Category: SEC

A Matter of Course

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Glynn Wilson by the mythical “meterote” on Audubon Golf Course in New Orleans. It’s really a chunk of iron ore from Alabama, most likely Birmingham’s Red Mountain.

by Glynn Wilson

This may come as a surprise to some, but the so-called meteorite near the No. 8 green at Audubon Park is a chunk of iron ore from Alabama, most likely Birmingham’s Red Mountain. It didn’t drop in from space. It was dropped there by a fool public relations man, and sat there too heavy to move after the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition ended in 1885.

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Alabama Prevails Over Texas for National Championship

There’s an empty spot on the walk of fame at Alabama for Nick Saban, who brought Alabama back to the national championship in the Rose Bowl and coached the university’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram

by Glynn Wilson

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide is back on top of the football world, hanging on to prevail over the Texas Longhorns in a game of unexpected twists and turns, including the early hit by Marcel Dareus that knocked Quarterback Colt McCoy out of the national championship game in the first quarter.

Dareus later scored on a 28-yard interception return just before halftime, earning him the award for defensive player of the game.

“I was thinking about grabbing the guy with the ball, but then I said, `Let me just grab this football.’ I wasn’t even thinking about the highlight,” Dareus, a native of Birmingham who played at Huffman High School, said after the game. “I was so excited. My legs were weak, my muscles were crazy, and I made it.”

This Alabama team will go down in football history for going through 14 games undefeated and for Mark Ingram’s Heisman trophy, Alabama’s first. Ingram earned offensive player of the game honors for running for 116 yards and two touchdowns. His roommate, Trent Richardson, ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

The No. 1 Crimson Tide held off a rally by second-ranked Texas and beat the Longhorns 37-21 on Thursday night in the BCS title game with help from a late fumble recovery by Courtney Upshaw at the Texas 3-yard line. Ingram scored a clinching touchdown from 1 yard out with just about two minutes left in the game.

The victory makes Alabama head coach Nick Saban, now called Saint Nick in Alabama, the first coach to win BCS titles at two universities, Alabama and LSU.


Note: This post originally appeared in our sister publication, The Locust Fork News-Journal

Tom Campbell: A Witness To History

(Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared in our sister publication, The Locust Fork blog.)

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Guest Column
by Tom Campbell

NEW YORK — Few people ever have a chance to be arms’ length from greatness. As a lifelong fan of Alabama football, I feel lucky to know that I’ve been a witness to an event that will become a part of Alabama’s fabled history.

To have had such an opportunity twice is remarkable. On both occasions, I tried to burn each detail into my memory because I knew the events before me were celebrating a legacy of pride and greatness.

Two celebrations of excellence of historic proportions for the storied University of Alabama football program will endure in my memory.

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Tom Campbell
Mark Ingram will carry the Heisman experience for the rest of his life

Over 25 years ago, as my last official act as student body president at the University of Alabama, I attended the funeral of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. As sad as Bryant’s funeral and grave site procession were, the Alabama family celebrated a man whose impact upon his players, coaches, university and fans proved immeasurable.

Economic times were hard then, and folks rallied around the prowess and class surrounding the football institution Coach Bryant built. During a time when people were losing a lot — jobs, bonuses, homes — Alabama football offered fans in the community something to be proud of and helped people feel like winners. Despite the celebratory remembrance of Bryant’s life and career, this event nevertheless marked an end.

Now, decades later, in the midst of a terrible economic climate, I had the opportunity to observe another event crucial to the history of Alabama’s football program as a special assignment reporter for the Locust Fork News Journal. However, this celebration, at the announcement of the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, marked a new beginning rather than an end.
Before the announcement of the Heisman winner, the press was treated to a banquet dinner in Times Square. Surrounded by the five finalists, their esteemed coaches and a legion of legendary figures from football history, I felt like the room was filled with electricity and promise. Pluck and grit and winning attitudes really had made a difference in the lives of these young men and their proud coaches, and I was inspired to see the culmination of a football season filled with talent, drive and teamwork.

In each of the five young finalists, Tebow, Ingram, McCoy, Gearhardt and Suh, I saw student athletes brought to this level not only by their physical prowess but also by the humility and class that comes with winning character. Each finalist was being celebrated for personal greatness. Each young man was supremely self-confident. But to a man they exuded gratitude for their God-given talent and appreciation for the coaches, programs and teammates who allowed them to shine. None appeared to express an air of entitlement or arrogance.

Of particular interest to me personally, was of course Mark Ingram. The Flint, Michigan, native turned Alabama standout sat before me with poise and polish. This young man had a brilliant turnout in what may well be a National Championship season, and it was easy for me to forget that just a few miles east of Times Square, Ingram’s father awaited transfer to prison — that Ingram achieved this accomplishment amidst personal turmoil and hardship.

Equally hard to believe was the fact that Ingram has achieved this honor as a sophomore. I wondered if he would follow Tim Tebow as the second Heisman winner to earn that distinction as a sophomore.

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Tom Campbell
Alabama’s Nick Saban winks as if he knows a secret after Ingram dodges a question about the Heisman Curse

Before the result was announced, the pride Coach Nick Saban exuded for his player proved infectious, and I found myself forgetting my journalistic objective for attending the Heisman banquet in the first place as I hoped to hear those two words revealed, “Mark Ingram.”

Would this be one more mark of greatness for the University of Alabama football program? Would Ingram prove himself a formidable opponent on the national stage? Would Saban continue to create his own legacy at Bama, marked as much by the quality of the character of his players as their domination on the football field? Would their affiliation with the University of Alabama continue to be a rallying point of pride and celebration for fans in a time of financial difficulty for many in our state?

And the answer was yes.

Mark Ingram was awarded the Heisman — a storybook beginning for what surely will prove to be a heralded football career.

And I was fortunate enough to witness another legendary chapter in the story of the Alabama football program.

Roll Tide!

Championship Weekend

by Paul Rockne

It’s Championship Weekend for Southeastern Conference football – and for several other leagues as well – with the surprising Arkansas Razorbacks representing the Western Division and the not-so-surprising Eastern Division champion Florida Gators going head-to-head for the SEC title Saturday in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The Hogs and Gators would figure to grab all the football headlines this week … but they didn’t as the Alabama Crimson Tide captured the media attention – almost pushing the SEC championship game into the background except in Arkansas and Florida – by abruptly firing head coach Mike Shula and announcing a nationwide search for a new coach.

The word “again” belongs at the end of the last sentence. The slap-in-the-face firing of Shula brings the Alabama football program back around to where it has been all too often in recent years – in a search for another head football coach. Tide Athletic Director Mal Moore is currently engaging in his fourth search for a new coach in his tenure.

Shula may have deserved being fired but the feeling from here is that, considering the mess he inherited with Dennis Franchoine’s sudden departure for greener pastures, the Mike Price debacle and NCAA probation, he deserved at least another year. With the losses this year being as close as they were, many oh-so-close to being a victory, the odds were good that the Tide could/would have produced another 10-win season in ’07.

Shula was, obviously, both disappointed and surprised when Moore made the Sunday night call. After all, Shula had done what he had been hired to do – clean up the Alabama image. He never embarrassed the university on or off the field. There were no drunken nights along the T-Town strip, no accusations from secretaries, no rumors of affairs or any other improprieties. He worked hard, recruited hard and gave the best he had for four years.

On the other hand, long-time Bama fans couldn’t have been surprised at Shula’s fate. After all, Shula went 0-4 against Auburn. Bill Curry was fired as the Bama head coach for not being able to beat Auburn – and his overall record was much better than Shula’s. When Bear Bryant was being interviewed for the head coaching job in Tuscaloosa, the first question asked of him was: “Do you think you can beat Auburn?” Despite the loss to Mississippi State and the mediocre record this year, if Bama had beaten Auburn in the ’06 Iron Bowl, Shula would still be captain of the Tide football fortunes.

But whether Shula should or shouldn’t have been let go is not as important as how he was treated. The slap-in-the-face manner in which the whole affair was handled will make it harder to find and hire a good replacement – in fact, only another Bama grad or former player should even consider taking the job.

Some big-time names have been named as possible replacements for Shula – Steve Spurrier, Nick Saben, Rich Rodriguez, Bobby Patrino, Paul Johnson, Jim Grobe, Houston Nutt – but most have been quick to deny any interest in the job. That could be how they really feel or just part of playing the game. But if they have been watching events closely as they unfold, the above-mentioned coaches who are all successful in their present positions with their present teams will think twice – or more – times before they sign on the dotted line with the University of Alabama.

The powers that be at Alabama waited until late Sunday to hand Shula his walking papers and made Shula look like a naïve fool in the process. After twisting in the wind for eight days following the Iron Bowl loss, the former Tide QB and son of one of the winningest coaches in NFL history, told his players and assistant coaches at an early Sunday evening meetinig not to believe the rumors of his impending demise and to get their minds on the upcoming bowl game. Less than two hours later, he was gone.

That insult, that slap in the face, should serve as a warning to candidates in the present coaching search. If the way Moore and Company treated Shula is the way it treats one of its own, how will they treat an outsider with no ties to the Bama family?

Perhaps Alabama’s only hope is a second resurrection – Bear Bryant coming back for a second go. But who knows? In these days of instant gratification and lack of patience, Tide fans might not even give Bear a break.

Oh yes – the SEC Championship Game. It will be played Saturday (today) at 5 p.m. in the Georgia Dome. Florida is a 3-point favorite. The two teams have met just six times before, with the Gators holding a 5-1 edge. It will be the fourth SEC title game matching two teams ranked in the top 10.

This weekend’s championship college football TV schedule kicked off Friday night with the Conference USA title game, in which Houston defeated Southern Mississippi.:

Saturday’s championship week lineup is as follows:

Connecticut at Louisville, 11 a.m. (WCSS)
ACC Championship Game, Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest., noon (ESPN)
Army vs. Navy, 1:330 p.m. (ABC)
Division II title game, Delta State vs. North Alabama, 1:30 p.m. (CSS)
Stanford at California, 2 p.m. (FSNS)
Southern Cal at UCLA, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
SEC Championship Game, Arkansas vs. Florida, 5 p.m. (CBS)
Troy at FIU, 6 p.m. (CSS)
Rutgers at West Virginia, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, 7 p.m. (ABC)

College Football Preview: Iron Bowl Or Not?

Editor’s Note: A controversy rages in Alabama over whether to continue calling the Alabama-Auburn game the “Iron Bowl.”

Over at Tuscaloosa News columnist Tommy Stevenson’s new blog, he’s asking the question.

We raised the issue last year in this story, which should tell you where we come down on the subject: It ain’t “The Iron Bowl” no more.

What do you think? Sign in below and give us your comments. Onto the story…

by Paul Rockne

It’s Traditional Rivalry Week for Southeastern Conference football.

Photo by Glynn Wilson

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Funny, when Paul “Bear” Bryant was alive, it was hard to get a picture of him where you could see his eyes, especially on the football field. Now, with the sun behind Bryant-Denny Stadium, it’s hard to get a photo of his new statue with his eyes in the picture…

There are three of these throw-out-the-record-books games, in which the outcome is the be-all and end-all for rabid fans, on tap this weekend – headed by the Iron Bowl, which annually pits Alabama against Auburn.

In the state of Alabama, polls have shown that over the years some three-fourths of the population – young and old, women and men – watch the Bama-AU battle if it is offered on TV. This year it is being carried live on CBS (not a good omen for Alabama, which has fared poorly on that particular network in the past few years).

Outside of Alabamians, few football fans in the other 49 states will be tuned into CBS Saturday because they will be tuned into the big No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan game over on ABC that will determine the Big Ten title and put the winner into the BCS national championship game.

The Tide-War Eagle game is more important than life or death to a good number of the teams’ fans. While it doesn’t quite mean that much to the teams and players – winning or losing won’t mean a winning or losing season for either and a win won’t put either into the Western Division title game – it does have it’s importance to both.

For Alabama, it will mean stopping a four-game losing streak to Auburn. A Bama win would also be big in that it would be the first-ever for the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Right now Auburn owns a five-game winning streak in T-Town, owns the Alabama home field. Add to that the fact that, so far, Bama Coach Mike Shula is 0-for against Auburn. No coach can last for long at Alabama if he can’t beat Auburn – and Shula knows that.

A win for Auburn would erase the two losses this season and send the Tigers a-bowling with a good taste in their mouths. It would also be win No. 10 for the season for Coach Tommy Tuberville’s team. And it would probably mean a new version of the “Fear the Thumb” T-shirts that AU unveiled after last year’s Iron Bowl triumph.

People outside Alabama have a hard time understanding exactly why the “Iron Bowl,” if we should still call it that, is such a big deal (although ESPN announcers have been debating among themselves if it is or isn’t the nation’s fiercest rivalry, thus giving the game more national attention).

Remember, this is a series that was put on hold for 41 years over a dispute – following a tie game – over a referee and per diem money paid to players to travel. Alabama owns a 38-31-1 edge in the series, with the lone deadlock coming in that final game before the 41-year break. There have been 22 shutouts in the series (meaning a close, low-scoring game benefits the Tide?), while Auburn owns a 4-1 record in one-point games in the series (meaning a close game is a good omen for AU?).

One final historical fact does seem to lean the Tide’s way. This is the eighth time since the series was rekindled in 1948 that both teams come into the Iron Bowl off losses. Alabama holds a 5-2 edge in games that followed the double losses.

The other two other rivalry games set for Saturday include Ole Miss (3-7, 1-5) at No. 9 LSU (8-2, 4-2) and No. 22 Tennessee (7-3, 3-3) at Vanderbilt (4-7, 1-6). The schedule also includes one big non-rivalry matchup – No. 5 Arkansas (9-1, 6-0) at Mississippi State (3-7, 1-5). Arkansas can clinch the Western Division crown with a win over the Bulldogs, or a win over LSU next week.

Other league games on tap this week include a trio of cremepuffs with the SEC taking on two Sun Belt Conference squads and one Divison 1-AA team: No. 3 Florida (9-1) will get no computer points for its national title game bid with a win this week. The Gators host Division 1-AA Western Carolina (2-8). South Carolina (5-5) looks pretty assured of getting that sixth win to become bowl eligible as the Gamecocks host Middle Tennessee (7-3). Kentucky (6-4) will be at home against Louisiana-Monroe (2-7).

Saturday’s weekend TV football lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:

Miami at Virginia, 11 a.m. (WB)
Yale at Harvard, 11 a.m. (WGN)
Iowa at Minnesota, 11 a.m. (CSS)
Maryland at Boston College, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Michigan St. at Penn St., 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Buffalo at Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Oklahoma at Baylor,11 a.m. (FSNS)
Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 11:30 a.m. (Lincoln Financial)
Charleston Southern at Coastal Carolina, 12:30 p.m. (SS)
Army at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m. (NBC)
Michigan at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Auburn at Alabama, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Alcorn St. at Jackson St., 2:30 p.m. (CSS)
Kansas St. at Kansas, 2:30 p.m. (FSNS)
Bethune Cookman at Florida A&M, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
San Diego St. at TCU, 3 p.m. (VS)
Arkansas St. at Troy, 6 p.m. (CSS)
Washington at Washington St., 6 p.m. (FSNS)
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
South Florida at Louisville, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Rutgers at Cincinnati, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
California at Southern Cal, 7 p.m. (ABC)
UCLA at Arizona St., 9:15 p.m. (FSNS)

Connecting The Dots: Writing, Art and Freedom…

Good writing is good writing … it sets you free, if you are an artist.
– Anonymous

by Glynn Wilson

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Nov. 11 – It is an almost surreal feeling to be standing in the cold fog within earshot of Bryant-Denny stadium during an Alabama football game and there’s not a person in sight. Not a soul yelling “Roll Tide.”

At this moment Alabama is hanging in there with LSU and only trailing by a touchdown in the first half. But there is not a sound around the campus in the dark.

Except for the voices coming from the TV.

Half of the inhabitants from here are on the road too, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Sipping on just enough Jamaican rum to keep the bones warm, I am watching the game and at the same time trying to think some more about what I might say to journalism students at the university about the state of writing for the Web.
Read more: Connecting The Dots: Writing, Art and Freedom…

College Football Preview: Spurrier Back in Town

The return of the king … a different kind of homecoming … the oldie-but-goodie hit song, “The Boys (make that “boy”) Are Back in Town” … all could be the theme for the SEC Game of the Week in this, the second week of November, 2006.

Steve Spurrier, the ex-Florida Gator head coach who brought the national championship trophy to Gainesville in 1996 and built a dynasty on the way to the title, returns to The Swamp Saturday, bringing his South Carolina Gamecocks in to face Urban Myer’s version of the Gators.

This game has more story lines than a national election. Spurrier is the winningest coach in the SEC, with a 95-21 record at Florida and now South Carolina. His name stands atop a list of legends. No. 2 is Tennessee’s Gen. Robert Neyland. No. 3 is Alabama’s Frank Thomas, followed in fourth place by Alabama’s (and Kentucky’s) Paul Bear Bryant.

Spurrier, who won a Heisman Trophy while playing for Florida, will be making his third trip to Gainesville this season and he is only hoping the third trip will be as pleasant an experience for him as the first two. Spurrier attended a reunion for the ’96 national title team in early September and then later in the month came back to be inducted into the Florida Ring of Honor.

Another question Saturday in Gainesville is can Spurrier keep his winning streak alive in Florida-South Carolina games? Spurrier has never been on the losing sideline of a Gator-Gamecock matchup. He posted a 10-0 record at Florida against South Carolina and is 1-0 at S.C. vs. the Gators. Spurrier’s Gamecocks beat Meyer’s Gators last season in Columbia, S.C. – the first and only time Florida has lost to S.C.

And while the storyline being watched by most is that of Meyer trying to escape the shadow of Spurrier’s legend at Florida, there are some real-time storylines as well. Spurrier bringing his 5-4 Gamecocks into Florida hoping for a win that will make his team bowl eligible and send South Carolina bowling for a second year in row. Meyer has his 8-1 Gators in the national championship mix, ranked No. 6 in AP and No. 4 on the BCS list.

Other league games on tap this week include: Georgia (6-4, 3-4) at Auburn (9-1, 5-10), Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5) at Kentucky (5-4, 3-3), Tennessee (7-2, 3-2) at Arkansas (8-1, 5-0), Alabama (6-4, 2-4) at LSU (7-2, 3-2).

This week’s college football TV schedule kicks off tonight with Texas El-Paso at UAB live from Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Saturday’s weekend TV lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:

N.C. St. at Clemson, 11 a.m. (WB)
Samford at Jacksonville St., 11 a.m. (CSS)
Wisconsin at Iowa, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Cincinnati at W. Virginia, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Minnesota at Michigan St., 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia at Auburn, 11:30 a.m. (Lincoln Financial)
Baylor at Okla. St.,11:30 a.m. (FSNS)
Miami at Maryland, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
South Carolina at Florida, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Michigan at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Texas Tech at Oklahoma, 6 p.m. (FSNS)
Tennessee at Arkansas, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Duke at Boston College, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Alabama at LSU, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Wake Forest at FSU , 7 p.m. (ABC)

College Football Preview: Focus On LSU v. Tennessee

The SEC spotlight falls on Tennessee Saturday, where the Vols (No. 8 in the national polls) will entertain No. l 3 LSU in the only matchup of ranked teams on the SEC slate this weekend.

The game is a big one for Tennessee (3-1 in league play, 7-1 overall) because the Vols are one of the many one-loss teams still hoping to run the table the rest of the way and somehow make it to the BCS title game. Teams with two losses, like LSU (2-2, 6-2) are already out of that discussion.

That said, Saturday’s tussle is very important to the Bayou Bengals as well. Fair or not, there’s a feeling around Baton Rouge that this week’s trip to Tennessee is a defining moment for the LSU program, it’s quarterback and head coach.

The questions haunt LSU: Can QB JaMarcus Russell win the big road game? Can Tiger head coach Les Miles overcome the stigma that fans have attached to him – a coach who took Nick Saban’s leftover talent and then underachieved with it?

Russell, a junior from Williamson High in Mobile, has great numberfs for the season – 135-for-194 in passing for 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has thrown just four interceptions in the 194 attempts – however, all four of the picks came in the two games the Tigers lost, to Auburn and Florida.

The game, on paper, looks to be an entertaining offensive showcase. LSU and Tennessee rank first and second, respectively, in scoring in the SEC. Tennessee, behind QB Erik Ainge, leads the SEC in passing offense and total offense, with LSU’s Russell right behind him in second place. LSU and Tennessee are two of the 12 teams in the nation converting on at least one-half of their third-down conversions. And if the Vols are trailing heading into the fourth quarter, they certainly shouldn’t panic. Tennessee has overcome fourth-period deficits in each of its past three games to win.

Other league games on tap this week include Arkansas State (5-3) at No. 6 Auburn (8-1, 5-1), Mississippi State (2-7, 0-5) at Alabama (6-3, 2-3), Florida (7-1, 5-1) at Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-4), Georgia (6-3, 3-3) at Kentucky (4-4, 2-3), Northwestern State (4-4) at Ole Miss (2-7, 1-5) and Arkansas (7-1, 4-0) at South Carolina (5-3, 3-3).

This week’s college football TV schedule kicks off tonight with an armed services special – Air Force at Army – at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Saturday’s weekend TV lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:

Missouri at Nebraska, 11 a.m. (ABC)
Virginia at FSU, 11 a.m. (WB)
Wofford at Georgia Southern, 11 a.m. (CSS)
Baylor at Texas Tech, 11 a.m. (FSNS)
Maryland at Clemson, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Ball St. at Michigan, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Miss. St. at Alabama, 11:30 a.m. (Lincoln Financial)
North Carolina at Notre Dame,1:30 a.m. (NBC)
TCU at UNLV, 2 p.m. (VS)
LSU at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Kansas St. at Colorado, 2:30 p.m. (FSNS)
Ohio St. at Illinois, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Purdue at Michigan St., 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Washington at Oregon, 2:30 p.m. (TBS)
La. Lafayette at Troy, 6 p.m. (CSS)
Southern Cal. at Stanford , 6 p.m. (FSNS)
Oklahoma St. at Texas, 6 p.m. (TBS)
Boston College at Wake Forest, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Georgia Tech at N.C., 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Arkansas at S.C., 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Virginia Tech at Miami, 7 p.m. (ABC)

Sunday’s ESPN game at 7 p.m. will feature Southern Miss at Memphis.