dying breaths of the Gottfried era. Anthony Grant has made Bama a top defensive power and putting a fence around the state getting commits from kids like Trevor Lacy and Jimmie Taylor, plus he's going head to head with Kentucky and Kansas for kids like Devonta Pollard (status unknown). Sarah Patterson is now the unquestioned queen of her sport right now with 2 straight NCAA titles and a squad overflowing with talent and experience. One more national title puts her a 7, surpassing the Bear and making Suzanne Yoculan's mark of 10 titles closer than ever before.
Pat Murphy has a team with all the talent of that 2010 team but with a happier ending hopefully in the making. His start pitcher, Jackie Traina is almost as well known as some of the football players. They are one of the most prolific home run hitting teams in the nation and are loaded with experience and bitter memories of the 09, 10 and 11 exits. Mic Potter of the women's golf team won his 1st NCAA title and Jay Seawell of the men's team dominated their regional and are set to play for the national championship. Todd Bramble and the Soccer team had a banner year for the generally middle-of-the-road program. Knocking off multiple ranked teams and earning the team's first NCAA bid since 1998 and this coming fall's team will have a Dutch flavor to it as two member of the Dutch national team have signed with Bama.
The future has never looked better for Bama swimming and diving coach-wise as Dennis Pursley, a Bama alum and world renowned swimming coach, returns to Tuscaloosa this fall and will try to resurrect us to a position to challenge Auburn for dominance. Track and Field are still adjusting to a promising new coach and volleyball will also try to provide some results in year two of the Ed Allen era.
Alright, do I even have to mention Football? What can I say that hasn't already been said? Nick Saban has Alabama running in Xbox mode right now, bringing in huge talent, preparing for the other teams, being involved in the community and guarding Bryant Denny with 4 other coaches in statue mode.
The only dampers on the year? Women's Basketball suffered blows early, losing their star senior and #4 ranked recruit from last year (Kanesha Horn), both to season ending injury, the season was sunk before it began. Good news? Horn will be back and two transfers from powerhouse Rutgers will be eligible to play so stay tuned.
Baseball..... oh baseball, what happened? All this success around campus almost magnifies their shortcomings. No SEC tourney bid, being swept by lowly teams and dwindling crowds....very sad. But heck, the year wasn't a total loss, as one of the worst teams in Bama history swept Auburn, sending their season into jeopardy. Any year involving that isn't a compete waste.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I think we just need to stop and realize how special this point in our University's history this is. We've had non-football success before (Wimp Sanderson's SEC runs, Sarah Patterson's titles and Women's Basketball reaching the Final Four) but never like this and never so close together. Stanford, Florida, Texas, UCLA and USC have thunder and lightining programs, bringing conference titles and NCAA titles almost every year. That's never been us, we've been Football or nothing till the 80s and then Football and Gymnastics and nothing. Now, well, I think you younger guys and gals should relish every second. I think this year, more than any ever before... it's great to be from Alabama. (and the best if probably yet to come)
P.S. Much of this is in no small part due to Coach (he'll always be coach to me) Mal Moore. Credit is due for convincing Nick Saban to get on that plane from Miami, for providing Sarah and the gymanstics team with whatever they needed, keeping Pat Murphy away from LSU, making smart hires in swimming, track and volleybal, overseeing renovation after renovation to keep us a recruits dream (*cough* the Joe *cough*) l and standing by Anthony Grant as tough decisions were made. But most importantly, being the face and leader along with Coach Saban, Dr. Witt and Mayor Maddox after the destruction of April 27th. What more can be said? He's one hellova guy.