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Flush With Cash, How Should Alabama AD Greg Byrne Spend it?

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Football revenue has reached epic levels at the Capstone.

New Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne is no stranger to National Championships
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

With the hiring of Greg Byrne as the new Director of Athletics, the University of Alabama has entered into a new era. We will never forget the pride and joyous moments that Paul “Bear” Bryant brought to the Capstone and to the Yellowhammer State, but the retirement of Bill Battle further distances ties back to the legendary coach. Byrne is the first Alabama AD of the modern era with no previous ties to the school and the first to have not played football at the Capstone since Bryant took the reins in 1957.

If you listen to sports journalists across the country, they consider this a home run hire. Despite his departure, the Arizona fans still toast his name. By all accounts, he is a competent hire and young enough to relate to students as well as alumni.

Mr. Byrne is very web and social media savvy. Who knows? He might even read this article. If that happens, maybe he will hear your voice. While Alabama is currently flush with cash and flourishing as a university, there still needs to be a few tweaks.

MAJOR SPORTS

FOOTBALL

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Everything is pretty hunky-dory here as long as Nick Saban is in charge. The only real concern I can think of is that concessions in the upper deck at Bryant-Denny Stadium (where I sit) have yet to evolve. The lines push all the way to the outside walls, service is slow, and the food is subpar for what fans pay. There has to be a better system.

One other issue is the jumbotrons. Right now they are small and at awkward angles. However due to the stadium layout, there is no easy fix here.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

Coleman Coliseum

While, most fans are disappointed in Avery Johnson’s second season, there is hope for the future with Collin Sexton, John Petty and others joining Braxton Key and company. Yet, there are disagreements about what to do about half-century old Coleman Coliseum. There is still a need for rearranging the seating so the students can get more involved and make it hostile territory for opponents. Some fans have suggested building a new facility with a smaller more intimate layout. But that opens a floodgate of other questions: Where do you build it? Can it be completed during an off-season? How will gymnastics be accommodated? How much will it cost? Does Coleman need to be razed? Parking? How to accomodate longtime season-ticket holders/boosters/the-guys-who-donate-beaucoups-of-bucks?

BASEBALL

In hindsight, it might have been better if outgoing AD Bill Battle had given head baseball coach Mitch Gaspard another year so that Byrne could come in and rebuild this program the way he did at Mississippi State and at Arizona. The renovations of Sewell-Thomas Stadium and the accompanying facilities are outstanding. The fans are wanting. But Alabama is stuck with a lemon coach. I for one, would like to see Greg Goff relieved of his duties and bring in a Byrne man. I trust him that much.

The biggest boon for this program would be to get the stubborn Alabama legislature to finally pass a lottery bill so baseball can provide financial aid to more players.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Kristy Curry

Back in the 1990s, this team was a regular fixture in the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Then something happen and the Tide has not been back to the Big Dance since 1999. The last three head coaches have produced one winning season before this year. Former AD Mal Moore thought a change of venue to Foster Auditorium would help but nothing changed and the team is now back at Coleman.

Coach Kristy Curry has clinched a winning season this year, finishing the regular season 17-12 (5-11 SEC) and then getting two wins in the SEC Tournament. However, her team had a very weak non-conference schedule which might keep them out of the NCAA Tournament. Unless they continue this Tournament run, they will likely earn a trip to the WNIT. Curry is 61-63 in four seasons at the Capstone. I think it is time to move on from this mediocrity. I’d like to see Alabama follow the South Carolina model and hire a former WNBA star player. Even better, why not hire Dawn Staley away? Do you think SC could match any money Alabama throws at her?

SOFTBALL

Do they need anything from the University other than status quo? They have a great coach and top-notch facilities that consistently has the highest attendance in the nation.

GYMNASTICS

Alabama Gymnastics

I really feel for Dana Duckworth. It must be so hard to follow a legend like Sarah Patterson. The Crimson Tide gymnastics coach has kept Alabama in the top four including an SEC Championship in her rookie year of 2015 but... the program has dipped a little. #BamaProblems.

Truth be told, her job is secure. The tumbling Tide consistently sells out meets. By all accounts, this is a healthy program that does not bleed money. They will get whatever they need to stay in the upper echelon of women’s college gymnastics.

Their only real issue is tied into any potential plans for Coleman.

OTHERS

Most people will remember Mal Moore as the man who hired Nick Saban. However, his legacy at the Capstone will go far beyond Bryant-Denny Stadium. Through his efforts, every sports program that dons the crimson and white feels like they are “Built By Bama”.

TENNIS

You may not know this but Alabama Tennis has world-class facilities, completed in 2012, and a nice stadium. One women’s doubles team won National Championships in 2014 and 2015. (I was disappointed to see that one half of that doubles team, Maya Jansen, grad-transferred to Cal.) The women have been successful as of late, regularly making the tournament. The men have not performed as well, usually landing around the middle of the NCAA pack.

GOLF

Justin Thomas golf bag

Both the men and women have won National Championships in recent years.

Jay Seawell’s men’s team won in 2013 and 2014, and would’ve won in 2012 if it had not been for a certain Texas Longhorn named Jordan Spieth. The PGA is littered with former Tide golfers, including Justin Thomas, ranked No. 2 in the FedExCup Standings ahead of the aforementioned Spieth. Former standouts Trey Mullinax, Michael Thompson, and Bobby Wyatt each finished among the tour's top-25 money list, giving each of them exempt status on this year's PGA Tour.

The women won their sole NCAA Championships in 2012 and remain a regular fixture around the Top 10. Coach Mic Potter has sent many golfers to the LPGA, most recently Brooke Pancake and Stephanie Meadow.

This year’s men’s team is struggling but the women are ranked No. 5. The Jerry Pate Golf Center is exemplary. I have no knowledge of the Tide’s home course. Perhaps someone can enlighten us?

WOMEN’S SOCCER

Does this program have any draw? I apologize if this offends anyone but this sport was set up to comply with Title IX. I don’t think it has much of a following and from what I can tell, they have some pretty darn good facilities. This program is winless in two NCAA Tournament appearances (1998, 2011).

TRACK, SWIMMING, VOLLEYBALL, ROWING

l’m not going to pretend I know too much about these programs but they are not cheap to keep up. Track has had a lot of recent success. The women finished last season at No. 7, while the men were No. 8. Swimming & Diving usually has a few national finalists and are currently a top ten program. Volleyball often hovers around .600 but had a two good years in 2013-2014. Rowing? Anyone?

As far as I can tell, all these programs have pretty nice facilities/river.

GENERAL ISSUES

  • Coleman during the offseason - It is a shame that Tuscaloosa has a hometown boxing hero, Deontay Wilder, who stands as the undefeated WBC heavyweight champion and the powers that be cannot figure out a way to get a boxing match at Coleman Coliseum. In addition, I have seen many of the commenters on this site say they have seen some pretty major concerts at CC. Would brining that back be such a bad thing? I know Tuscaloosa has an Amphitheater but that is no good during the cold days/nights.
  • Alabama Doubleheaders - I am not sure why or how these schedules work but I would like to see the different sports work together so that fans can see multiple games in a day or over a weekend. So often, softball, baseball and other spring sports have overlapping game times. It would be fun if UA could set up packages in which fans could attend basketball, softball, gymnastics, baseball, etc. games over the course of two or three days. They could probably even find a way to squeeze in a breakfast rowing meet - they are usually Saturday mornings 9AM.
  • BearFest - Back on September 11, 2013, it was Paul “Bear” Bryant's 100th birthday. Silly me, I thought maybe there would be some big celebration in T-town. I envisioned a downtown fair with food and craft tents, maybe some carnival rides, perhaps some live music and a parade. I kept waiting for an announcement of something, ANYTHING. Finally, I emailed Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox with an inquiry. I was surprised to see a response but disappointed in the six word reply: “The Bryant Museum is on it.” They weren’t. Nothing of substance happened. Now let me ask you, Bama fans. If Tuscaloosa were to hold such an event, perhaps in spring or summer, celebrating the life of Coach Bryant and everything Crimson Tide, would you come in from out of town to attend?
  • FIX ROLLTIDE.COM! - Learfield Sports came in an absolutely destroyed an easily navigable site that was full of great Crimson Tide information. Now it is a mess. Wanna find a bio on Dont'a Hightower? Good luck! How about a recap of any Bama football game played before 2008 or anything other than the score pre-2007? NOPE! How about anything about Joe Namath that is not for sale? FORGET IT! Not even a plain old Search box? Either fix it or revert back to the previous superior version.

So what do you think? Mr. Byrne probably won’t read this article but maybe the interwebz savvy AD or someone from his office will. Please leave your suggestions for improving the fan experience and other comments below.

ROLL TIDE FOREVER & ALWAYS, AMEN.