8 months ago

Before the City of Mobile gives the University of South Alabama $10 million for a stadium, a few questions…

It took 46 years for varsity football to become a reality at Mobile’s University of South Alabama.

For many of those years, from the institution’s founding in 1963 up until the kickoff of its first varsity football game in 2009, the school’s leadership treated not having football like it was a badge of honor.

In college football-rich Alabama, the University of South Alabama was different than the others. It would be known for Coach Eddie Stanky’s baseball success, and the occasional “Peanut Butter & Jelly” type run in college basketball’s NCAA tournament as a mid-major program.

For decades, USA’s hierarchy resisted overtures for varsity football. And every so often, the school would commission a blue-ribbon panel to deliberate about the feasibility of college football at the University of South Alabama. Then it would determine the proper course of action was for USA to drag its feet more on football.

I remember. I was there for some of this — both as a University of South Alabama student and resident of Mobile.

Some of that may have had to do with the late Mayer Mitchell. As a member of the school’s Board of Trustees, Mitchell had a prominent role within the leadership of this institution.

He died in 2007 but did a lot for the University of South Alabama. He gave copious amounts of money to the school, and his name is on the university’s iconic Mitchell Center and its Mitchell Cancer Institute.

He was also, however, a big backer of the University of Alabama’s football program. Mitchell, known as “Bubba” in the University of Alabama world, was friends with legendary Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

With dual allegiances to Alabama and South Alabama, Mitchell probably was not in a hurry to see the University of South Alabama have an NCAA Division I football program.

The politics of public education and college football are as dog-eat-dog as real politics in the state of Alabama.

Case in point: The UAB on-and-off again football debacle.

Mitchell’s presence and loyalty to Tuscaloosa are perhaps why it took so long for South Alabama to get football.

Given there was no rush for the University of South Alabama to start a football program, it is ironic to see the institution’s urgent need for an on-campus stadium.

Since launching the program, the University of South Alabama has been using Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The stadium opened in 1948 and has been a fixture in Mobile, serving as the site of the annual Senior Bowl and the city’s yearly revolving-sponsor bowl game.

It was also the site of two pre-presidential appearances from Donald Trump, the first of which, in 2015, showed that Trump was a legitimate contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

South Alabama and its fans have soured on Ladd-Peebles Stadium in recent years. It’s an aging facility and is on the other side of town from the University of South Alabama. Therefore, it makes sense for that university to want its own on-campus facility.

However, the school is also seeking financial help from the City of Mobile to build it.

In case you haven’t been following this mini-drama taking place in Alabama’s port city, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson has proposed retiring Ladd-Peebles Stadium, or possibly converting it to a high school football-only facility given the cost to renovate. According to Mayor Stimpson, the cost would be significantly more than just going in with the University of South Alabama and starting from scratch in West Mobile.

This proposal also includes moving the Senior Bowl and the city’s bowl game to this proposed new stadium.

Therefore, the mayor has lobbied his city council to commit $10 million over 20 years for USA’s $70-million-plus stadium project.

Mobile’s city council has been reluctant to agree to this proposal despite the rush to get this funding secured, as evidenced by Stimpson’s remark’s to the council earlier on Tuesday.

“Windows of opportunity close,” Stimpson said according to a report from Alabama Media Group’s Lawrence Specker. “The one with USA will close, and we need to ask, are we going to be on the inside or the outside.”

For those unfamiliar with the geography of Mobile, it’s not balkanized like Birmingham and it’s surrounding communities are. It spreads from the Mobile Bay on the east side and comes within eight miles of the Alabama-Mississippi State Line on its west side.

Right down the middle is Interstate 65, which is thought of as the dividing line between Mobile and West Mobile for some. For Mobilians, there’s an almost tribal instinct as to which side of town you dwell, and going beyond that Airport Blvd. and I-65 intersection is seen as a special trip by those living on either side of it.

My first question for the town elders of Mobile: Do we think people downtown, midtown, etc. will make a trip to West Mobile to see the University of South Alabama Jaguars take on the Texas State Bobcats? In actuality, it might not be that far. But the location could be a deterrent for those who would be giving up watching Auburn or Alabama in front of their TV in their homes on a Saturday afternoon.

Next question: Is this stadium project thought to be a way to spur economic development in this part of Mobile? I would consider what happens when that is a motivating force behind these big construction projects.

One example — making Mobile’s Airport out at Bates Field on the edge of town.

The value of the real estate along Airport Blvd. beyond I-65 did increase from the airport being there and not downtown. But after a few decades of a 13-mile inconvenience from downtown, there is a serious effort underway to move Mobile’s primary airport back downtown.

Add to that the fate of Hank Aaron Stadium. The team currently known as the Bay Bears are headed north to Madison County. The loss of minor league baseball in Mobile has some questioning if Hank Aaron Stadium, located at the intersection of Government Blvd. and I-65, should have been built closer to Mobile’s downtown.

Also: Am I the only one who thinks it is perverse for this to be the University of South Alabama’s primary focus? Some city council meetings as of late have turned into miniature pep rallies for the Jaguars, given the school has encouraged a show of support at meetings. Students and boosters have come to meetings wearing the USA “South in Your Mouth” gear.

Every other year, the University of South Alabama is instituting some fee or tuition increase.

The university’s belligerent endowment, the University of South Alabama Foundation, scoffed at the suggestion of contributing to a new stadium. (The relationship between USA and its endowment is a soap opera that warrants its own column someday.)

Lastly, why is there a lack of nostalgia for Ladd-Peebles Stadium from the people pushing the USA on-campus option? It’s a stadium that has hosted football games for Alabama, Auburn and Southern Miss over the years. Perhaps it has seen better days, but there is something to say about a historic city like Mobile having an iconic historical stadium.

One might think Mobile would have learned its lesson of completely abandoning historic for modern after building the monstrosity known as Government Plaza downtown. The failed spaceship look plagued with leaks doesn’t really scream 316-year-old city.

It is entirely legitimate to question the wisdom of the City of Mobile going in with $10 million of taxpayer money on an on-campus stadium, given all the other ailments of which the city is suffering. Opposing it doesn’t make you a troglodyte thwarting progress.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University (and the University of South Alabama) and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

3 hours ago

Illegal immigrant charged in death of Mobile woman

Domingo Francisco Marcos, a Guatemalan immigrant in the United States illegally, has been charged with vehicular homicide and fleeing the scene of the accident with injuries in the Monday death of Mobile’s Sonya Jones on US 98.

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According to WKRG, the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office said Marcos, 16, hit Jones’ vehicle head-on and then tried to run away. However, he was injured too badly to do so and collapsed after leaving the immediate scene.

Marcos was then taken to USA Women’s and Children’s Hospital for surgery. Prosecutors plan on asking the judge not to grant him bond.

He reportedly entered the country via Mexico and was apprehended in Arizona by federal law enforcement officials in 2017. Before he could be deported, he claimed asylum and was released awaiting a hearing. Marcos never showed up in court to speak to his claim, so it was denied. However, authorities had no way to locate him so he was never deported.

In a statement, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1), who represents the Mobile area, decried yet another illegal immigrant allegedly responsible for the death of an Alabamian.

“Yet again we have someone who is in our country illegally taking the life of an American citizen,” Byrne said. “How many more Americans have to die before we take action to crack down on illegal immigration, secure the border, and keep the American people safe? Enough is enough!”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Will Ainsworth: Common Core is a failed, Obama-era relic that must come to a quick and immediate end

Alabama took a strong step toward independence in its public schools this week when the State Senate approved legislation to repeal the Obama-era curriculum mandates known by most as Common Core.

Everyone agrees that Alabama needs strict academic standards that our children must meet. It is vital to economic development, it is vital to our workforce development and it is vital to our children’s future success.

Where we differ in the Common Core debate is who should set those standards.

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I believe Alabamians should determine the curriculum and standards for our state’s schoolchildren based upon our available resources, our needs and our first-hand knowledge of what makes Alabama great.

We should not rely upon some out-of-state entity or liberal, Washington, D.C. bureaucrats to determine our standards, and we certainly should not continue embracing this most damaging legacy of the disastrous Obama administration.

When Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best,” he understood that a top-down approach and governing from afar denies the important knowledge and details that those on the local level possess.

Perhaps the most asinine theory behind Common Core mandates is the cookie cutter approach it takes to schools across our nation.

Rather than recognizing and accounting for the differences among the states, their workforce needs, and the public educations they should offer, Common Core demands an across-the-board, one-size-fits-all mandate that is typical of liberal policy pronouncements.

Moreover, the public schools in a politically conservative state like Alabama, where character education and allowing students to acknowledge God are important, are vastly different from the schools in ultra-liberal cities like San Francisco and New York City, where educators consider themselves enlightened and the groupthink doctrine of political correctness dominates.

But, in the end, the most effective argument for repealing Common Core is the fact that it has proven to be an unmitigated failure.

When Alabama first adopted Common Core roughly a decade ago, advocates labeled it as the cure-all for our public education system, but the magic elixir they promised has proven to be just a worthless bottle of snake oil.

Prior to the adoption of Common Core, Alabama’s students ranked at or near the bottom in almost every education metric that was tested, and, a decade later today, our state still ranks 49th in math and 46th in reading.

For these stated reasons and too many others to detail, it is time for Alabama to abandon this liberal social experiment and chart its own, independent path toward success in education – one that is rooted in conservative principles and one that embraces long-proven, fundamental teaching concepts.

Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who filed the legislation, and the co-sponsors of his bill should be commended for working to end this unnecessary Obama-era relic. Dropping the gavel when the repeal of Common Core passed the State Senate was one of the happiest and most satisfying moments of my time in public service.

Will Ainsworth is the Republican lieutenant governor of Alabama.

6 hours ago

Bill to repeal Common Core in Alabama passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama passed the State Senate as amended by a 23-7 vote on Thursday afternoon, despite a passionate filibuster by Democrats in the chamber.

The bill, SB 119, now heads to the House to take up after the legislature’s spring break next week.

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SB 119 was given a unanimous favorable recommendation on Wednesday by the Education Policy Committee.

State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) introduced a friendly amendment that was adopted by the Senate before they passed the bill. The amendment would move Alabama away from Common Core standards directly to new standards adopted by the state school board in 2021-2022 (instead of using transition standards next school year and then new standards in 2020-2021).

Gudger’s amendment also addressed concerns that the bill would inadvertently bar Alabama from utilizing things like AP tests and national certifications and exams.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL), who presides over the Senate, told Yellowhammer News Wednesday that he strongly supports the repeal of Common Core.

Update 4:20 p.m.:

Marsh released the following statement:

In the past I have made it clear that we have an elected school board who should dictate policy when it comes to education in Alabama. However it is clear that we have a dysfunctional school board who is incapable of making decisions that give our students and teachers the best chance at being successful.

We have used the Common Core standards in Alabama for nearly a decade and while we do have some blue-ribbon schools, the vast majority are severely behind. We are still ranked 46thand 49thin reading and math according to National Assessment of Educational Progress. This is unacceptable so it is time to try something new.

I have worked and will continue to work with the education community in developing high standards so that we have the most competitive and rigorous course of study in the country, we cannot accept the status quo and this is a good first step.

I want to thank the Senate for their support and their work as we ended up with a piece of legislation that went through the legislative process to become the best possible bill we could pass and addressed everybody’s concerns. This was a fantastic first step as we move to address sweeping education reform in Alabama.

RELATED: Ivey on Common Core: ‘We should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’ bill (R-Anniston) that would voluntarily allow a taxpayer to divert a portion or all of their own state income tax refund to We Build the Wall, Inc. passed the Senate by a vote of 23-6 on Thursday afternoon, overcoming an organized Democrat filibuster.

The bill, SB 22, now is set for a first reading in the House, which can take up the legislation after the legislature’s spring break next week.

“I thank the Senate for their support on this matter and I look forward to working with the House to give Alabamians a voice and are able to express their desire to support President Trump and stronger border security,” Marsh said in a statement.

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After Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) started a filibuster Wednesday, Marsh carried the bill over.

On Thursday, the bill was named to the Senate special order calendar and was again filibustered when it came up, this time with multiple Democrat senators joining in the effort. Republicans, seeing the filibuster was set to continue for hours, successfully adopted a cloture petition to end the filibuster so the Democrats would not continue blocking the chamber from conducting business.

“People I talk to across Alabama are sick and tired of politicians in Washington D.C. talking and nothing being done about the crisis on our borders. This bill is about sending a message to Washington that we support President Trump and his mission to secure our southern border,” Marsh advised.

He added, “Alabamians overwhelming favor securing our borders, protecting our citizens and their jobs and supporting President Trump. This bill simply allows citizens, if they choose, to send a message that they want to see our borders secured by sending a portion of their tax refund to donate to build the wall.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

BONEFROG, ‘The world’s only Navy SEAL obstacle course race’ heads to Alabama this Saturday

Do you love anything military, obstacle course or NASCAR racing-related? If so, you’ll want to head down to Talladega Superspeedway this Saturday for BONEFROG. With obstacles placed every quarter mile, BONEFROG is sure to test even the most seasoned athletes.

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Brian Carney, CEO and Founder of BONEFROG, said the race is designed to push racers past their limits and see that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

“We try to replicate the same type of obstacles we trained on in SEAL training but on a smaller and safer scale,” said Carney. “With BONEFROG you can feel the military authenticity throughout the entire event and especially throughout the course.”

This year, the race will offer several options: the 3-mile Sprint, 6-mile Challenge, 9-mile TIER-1, 8 Hour Endurance and the all-new 18+ mile TRIDENT.

For those with children, BONEFROG will also offer quarter and half-mile courses with scaled down obstacles.

Set up at Alabama’s historic Talladega Speedway, Carney says the Alabama BONEFROG race isn’t one to miss.

“There’s so much history here and we utilize every inch of the speedway to make this race stand out from any other. If you’re coming to BONEFROG to race then Talladega tops them all in that department,” Carney said.

At BONEFROG racers can expect not only to be challenged but inspired. Carney says he will never forget watching Alabama veteran, and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Noah Galloway complete the race’s Black OP’s obstacle.

“For those who don’t know, Noah’s an army vet who lost an arm and a leg in combat. To see him on the monkey bars in front of our massive American Flag taking on one of our toughest obstacles just sent chills through my body,” Carney said.

Carney continued, saying that moment continues to linger in his memory.

“To say it was inspirational would be a massive understatement. It’s stayed with me ever since and pushed me and my entire team to always strive to put on the best events we possibly can because our racers deserve just that.”

With 20,000 to 30,000 racers expected to participate in this year’s BONEFROG races, it’s safe to say popularity is unmatched.

More than just a fun and challenging race, BONEFROG partners with nonprofits, like the Navy SEAL Foundation, to give back. Carney said the company has raised over $200,000 for charity to date.

If you’re ready to test your limits and join the race, there’s still time. To register or to learn more about the company, visit the BONEFROG website at www.bonefrogchallenge.com