Hello from the Lone Star State!
Following a full week of training after the SEC Champs and a final exam or two, we traveled west to the Austin Regional for the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Championships. Our post season path was determined this past Monday as coaches and players from both men’s and women’s teams, fans, family and friends gathered for a Selection Show watch party at Coleman Coliseum. Really great to be together again with Coach Jenny Mainz, her staff and team to celebrate a joint return to the post season that we call May Madness. There was much speculation about where we would end up competing – California, Illinois, Texas – and all of that “talk” was put to rest when ALABAMA flashed up on the television screen. A big cheer ensued as well as a spirited mini-dance from my son Grant who was determined to get a little media love this year. So grateful to have many familiar faces from the athletic department, Crimson Racket Club, community and my home all together in the C.M. Newton Room to kick off the next and new chapter of the Spring. As we continued to watch, the next team revealed in the draw and our opening round opponent was South Florida (USF), the American Athletic Conference (AAC) tournament champions. The Bulls played very good tennis down the stretch so we will have our hands full keeping our capes clear from those horns. The next two names that popped up were Ohio Valley Conference champions Tennessee Tech, and host/Big 12 regular season champions, Texas. First serve is set for 10am CST on Friday with a strong chance of thunderstorms in the area. While Texas does have an indoor facility, the tournament committee will make every effort to keep this championship outdoors.
In other news, our Department of Athletics and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) presented its annual Crimson Choice Awards last month. The celebration of Crimson Tide excellence by student-athletes, coaches, staff and administrators, the CCAs were held in downtown Tuscaloosa at the Bama Theatre. ESPN’s Laura Rutledge was the master of ceremonies and men’s tennis was honored in several categories. For the second consecutive year and fourth time in last six years, we claimed the top gpa for all University of Alabama men’s athletic programs. We were on the road at the SEC Championships during the event, however, we put together a funny video together with the women’s players (who also claimed the top gpa award) that aired on screen in our absence. What an impressive accomplishment given the many hours the players spend on court, in the gym and in the training room to go along with their academic responsibilities.
Community outreach efforts were also recognized during the event as Crimson Tide student-athletes gave more than 2,300 hours toward community service this year. Gymnastics was the women’s squad with the most community outreach hours while men’s tennis earned the honor for the men. We helped build a home with Habitat for Humanity in the fall, visited Capstone Village to play cards with their senior residents, read to K-5th grade children at Holy Spirit School, participated in youth tennis clinics and also volunteered time at DCH Hospital. This award also emphasized more hours that were committed to by the players to benefit those in our community. Fantastic!
Edson Ortiz, a junior from Chihuahua, Mexico, was named a finalist for the Bryant Award, which was created by the Tuscaloosa County Chapter of the University of Alabama Alumni Association in 1985 and is given annually to the top male and female student-athlete. A new honor unveiled at this year’s even was the Unsung Hero Award, with two dozen Alabama student-athletes lauded for making a substantive yet often unrecognized contribution to their team’s success in ways that can be difficult to measure. Sophomore Grant Stuckey was a well-deserving representative of the nomination as he has spent the majority of the year recovering from double hip surgery. Congrats to Edson, Grant and all the players for their commitment to excellence and service on and off the court.
Final exams have been taken and the school year has ended for our guys so let the “new” season begin. Live streaming and stats will be available through the Longhorn website at texassports.com so you’ll be able to catch all the action from the road. We’ve had good training sessions since we arrived (as well as some tasty food) and are ready to face the opponent in front of us. We’ll pray for Mother Nature to steer clear of campus and the show will go on.
Here’s to dancing at the Big Dance.