Monthly Archives: June 2012

Farewell to my favorite Alabamian, everyone else

For the 3,347th and final time, here’s my final act as Alabama beat writer. This didn’t run in print, but here’s my farewell column. It’s only fitting to publish it here. Thanks for everything. You guys can always reach me at michael.casagrande@gmail.com. Good day. Good luck.

Dear Ava Grace Whitlock:

Yeah, I know. You’re 3. Literacy is still a year or two off, so have mom or dad read this one to you.

Well, this is it. My Alabama journey began a few months after your birth in 2009. You, of course, belong to my favorite former co-worker, Cody Whitlock. I was an outsider hired to cover Alabama athletics that spring. Quickly your birthplace became my home.

The football team was supposed to be good that fall. Starting on A-Day was only the appetizer for the jolt your state was about to give me. You folks love your football. I knew that before spending an afternoon with 84,050 or so of your fellow Alabamians, but each gave me an idea what the next few years would mean.

Turns out that football team was good. That coach named Saban knows what he’s doing. He might come off a little scary when my questions weren’t welcomed, but he’s an alright fella. Only you could get away with asking about comparisons, expectations or sacks. Trust me, kid.

I’m heading to the place he once called home. Sometimes big kids have to make tough decisions. When the South Florida Sun Sentinel (of Fort Lauderdale) offered me the job covering the University of Miami, I had to take it. Wednesday was my last day.

But as I bang out the last words on this beat up laptop, the memories come flooding back. I reflect upon my eventful 1,166 days of Alabama citizenship through your young, but maturing eyes. Your folks thankfully welcomed this Yankee with strange political beliefs into your home.

You had me at “PSSSTSSSSTTSSS.”

That first fall was quite a trip. Most of the people who’ll also read this won’t forget it. Alabama ended 17 years of championship-free football in Pasadena, Calif., in January. My head never stopped spinning. Covering high schools in Indiana for almost two years could never fully prepare you for SEC football. Standing on the field as Terrence Cody blocked that kick against Tennessee was surreal. Tim Tebow’s tears almost stained my shirt in Atlanta and I sent you that picture of Mickey from Disneyland.

Fun stuff, huh?

Most folks thought the next fall would be a repeat, but football doesn’t follow a script. Sports are funny that way.

Subconsciously, you learned a little about managing expectations. Some grown ups have yet to master that skill, but dad can tell you about that Harvey guy some other day. Again, Alabama finished the year near Mickey’s other house and your toy collection reflected that fact.

You were almost old enough to digest that last football season. I hope you forgot what happened a few months earlier, though. You’ll hear stories about the horror of April 27, 2011, but please take something positive from the ultimate negative. Do a Google search for Carson Tinker some day. Your iPad 12 will teach you what heroism is, though the stories you won’t read are the most striking.

Then, Alabama went on to win another championship in January. The season was more of a Picasso than a da Vinci, but it still counted.

I wish you could’ve stepped inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on the evening of Nov. 5. No game — not even the two national championship games I covered — had an atmosphere quite like that Alabama-LSU first draft. Nothing will top the intensity that night. I count myself lucky to remember it. Watch the HD 4D replay some day.

Everything else is a blur as I pack up the gear and look south. All my junk and a few bottles of barbecue sauce will make the drive to the end of America in a few days. Hard to believe, really.

I’ll also carry the nickname you gave me for as long as I live. Come on down and see Mickey and stop through Miami while you’re in the neighborhood.

These have been three of the craziest years of my life, but you were always there to remind me what’s good in the world. I’ll miss that the most.

Your pal,

The Weird Guy

Check out the construction work at the Alabama football practice complex

The scene Thursday afternoon.

Offseason work on the Alabama football fields was well underway this afternoon in Tuscaloosa. As you can see, the four practice fields between the Mal Moore Athletics Center and Bryant Drive are under construction.

An athletics spokesman said the fields are being redone. Deferred maintenance was also in the plan.

This is what this space normally looks like from the other side of the field. The above photo was taken by the buildings in the distance of the one below.

(Screen grab from practice video)

Now, take a look a this angle of the work taken today. You can see something in the distance that looks like it could be related to the weight room reportedly in the works. The university is reportedly looking to build a new weight facility to join the indoor complex to the locker room building.


Just something to consider on a quiet June afternoon in the blast furnace they call Tuscaloosa.

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Breaking: Commissioners agree to four-team playoff, details still TBD

The commissioners of the 11 top conferences have a consensus on the playoff debate. Almost. Well, maybe.

The group charged with reshaping the future of  the college football postseason just released a statement after another round of meetings in Chicago. Judge for yourself. Here’s what they said:

“We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new post-season structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport. We take our responsibility to our universities, our presidents, and to student-athletes seriously and we’re determined to make this great sport even more popular.

“At our meeting with the Presidential Oversight Committee next week, we will present our views so the presidents can make their decisions. On many issues we have achieved widespread consensus; on some issues, important and valuable alternatives have been suggested.

We have developed a consensus behind a four-team, seeded playoff, while recognizing that the presidents will certainly present their views, including a discussion of a Plus-One. We also discussed various selection methods and look forward to having these discussions with the presidents.

“We are getting very close and we look forward to next week’s meeting. We have already had extensive discussions with our presidents and it remains important to note that all final decisions will be made by the presidents, either at next week’s meeting or at whatever date is appropriate.”

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The full listing of Alabama’s NCAA academic ratings

Alabama did pretty well in the annual APR (academic) progress report released by the NCAA today. No program came close to facing any sanctions based on the books.

Check out the numbers below. The national standard is 925 and Alabama teams easily exceeded it in every sport. The womemn’s golf and women’s tennis teams both had perfect scores of 1,000. The numbers are from the 2007-08 through 2010-11 academic years. More to come.

Men’s teams
Baseball 980
Basketball 980
Cross country 969
Football 970
Golf 993
Swimming 980
Indoor track 955
Outdoor track 955

Women’s teams

Basketball 977
Cross country 978
Golf 1,000
Gymnastics 991
Rowing 958
Soccer 982
Softball 993
Swimming 985
Tennis 1,000
Indoor track 969
Outdoor track 969
Volleyball 983

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Back to the video countdown with a Les Miles classic

No, I haven’t forgotten about the Daily Bama Blog summer video countdown. Things have just been a little crazy lately.  But today, we bring a classic that went viral last December.

Here is Les Miles’ now famous ‘Nice hat’ video from the 2011 Heismen Trophy ceremony. He was later asked about it.

 

Previously on the countdown …

No. 10: Rammer Jammer after 2011 football win at Florida
No. 9: Trent Richardson runs the 40
No. 8: Trent Richardson at pro day
No. 7: Dont’a Hightower hits hard
No. 6: Ezell talks Saban impression
No. 5: Nick Saban works with the DBs

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A bit of news: My time in Alabama coming to an end

Good afternoon, friends. I have a bit of news to share with you. After three-plus years covering Alabama sports, it’s time for a new challenge. Earlier this week, I accepted a job with The Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale covering the University of Miami.

I’ll still be around for another two weeks, but I wanted to give you folks a heads up a change was coming. My position will be filled and I’m sure this blog will continue right along, probably better than it is now.

We’ll save the formalities for another day, but I wanted to thank you in advance for helping grow this little site into the community it’s become.

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Updating the legal proceedings surrounding Aaron Douglas death

More than a year has passed since Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas died from an accidental drug overdose in Florida. The man charged with providing the methadone that caused his death on May 12, 2011 has yet to stand trial on non-capital murder charges.

Odum

Prosecutors hope the trial of Rodney Young Odum will begin by this fall after a lengthy discovery process. Odum,  who allegedly sold Douglas the drugs that led to his death, was arrested Aug. 23, 2011. Court records indicate he bonded out of jail Nov. 15 after a September motion for bond reduction was denied.

Odum waved his right to a speedy trial on Dec. 12. The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for June 21. Depositions were taken in January and April with 21 subpenas being served. Several witnesses were served multiple times.

According to Fernandina Beach police, Odum was the cab driver who drove Douglas to the late-night party where he eventually died. Odum allegedly sold Douglas, 21, two methadone pills, which the medical examiner later determined was sufficient to cause Douglas’ death.

“The victim clearly shares some responsibility for the reckless behavior that took his life,” read a statement from Fernandina Beach police  Captain James Hurley released last August . “However, Mr. Odum reportedly had a reputation as a mobile drug dealer, making it easy for the victim to locate and ingest the drugs that killed him.”

Douglas had just completed his first spring practice in Tuscaloosa when he died. The Maryville, Tenn., native began his career at Tennessee in 2009. After earning freshman All-American honors, Douglas transferring to Arizona Western College where he played with future Alabama teammate Jesse Williams. He arrived in Tuscaloosa in January of 2011 and competed for the starting left tackle position in spring practice.

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Alabama softball team, gnome releases another music video

Slow news day? Maybe. But these softball videos are huge, right? Well, he’s the next in the series of lip-sync performances with another cameo from the completely n0n-threatening gnome that could never haunt your dreams. This time, it’s a Beyonce song that gets the treatment.

 

Remember the last attempt, a tribute to the hit “What makes you beautiful” was viewed more than 74,000 times on YouTube. Check out the new one now before it goes viral. Get in on the ground floor, folks.

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Statue debate settled for now

Take a look over today’s print edition story dealing with the Champions Plaza. A few additional details were included.

TUSCALOOSA — May the great statue debate rest.

Alabama plans on honoring all of its national-championship winning coaches, it just won’t involve another sculptor. The school will propose constructing a “Champions Plaza” when the UA System Board of Trustees meets today and Friday.

The $2.8 million project would be built in the grassy area between the Sewell-Thomas Stadium right-field wall and Coleman Coliseum. According to the proposal documents, the plaza will commemorate the success of the athletics department as a whole.

“The plaza will consist of brick and precision concrete walls and will include commemorative engravings, which highlight each team’s history including National and SEC Championships,” the project summary read.

Interactive video displays will aim to teach visitors about the history and traditions of Alabama athletics. Tiered seating for 600 is also part of the proposed project that would cover a total of 30,000 square feet.

The documents also mention the topic that’s created considerable debate among the Crimson Tide fan base.

“In addition, there will be a coaches’ recognition wall with plaques to honor coaches who have won National Championships,” the project summary read.

Click here for the complete story at no extra charge.

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Alabama climbs standings in Capital One Cup

Alabama’s historic season of national championships blew away school records. But did it make the school top dog nationally? The updated Capital One Cup (measuring department-wide success) has the Tide’s women’s programs near the top.

Three of the four Alabama championships were captured by women’s programs (gymnastics, golf, softball). Here are the complete rankings for women’s sports:

School Points
1. Stanford 152.5
2. UCLA 110
3. Alabama 100
4. LSU 92
5. Duke 83
6. Oregon 80
7. Southern California 77
8. California 72
9. Florida 65
10. Maryland 62

The men’s programs were also near the top on the strength of the football title and the golf team’s runner-up finish.

1. Florida89
2. LSU78
3. North Carolina75
4. Alabama 72
5. Kentucky 70
6. UCLA 64
7. Ohio State 60.5
8. Loyola-Maryland 60
8. North Dakota State 60
10. USC 56

Click here for more information on how the points are calculated.

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No new statues: Complete plan for ‘Champions Plaza’ revealed

The University of Alabama will honor all of its national championship coaches, but don’t call the sculptor just yet. Documents provided to The Daily Bama Blog reveal the planned “Champions Plaza” will include an interactive look at Alabama’s complete body of athletic success.

There won’t, however, be any new statues commissioned.

The $2.8-million project will be build adjacent to the Sewell-Thomas baseball stadium on the Alabama campus. The first phase of the construction must be approved by the UA system board of trustees in a Friday meeting. If all goes as planned, the project will be complete by the spring of 2013.

The school plans honor each of the SEC and national championships with plaques on concrete and brick walls. Video footage of the accomplishments will also take viewers inside the traditions and history of the athletics programs.

“In addition,” the project summary reads, “there will be a coaches’ recognition wall with plaques to honor coaches who have won National Championships.”

The project will include 600 tiered seats outside the baseball facility. The project will be almost completely paid for by the Crimson Tide Foundation. The other $50,000 projected for maintenance and infrastructure will come from the annual operating budget of the athletics department.

The first formal discussion for the project came in a May 18th memo from Lynda Gilbert , UA’s vice president for financial affairs, to interim UA president Judith Bonner.

At that point, Alabama had won two national championships (football and gymnastics) in 2011-12. The women’s golf and softball teams added titles in the last few weeks to give the school its highest total in one academic year.

Now, let your opinion be heard.

 

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‘Champions Plaza’ on UA Board of Trustees meeting agenda

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. Does this mean more statues for the three other Alabama coaches who won national titles this year?

The only other athletics-related construction item involves the track and field facility.

“Consideration of Resolution authorizing execution of Construction Contract and approving scope and budget revisions to the Sam Bailey Track Stadium Renovation at UA (Stage IV)”

Stay tuned for further details on this story.

 

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Read the AJ McCarron vs. Tyrann Mathieu Twitter feud

Update: McCarron tied to put an end to the debate that certainly could’ve gone on until November.

Click image to enlarge.

—-

Who said June is dull? Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu took to Twitter today for an exchange a few months before the Nov. 3 rematch in Baton Rouge.

Here’s a taste of the back and forth. Vince McMahon would be proud.

Click image to enlarge.

And another.

Click image to enlarge.

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Alabama reportedly lands large recruit


(High school footage of Brown)

For now, Alabama’s offensive line is stacked. But a year from now? Well, there will be holes.

Brown

With three starters likely entering their final year of eligibility, Alabama will need help right away. That’s where Leon Brown fits in.

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound junior college tackle committed to the Crimson Tide on Sunday, the recruiting services reported. Entering his second year at Asa College in Brooklyn, N.Y., Brown could be expected to fill in quickly upon arrival in Tuscaloosa with right tackle D.J. Fluker projected to be a first-round draft pick in 2013.

Alabama coach Nick Saban typically only recruits junior college players who are expected to contribute immediately. Tackle James Carpenter worked straight into the starting lineup after two JUCO seasons in 2009. He was drafted in the first round two years later by the Seattle Seahawks.

Coming out of Parkdale (Md.) High School, Rivals.com listed his only scholarship offers came from Marshall and New Mexico. Brown was not listed on the rankings for junior college prospects for the 2013 recruiting class by the major services.

Brown is the 17th player to publically commit to Alabama’s Class of 2013. Verbal pledges are non-binding before scholarship papers can be signed in February.

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SEC passes Pac-12 for most titles this year

Add two more titles to the SEC’s stockpile this year. The Florida men’s track team won a NCAA championship along with the LSU women. That pushes the SEC total to nine this season.

Don’t forget LSU, Florida and South Carolina are among the top baseball teams in the country, so there’s a shot at equaling the league record of 10 set back in 1998-99.

The SEC also leapfrogged the Pac-12 for the most titles among conferences with the two Saturday. Here’s the breakdown:

SEC (9)
Football (Alabama)
Men’s indoor track (Florida)
Women’s gymnastics (Alabama)
Men’s basketball (Kentucky)
Women’s tennis (Florida)
Women’s golf (Alabama)
Softball (Alabama)
Men’s track (Florida)
Women’s track (LSU)

Pac-12 (8)
Women’s water polo (USC)
Women’s volleyball (UCLA)
Women’s soccer (Stanford)
Women’s indoor track (Oregon)
Women’s swimming, diving (California)
Men’s swimming, diving (California)
Women’s water polo (Stanford)
Men’s tennis (USC)

Big Ten (6)
Men’s cross country (Wisconsin)
Wrestling (Penn State)
Women’s hockey (Minnesota)
Men’s gymnastics (Illinois)
Fencing (Ohio State)
Women’s lacrosse (Northwestern)

ACC (4)
Men’s soccer (North Carolina)
Field hockey (Maryland)
Men’s hockey (Boston College)
Rowing (Virginia)

Big 12 (2)
Women’s basketball (Baylor)
Men’s golf (Texas)

Big East (1)
Women’s cross country (Georgetown)

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