Chants of "Roll Tide" filled ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City after Jackie Traina struck out Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts for the final out at the Women's College World Series on Wednesday, sealing the University of Alabama's first national championship in softball. After a short time, there was another chant: "SEC, SEC, SEC." Alabama's dramatic national title win did more than bring home a trophy to Tuscaloosa. It was also a breakthrough for the Southeastern Conference, giving a league that began playing softball in 1997 its first national championship in the sport. If that seems like a long time, it isn't. "You look historically, they did it very quickly," said retired coach Sue Enquist, who led UCLA to 11 national championships. "If you look at the progression of sport and what transpired in other sports, and how long it takes for a conference to get up and running if they haven't had a sport, I believe they've done it very quickly."
"For the majority, it’s been Florida, Alabama and Texas with a lot of Georgia kids mixed in because they’ve really started to get good in the last five years," Murphy said before the WCWS started. Hunt was one of those Georgia imports. She established Greenbrier’s career home run record with 24. She was The Augusta Chronicle and Class AAAAA softball player of the year in 2009 after a dominating senior season. Her choice to attend Alabama was made after just one visit to the school her freshman year. "I fell in love with coaches and the players," she said. "They made me so welcome. It felt like home away from home. "Even if they’d been one of the middle-of-the-pack programs, I still would have chosen them. You’ve got to like where you’re going."
She was there when Patrick Murphy took over the program in 1999. She was a member of Alabama's first NCAA Regional team that same year, and its first WCWS team in 2000 -- an experience she called "one of the most fun times in my life." Twelve years after that first Women's College World Series appearance, Henley said watching her old coach lead the Crimson Tide to the SEC's first softball national title was "just amazing." "Coach Murphy is just a fantastic coach," she said. "He's so deserving of all this. Good things happen to good people."
"I am extremely honored to be named the Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Alabama sports writers," Richardson said. "I enjoyed working with the writers that covered Alabama, and I'm honored they have recognized me. This is an award that I would not be receiving if it wasn't for my teammates at Alabama, my offensive line and coaches especially, and I want to thank them."
Text messages were outlawed by the NCAA five years ago amid concerns of excessive use and athletes accruing astronomical charges. Advancement in technology and the rise of unlimited text plans create an atmosphere to revisit the issue, with men's basketball set to be the guinea pig. No other sports have adopted the reform, although women's coaches could follow by next year.
Alabama has invested wisely in a proven commodity, and you can bet that Saban and his charges are going to be ready to defend their title against all comers. Being lucky plays a part, but there is no discounting the tireless effort put in by the coach, his staff and his players to make sure that Alabama remains at top of the heap when it comes to success on the gridiron.
Jim McElwain: After helping Alabama win two national championships in his four seasons as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban, McElwain (50) landed at a place that seemingly fits his personality. Working for Saban isn't easy. You sacrifice a lot, as does your family, so don't you have to root for someone after sacrificing so much?
"I feel I’ve learned a lot. These past few weeks coming in, the preparation has been a lot," Upshaw said. "We’re all trying to get better each and every day and I feel I’m improving in every aspect of whatever they want me to do." Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Upshaw is faring well in the transition from college to the professional ranks. With the loss of Suggs and Jarret Johnson, who signed with the San Diego Chargers, Upshaw may have to meet high expecations for the Ravens to improve a defense that ranked third overall in 2011
The Ronde Barber experiment: At this point, it’s tempting to say that the move of the veteran cornerback to safety is permanent. That’s because Barber has been working at safety throughout the offseason and it looks like he and rookie Mark Barron will be the starters.