The national champion University of Alabama received affirmation of its final No. 1 status in both softball polls, but it wasn't unanimous. The Crimson Tide received all 20 first-place votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25, but two of the 30 coaches voting in the USA Today/NFCA poll voted World Series runner-up Oklahoma No. 1 in the year-end poll, which was released Tuesday. Alabama took two of three games from Oklahoma in the Women's College World Series championship series last week in Oklahoma City. "We have 30 voters in our poll, one from each conference, who are able to vote for anyone they choose," said Parker Griffin, director of media relations for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. "We do not know why they chose to vote for Oklahoma instead of Alabama as the No. 1 team in the final poll." The NFCA does not make ballots public, so the identity of the two coaches who voted Oklahoma above Alabama remain unknown. Neither Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso nor Alabama coach Patrick Murphy has a vote in the poll.
1. June 6, 2012 Alabama softball sang in the rain while Oklahoma sat in the dugout, and the Tide won its first ever national championship in softball in one of the most dramatic sporting events in Alabama history. The win unquestionably made 2011-2012 the greatest year in Alabama history, with a fourth national championship.
Gymnastics and softball have been the gold standard for women’s athletics at Alabama, but in the 2011-12 season, other programs like golf, tennis and soccer enjoyed historic seasons as well and are approaching the level of the Tide’s top two women’s sports. Whether they do reach that level is still to be determined, but one thing remains constant: none of it would have been possible without Title IX. "It doesn’t matter whether you’re a female or a male," Patterson said. "The opportunity for success should not be based on gender. I think you can see that with the success of our women’s teams."
No one questions that football still reigns supreme in Tuscaloosa. Cars with Roll Tide paint jobs don't clog I-20 for softball games or gym meets. But with four national championships this year, three of them coming in women's sports, everybody also realizes that Titletown is turning into a lot more than pigskin and fall Saturdays. Though there weren't as many fans cheering the golfers, softball players or gymnasts as they were screaming their heads off in New Orleans at the BSC championship, the newest titles have elicited just as much pride from Tide faithful. "I am so proud and excited to be a part of the Crimson Tide family," said Leslie Spalding, who played golf at Alabama in the early 90s and competed on the LPGA Tour for a decade before getting into coaching — Spalding is currently San Diego State's women's golf coach. "I think it's a cultural thing. People expect to win national championships at Alabama no matter what the sport. I think you see other teams winning titles and you understand that it's just what you do at Alabama."
The UA system Board of Trustees will meet this Thursday and Friday in Tuscaloosa. In preparation, the agenda was released this afternoon. Down on Page 12 was an interesting item under construction items for the Tuscaloosa campus. "Consideration of Resolution authorizing execution of an Architectural Service Agreement and approving Preliminary Budget for the Champions Plaza at UA (Stages I & II)" An athletics department spokesman declined comment on what this project might include.
Q. With the rush to realignment, loss of rivalries and billion-dollar TV deals, and the scandal and corruption in the past year, are college sports losing their soul a bit?
A. There’s an interesting irony going on right now, that if you pause and look at the success of college athletics, it’s never been greater, in terms of the graduation rates of student-athletes, their success and persistence in the classroom, the level of participation by student-athletes around the country, the popularity of the games in terms of audiences and obviously the media attention given to college sports. So, all of the things that are the core of what intercollegiate athletics are about are performing extremely well. At the same time, you’ve got a handful — and by that I mean 20 or 30 — universities whose football and men’s basketball programs, only two sports, are able to drive very large amounts of revenue that support all of the rest of their athletic programs, that support a wide variety of activities at those universities. And they’re the ones, the schools, that get the largest amount of attention. So people look at that and say, ‘That’s the world of intercollegiate athletics.’ Again, you know our ads, we’ve got 430,000 student-athletes out there that are being wildly successful as young men and young women, and as students, but as athletes the attention shifts to a very small number of basketball players and a small number of football players. And I think, as much as anything, there’s a skewing of what people are seeing and what they’re paying attention to that doesn’t represent the broad intercollegiate athletics at all. I think the heart and soul of intercollegiate athletics is actually doing very, very well. Are there problems we need to address? Absolutely. Are there people who misbehave and whose behavior we can’t tolerate? Absolutely. Is there a need to increase graduation in a number of programs around the country? You bet. But those are all things we are dealing with. I feel pretty good about where we are right now, and I’m going to feel really good about where we’re going to be in the near future."
Henry’s coach at Yulee (Fla.) High School, Bobby Ramsay, made some statements to Dawg247sports (subscription required): He complimented Alabama for its success in winning national championship and putting players in the NFL, said Nick Saban made it clear that Alabama was recruiting Henry at the RB position (and not LB like some have speculated), and said Alabama’s coaches stated "If you tell us not to recruit you, we won’t recruit you, but otherwise we’re going to recruit you."
2 WR DeAndrew White (rSo.)
2011 season: Played in 12 games a season ago, catching 14 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Made starts against Kent State and Mississippi State. 2012 spring practice: Worked behind Kenny Bell at the X receiver spot. Caught seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns in scrimmage work. Sustained a concussion during an altercation shortly after the completion of spring drills but should be ready to go when fall camp gets underway. What he brings to the table: Showed flashes of vertical play-making ability in 2011. As is the case with the rest of the rotation the question is, can White produce on a consistent basis? Specifically, he needs to continue to make strength gains, which will help him combat man coverage -- and finish plays once he beats it.
The Bulldogs' substance-abuse policy is a prime example of the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished world of major college sports. Georgia tries to do the right thing by creating one of the toughest anti-drug policies in the nation, but that policy makes the Bulldogs the butt of jokes and could cost the football team wins. Georgia's policy calls for a 10-percent of the season (one game in football) suspension for the first offense and a 30-percent of the season (four games in football) suspension for a second positive. At all but two other schools in the SEC (Kentucky and Mississippi State), a player who tests positive the first time does not miss a game. At Alabama and LSU, the two programs that faced off for the national title last year, a second positive test forces a suspension of at most two games. At Florida, a second positive for marijuana results in a one-game suspension.
I didn’t add any emphasis to those paragraphs; I didn’t need to add any. Top-notch facilities attract top-notch coaches, and, together, they attract top-notch recruits. The combination of infrastructure, coaching, and talent leads to championships. The execution isn’t easy, but the formula is forthright.