“You know, I’ve always taken my work seriously, but never my job. That’s what I like about you [RBR]...I don’t love the business of news, but I love being a reporter. I’m still in love with what I do.”
Those were among the last words that Cecil Hurt ever texted me. I wish I had the opportunity to tell him, in person, “there’s not a chance of us ever being taken seriously,” or to buy him a beer, or to get his prediction on what under-the-radar recruit is going to going to break out, or to just listen to him spin a yarn.
But that moment is gone forever, as are so many others that I — that we, will not have. Cecil, one of college football’s true luminaries and gentlemen, left us far too early yesterday at age 62. While Cecil, the man, may be gone — a distant point of light, a forever-past person — his spirit, will go on.
What he meant to the Crimson Tide community, to Tuscaloosa, to the sport do endure. So too will the memories of the lives he touched and the countless people he encouraged. His accommodation will live on. His quiet acts of kindness and charity will survive. His wicked, droll sense of humor will bring a smile to the face of many for years longer. His tales will survive.
And, for a man who was in love with what he did, it seems fitting that his words, his impressive body of work spanning four decades, that those will persist.
There is a permanence in the written word. It was considered magic for centuries, and few in the college athletics sphere wove such a spell, touched as many lives, inspired as many people, or mastered their craft quite like Cecil Hurt. No matter the fan base or outlet, he was an institution. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a negative story about the man or the sorcery he cast using just a notebook, a pencil, and an iPad.
Tony Barnhart, the dean of College beat reporting said it best:
The highest professional compliment I can give @CecilHurt is that he was a writer that other writers always read. When something was happening with Alabama football you didn't have the full story until you read what Cecil wrote about it.— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) November 23, 2021
That’s what Cecil meant, that’s what his credibility was worth — it didn’t happen until Cecil said it happened.
Cecil was one of the good guys; a consummate professional in an age of digital breaking news; a consummate gentleman in an era of casual indifference.
He was one of the good guys, and I will miss him. Whether you knew him or not, you will miss him.
With that in mind, we submit this modest proposal to University of Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne, University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey: rename the Bryant Denny press box in honor of Cecil Hurt.
For four decades, he was a fixture at BDS: Not every outcome was certain for the Crimson Tide. But Cecil’s rumpled hair and clothes, his steady gaze, his droll jokes and wry smile, his encouragement and commiseration and professionalism were. Equally enduring was the quality of the story that he would undoubtedly get to press moments after the final whistle.
There is no one worthier of that honor, nor is there a more fitting tribute to a man who gave almost 40 years of his life to Tuscaloosa, to Alabama, to the community.
While I cynically realize that doing so represents the loss of a corporate partnership or branding opportunity for Alabama, it’s the right thing to do. Flowers fade, memorials crumble, but his words — the seemingly-endless palette from which Cecil painted masterpieces — those words live. And they should live where he did: in the press box of Bryant Denny Stadium.
Please sign our Change.org petition to dedicate it in his honor, and pass this along if you think this is a worthy cause. For those who have a memory about your experience with Cecil Hurt or columns that stuck with you, feel free to share them below too.
May the ground lie softly on you, Cecil. One more road trip for you, and I’m sure it’s a great one.