College football is becoming more of a lucrative, high-stakes juggernaut on a yearly basis due to increasing revenues brought about by television contracts, apparel deals and the still-new playoff system among other factors. And with the increased exposure of the sport due to the Internet and particularly social media, expectations and pressures for major programs to win, and to win on a Nick Saban-type level are greater than ever.
And this does not usually mean good news for the college coaching fraternity, as it simply is not good enough to win nine or 10 games anymore. Only a certain handful of elite coaches, including Saban, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, can be considered totally safe at the current time despite the pressure cooker environments that even they are subjected to on a daily basis.
By Stan J. Griffin: June 2, 2016
I have to admit that this is one of my favorite times of the year.
The Women's College World Series, with Alabama participating once again, is about to start, football magazines are out, and although the perfect storm which is the college football season is still three months away, discussion relative to the sport is increasing by the day.
This of course means that on any given day, we might be treated to a rant from Alabama coach Nick Saban, a wise-guy tweet from Michigan head man Jim Harbaugh or perhaps some type of snarky comment from Arkansas coach Bret Bielema or former coach Steve Spurrier.
The main thing about these hot summer months is that it gives us time to build up energy, excitement and anticipation for the college football season ahead, and I thought I would begin the hype and buildup by noting 25 games that I feel will be especially critical in deciding which teams emerge as legitimate contenders in the Southeastern Conference and also nationally.
1. Alabama at Ole Miss (Sept. 17): Hugh Freeze's Rebels have become quite the thorn in the side for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, but what are the chances of Ole Miss beating Saban and his team for a third consecutive season? CBS has already pounced on this contest in Oxford, as this has suddenly become one of the must-see games in the SEC. The Rebels and Tide both lost key personnel to the NFL and the Rebels are dealing with a bit of negative attention at the moment, but Alabama will once again have its hands full with Chad Kelly and company.
2. Clemson at Florida State (Oct. 29): After falling just short of a perfect 15-0 season and the school's second national championship last season, Dabo Swinney's Tigers are once again poised to make another run at a special season behind quarterback Deshaun Watson and a talented supporting cast. However, this trip to Tallahassee could be a mine field on that path to a possible title as the Seminoles, behind an imposing defense, are also considered as a probable Top 10 team in 2016. If FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is able to locate a winning quarterback, this game could prove to be a spoiler for Clemson's ACC and national title aspirations.
3. Houston vs Oklahoma (Sept. 3): Tom Herman led the Cougars to a 13-1 record in his first season at Houston in 2015, and his team is very talented again heading into 2016. We will find out much about his team early as it makes the trip into Norman to battle Baker Mayfield and another talented Oklahoma team under Bob Stoops. This could be a shootout, and will probably give an early indicator of whether either of these teams could emerge as a playoff contender down the road.
4. Louisville at Clemson (Oct. 1): After an 0-3 start in 2015, Bobby Petrino's Cardinals righted the ship and finished a respectable 8-5. Louisville, however, is shooting for bigger goals in 2016 behind a talented roster led by dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson. This trip to Death Valley will not be an easy one, though.
5. Florida State vs Ole Miss at Orlando (Sept. 5):This intriguing non-conference matchup will probably speak volumes about both teams as Florida State looks to overtake Clemson in the ACC and the Rebels again try to show that they are a legitimate contender in the SEC. Ole Miss will have the advantage offensively behind Kelly, but that offense will be tested mightily by an aggressive and talented Seminole defense.
6. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 26): The Wolverines made great strides in Year 1 of the Harbaugh era, and most analysts are figuring a talent-laden Michigan team to be among the top five to seven teams in the nation in 2016. A road to a likely playoff spot, though, will likely mean Harbaugh gaining his first win over Buckeye coach Urban Meyer. It won't be easy at the Horseshoe, though.
John Pelphrey officially named as assistant head coach for UA men's basketball program (via Crimson Magazine)14 Apr 2016
By Stan J. Griffin: April 14, 2016
A rumored major addition to the University of Alabama men's basketball coaching staff has now become a reality, and it could pay big dividends for Avery Johnson's program in the near future, if not immediately.
Johnson officially announced on Wednesday the hiring of John Pelphrey, a legendary player for the University of Kentucky, as the associate head men’s basketball coach for the Crimson Tide.
Pelphrey, who brings more than 20 years of assistant and head coaching experience to the Tide, will replace former assistant coach Scott Pospichal, who departed the program last week.
The addition of Pelphrey on the Crimson Tide bench not only adds someone who boasts multiple years as an assistant coach in the Southeastern Conference (Florida from 1996-2002 and 2011-15), but also brings nine years of head coaching experience (South Alabama from 2002-07 and Arkansas from 2007-11).
In all, Pelphrey has spent 14 of his 22 years as a coach in the SEC.
“I am very excited to welcome coach John Pelphrey, his wife Tracy and his entire family to the Alabama men’s basketball program,” Johnson said in a statement from UA Wednesday. “John brings a wealth of coaching experience to our program and we are fortunate to have someone of his caliber join our staff. We are glad he is back in the Southeastern Conference where he has spent a majority of his career as a player and a coach. He has a vast amount of knowledge about the game, is a very good teacher of the game and will be a great fit in our program.”
By Stan J. Griffin: April 1, 2016
While the University of Alabama A Day football game has perennially been a nice spring attraction for Crimson Tide fans hungry for a little gridiron action, it has simply become a powerhouse, must-see event during the tenure of Nick Saban as UA head football coach.
The first UA spring game for Saban, who has captured four national championships in Tuscaloosa and five overall as a head coach, drew a then-capacity crowd of 92,138 to Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2007 and the game has drawn an average of over 81,000 fans since then.
The game will very likely draw a huge crowd again this year, with the Crimson Tide coming off yet another national title in 2015, the 16th in the Alabama football program's tradition-rich history.
It may be hard for some to fathom, but this year's A Day Game, scheduled for April 16 at 2 p.m., will be the 10th such contest for Saban as Tide head coach, and a host of activities are planned for this year to celebrate that special anniversary.
The A-Day game is the 15th and final practice of the spring for this year's Crimson Tide team.
Gates open at 11 a.m. and admission will once again be free to the public. The game will also be televised by ESPN.
But fans attending the game will not only that to look forward to, as the UA campus, and Tuscaloosa in general, will be packed with fun events during that entire day.
A Day gameday gets started at 8 a.m. with the Mercedes-Benz Fan Fest, which will take place pregame and is open to the public outside the North end zone (corner of University Boulevard and Wallace Wade Drive). Fans will find inflatables, giveaways and games.
The Alumni Flag Football Game begins at 11:30 a.m. inside Bryant-Denny Stadium and will feature former Alabama greats. The game is slated for two 20-minutes halves and should wrap up around 12:15 p.m.
Crimson Tide gymnasts focused on "finding that .025" as it hosts Tuscaloosa Regional this weekend (via Crimson Magazine)31 Mar 2016
By Stan J. Griffin: March 31, 2016
Photo by Stan J. Griffin
Throughout the course of the 2016 season, the No. 4 University of Alabama gymnastics team has achieved brilliant performances on all four routines, but putting together complete four-routine efforts together has been a bit more elusive for Dana Duckworth's Crimson Tide squad.
Perhaps the closest Alabama came to accomplishing that objective was at the recent SEC Championships, where the Tide tallied its highest score of the season of 197.750, only to fall by .025 to eventual champion Florida.
After a week or so off after battling for the conference crown in Little Rock, Ark., Alabama is hoping to build off of its strong performance at that event as it hosts the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.
The regional is set to begin at 4 p.m. and the No. 1-seeded Alabama team will be joined by No. 2 seed California and No. 3 seed Boise State, along with Kentucky, West Virginia and Bowling Green.
The top two teams from each of the six regionals across the country will move on to the NCAA Championships, which will be held April 15-16 in Fort Worth, Texas.
By Stan J. Griffin: March 24, 2016
Photo by Stan J. Griffin
Another standout member of the University of Alabama athletic family has been recognized by the Southeastern Conference for academic prowess, and numerous achievements not only on the field, mat or the court, but also in the classroom.
Crimson Tide senior leader Lauren Beers was voted the SEC Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the league's coaches it was announced by the conference office Thursday.
Recently former University of Alabama basketball player Retin Obasohan gained that same prestigious award from the conference for that sport.
With Beers’ honor, Alabama gymnasts have now won six SEC Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in the 13-year history of the award. She joins Kim Jacob (2012, 2013 and 2014), Kayla Hoffman (2011) and Michelle Reeser (2005) since the award’s inception in 2004.
No. 4 Alabama gymnastics team looking for SEC three-peat this weekend in Little Rock (via Crimson Magazine)16 Mar 2016
By Stan J. Griffin: March 16, 2016
Photo by Stan J. Griffin
University of Alabama gymnastics coach Dana Duckworth would probably be the first to tell you that her fourth-ranked Crimson Tide has experienced its share of highs and lows this season.
The final two regular season meets of the 2016 season are a perfect example as the Crimson Tide compiled its highest team score of the season in defeating Georgia in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 26 only to follow that with perhaps its most disappointing effort of the season on March 4 at it fell to LSU in Baton Rouge.
But a new season has arrived for Duckworth's squad, with that being the postseason, and an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and compete for huge season-ending prizes.
That second season begins on Saturday as the Crimson Tide travels to Little Rock, Ark. to compete in the 2016 Southeastern Conference Championships. Alabama enters the meet as the two-time defending conference champs and is looking for its 10th conference crown overall.
"We're so excited to be competing for the SEC championship and we are trying to work hard to focus, and keep our attention on the details," said Duckworth during a teleconference Wednesday. "We are trying not to get caught up in the loud music and the distractions we will face (at this weekend's event) and we're just trying to focus on success."
Crimson Tide senior leader Retin Obasohan collects trio of prestigious SEC honors (via Crimson Magazine)08 Mar 2016
By Stan J. Griffin: March 8, 2016
As the 2015-2016 University of Alabama basketball team has experienced the highs of defeating such teams as Notre Dame, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Florida while also experiencing the lows of dropping games to opponents such as Mississippi State and Auburn, there has been one constant for the Crimson Tide in terms of its heart and soul and its unquestioned leader.
That player, of course, is senior guard Retin Obasohan, the native of Antwerp, Belgium, and an athlete who has blossomed as an all-around weapon both offensively and defensively for UA in Avery Johnson's first season as Alabama's head coach.
But besides his staggering improvement as a basketball player for UA, Obasohan has continued his mission of being a true leader in the community and in the classroom as a senior.
Obasohan, on Tuesday, was honored for all of his good work with a trio of prestigious accolades from the Southeastern Conference.
He was named the 2016 Southeastern Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year and First Team All-SEC. In addition, Obasohan earned a spot on the league’s all-defensive team, giving him a trio of all-conference awards to cap what has been an outstanding senior year.
Obasohan is the third player in program history, and the second in as many years, to claim the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, joining former standouts Levi Randolph (2015) and Justin Knox (2009) as past recipients. Furthermore, Obasohan is the second player in program history to be named to both the league’s first team and all-defensive team in the same season. Trevor Releford accomplished that feat back in 2013.
He ranked third in the SEC with an average of 20.6 points per game in league contests on his way to becoming the first player in 30 years to average more than 20 points per game in league play. The last player to accomplish the feat was Buck Johnson, who averaged 20.4 ppg in SEC play during the 1985-86 season. Obasohan finished the conference season ranked third in scoring average, fifth in field goal percentage (.496) and eighth in steals per game (1.4).
No. 3 Alabama gymnasts set to finish regular season with battle against No. 4 LSU (via Crimson Magazine)03 Mar 2016
By Stan J. Griffin: March 3, 2016
Are the No. 3 University of Alabama gymnasts peaking at just the right time?
Although that has yet to be fully determined, Dana Duckworth's Crimson Tide squad, after a season filled with ups and downs, seemed to indicate just that last Friday as it defeated No. 10 Georgia at Coleman Coliseum with its highest team score of the season. The highlight of that meet, of course, was the perfect 10 tallied by senior leader Lauren Beers on the vault on her Senior Night.
Now Beers, Carley Sims, Kiana Winston, Keely McNeer, Katie Bailey and company are hoping to finish the regular season on a strong note Friday night in a very tough road environment.
Alabama travels to Baton Rouge to battle No. 4 LSU at 7:30 p.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The meet will be streamed live by the SEC Network (WatchESPN.com/WatchESPN App) and broadcast on a taped delay basis with Bart Conner, Kathy Johnson Clarke and Laura Rutledge calling the action.
“As we close in on the championship season, it’s about handstands, it’s about landings and it’s about getting rid of any kind of execution that can take away from a great score,” Duckworth said earlier this week. “As much as we can, we’re using this weekend as a dress rehearsal for the postseason.”
The Tigers are Alabama’s seventh top-10 opponent and 11th top-25 challenger this season.
By Stan J. Griffin: February 26, 2016
As Kristy Curry continues the process of building the University of Alabama women's basketball program, it is a safe bet that February 25, 2016 is a date that will be circled as one of the significant pieces in the history of her Crimson Tide program in its continued growth.
History was achieved by the Crimson Tide Thursday night as it defeated Holly Warlick's Tennessee team 54-46 in front of an electric crowd at Foster Auditorium to snap a 42-game winning streak to the Lady Vols. The last time Alabama had defeated Tennessee was March 3, 1984.Thursday's victory also marked the first time ever that the Tide women's basketball team has defeated the Lady Vols at home.
The big win on Senior Night, where Nikki Hegstetter and Khadijah Carter were honored prior to their final games at Foster Auditorium, improved the Crimson Tide to 15-13 overall and 4-11 in Southeastern Conference play. Tennessee, perhaps in jeopardy of falling out of contention for the NCAA tournament, fell to 16-12 overall and 7-8 in league play.
"I'm just proud of our kids effort tonight," said Curry. "A special night for our seniors and that's how a team is supposed to play on Senior Night. We've led in six SEC games in the fourth quarter headed into (Thursday's game) and couldn't finish and I was really proud for our kids tonight, to be able to finish this one. Qualifies us for the postseason and I'm really happy for a lot of reasons and proud of our effort."
When asked about Alabama snapping the long winless drought against the Lady Volunteers, Curry noted that milestone is significant, but said the win was more important for reasons that have nothing to do with the well-documented 42-game streak.