The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 weeks ago

Alabama falls short in overtime loss to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen

(Twitter/AlabamaMBB)

The Alabama Crimson Tide’s magical basketball season came to an end Sunday night, falling to the UCLA Bruins 88-78.

The Tide started the matchup off very slow, allowing UCLA to jump out to a 7-1 lead in the opening minutes of the game.

Bama star Herb Jones got in foul trouble very early on, with back-to-back charges called on him. As the senior leader of coach Nate Oats’ team, Jones is a big part of what Alabama likes to do on defense as well as offense.

With two fouls in the opening 45 seconds of the game, it looked like the Tide were going to be in for a long night. However, when Jones hit the bench, Bama started its comeback.

Jahvon Quinerly entered the game and helped things up 7-7 after six minutes of play. The guard had the most points of any player on the court, scoring 20 total.

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Johnny Juzang for UCLA and the rest of coach Mick Cronin’s team started to fight back midway through the first half.

The Bruins came clawing back into the game, and with under seven minutes left in the first half finally grabbed the lead again for the first time since the opening minutes. After UCLA rallied back to grab a 27-25 lead, it was back and forth down the stretch until a late run for the Bruins put them ahead of Alabama.

At the half, UCLA managed to pull ahead 40-29 over the Tide thanks to the play of Juzang and Jules Bernard.

Bernard scored 13 points off of four three-point shots, including one with a foul after the make. However, Alabama was not ready to give up on the opportunity to keep dancing.

The Bruins hit their last four three-point shots at the half. Yet, to start out the second half of play, UCLA missed their first three shots of the half. All three were from beyond the arc.

Bama went on a 7-0 run to start the second half to slowly chip away at the lead that UCLA had carried with them into the half.

The Tide then went on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 40 early in the second half.

Juzang and Bernard started out the second half cold, combining to go 0-5 from deep to start the half as it took six minutes for UCLA to score a point.

UCLA later tied the game at 61 a piece on the first of a pair of Jaime Jaquez, Jr.’s free throws up with 45 seconds left, and then remained tied with a miss on the second. Jones for Alabama then also went one of two for free throws on the other end.

With less than 30 seconds left, the Tide led by one, and UCLA managed to get the ball down low to big man Cody Riley for the Bruins to flip the lead of one to their side.

Alabama then had 15 seconds left down one with the ball in their possession. Herb Jones got fouled in the final seconds and comes up to the line to possibly put the game away. Jones missed both free throws.

On the other side, the Bruins hit two free throws to give them a three-point lead over the Tide with only five seconds remaining in the game.

Alex Reese for the Tide, who has been battling injury and has seen his numbers decline slightly in the last few weeks, was given the ball for a last-second desperation shot.

Reese hit the deep shot from the March Madness logo to send the game to overtime.

UCLA took over the game in overtime to defeat Alabama 88-78 and advance to the Elite Eight.

Alabama’s trip to the Sweet 16 was its first time doing so since 2004.

The team that has lived by the three all season was not able to live by the three on Sunday. Instead, Bama went just 7-28 from deep.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 weeks ago

Local students can apply to join The World Games 2022 Birmingham youth choir, perform at opening and closing ceremonies

(TWG 2022, YHN)

The World Games 2022 is looking for talented young singers from the Birmingham metropolitan area.

A multi-sport event that will take place in the Magic City from July 7- 17, 2022, The World Games 2022 will see an anticipated 3,600 athletes from over 100 countries participate in more than 30 different sports.

Birmingham’s under-construction Protective Stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies, at which The World Games 2022 Youth Choir will perform.

It was announced on Thursday that this choir will be comprised of selected local 7th-12th graders.

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According to a release, a select group of the students will also have the chance to record the official theme song of The Games, composed by Dr. Henry Panion III (the World Games 2022 artistic director) and Randy Owen of the group Alabama.

Applications for the choir will close on April 30, 2021. Those selected to participate will be notified in May. Students can apply here.

“The opportunity to engage our youth in this historical event is so exciting. They will be part of the memories we all hold and treasure long after the Games are over,” stated The World Games 2022 vice president of community engagement Kathy Boswell.

Rashada LeRoy, president and CEO of LRY Media Group and executive producer of the opening and closing ceremonies, said she is excited to see all the talented young singers from the community who decide to audition.

“What makes Birmingham the ‘Magic City’ is the community,” LeRoy remarked. “There are so many talented and dynamic youth who make our community strong and deserve to have their voices heard for the entire World to see.”

With fans traveling from worldwide destinations to Birmingham and experiencing over 25 unique venues around the greater metropolitan area, The World Games 2022 will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact.

RELATED: The World Games 2022 announces three of the Birmingham venues to be showcased across the planet

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 weeks ago

Bama’s Herbert Jones one of four finalists for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

Alabama men’s basketball star Herbert Jones is one of four finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, the organization behind the award announced on Tuesday.

Jones, 22, has led the Tide to its best basketball season in decades. He was named Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year by the Southeastern Conference earlier this month.

Joining Jones as finalists for the defensive player award are Baylor’s Davion Mitchell, USC’s Evan Mobley and Utah State’s Neemias Queta.

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A native of Greensboro, Jones is currently in his senior year with the Crimson Tide.

Jones led Alabama in rebounds, steals and blocked shots over the past season, helping the Tide earn a ranking among the top five college defenses in the nation.

In addition to the SEC honors, Jones was named a third-team AP All American and was a semi-finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year.

In the Tide’s tougher-than-expected game in the first round of the ongoing NCAA tournament, Jones led his team to victory over Iona by scoring 20 points, grabbing six rebounds and stealing the ball three times.

The winner of the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year will be announced during Final Four weekend, according to the Alabama Athletics Department.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 weeks ago

Date, time announced for Alabama’s Sweet Sixteen matchup vs. UCLA

(Pixabay, YHN)

After steamrolling the Maryland Terrapins on Monday night, the Alabama Crimson Tide men’s basketball team is set to take on the UCLA Bruins on Sunday evening.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. CT.

The game will air on TBS and stream via the NCAA March Madness Live app on applicable devices.

As a precaution against coronavirus transmission, all games during March Madness 2021 are being played in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. The Tide will take on the Bruins in the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

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In the first two rounds of a tournament rife with upsets, the Tide effectively put away their first two opponents.

Rick Pitino’s Iona squad put up stronger than expected resistance early in Saturday’s matchup before giving way late in the game and ultimately losing by 13 points.

Defeating Maryland in the second-round matchup on Monday proved no object for the Tide, who turned an eight-point halftime lead into a 96-77 blowout with the help of 16 three-pointers over the course of the game.

A win on Sunday would advance the Tide to the Elite Eight on the following Tuesday, where they would play the winner of Florida State versus Michigan.

The Seminoles and the Wolverines play their Sweet Sixteen game just before Bama, on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. CT on CBS.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 weeks ago

Alabama’s Cindy Head is a legendary world champion foosball star

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

The century-old sport of table soccer is played by millions worldwide, yet no player has exceeded the standard of excellence set the past four decades by Birmingham native Cindy Head.

She’s won 50 world championships (more than 70 major titles) and “many, many” local, state, regional and national tournaments stemming from the day Head first turned a steel rod on a foosball table in Woodlawn. She’s won playing alone, teaming with men, teaming with women, often representing the United States and always representing Alabama.

“Cindy makes a very strong case for being the best player the entire world has ever seen,” said Jim Stevens, a member of the Foosball Hall of Fame and editor of Inside Foos magazine, who is the sole commentator for foosball broadcasts.

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When she was a 16-year-old Banks High School student, Head teamed with a Tuscaloosa man to win a national mixed doubles tournament as she played forward against a male, marking the first time that feat had been accomplished. Four years later, she won her first world championship in Chicago. That was during the height of American foosball popularity, when there was a $1 million professional tour with a new Porsche going to the champion. It was the eighth biggest sport in the U.S., but foosball was getting pushed by video games by the time Head joined the pro circuit that went under after 1981.

Although Head never got in on the riches won by foosball’s early stars, she rose to the top nonetheless. She won nine straight women’s singles championships and eight doubles titles from 1986 to 1994. At the 1986 Tornado/Dynamo World Championships, she won six championships in one weekend, three each on the nation’s two most popular foosball tables that gave the tournament its name.

“You know she’s really made it because they stopped talking about her gender and started talking about her legacy,” said Kristin Grogan of USA Foosball. “She’s someone we can all look up to as a friend and admire as the most decorated in the sport.”

Watch Alabama’s Cindy Head defeat Estelle Jacquot for the world foosball championship from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The governing bodies of the sport aren’t sure how many championships the 59-year-old has captured, much less do they have the slightest guess at how many career matches Head has won. Her most recent world championship came in 2015 playing with a repaired right thumb that had nearly been ripped off when she broke up a dog fight. She was inducted into the Foosball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the USA Table Soccer Hall of Fame in 2016.

When Joe Heslinga began filming the award-winning documentary “Foosballers,” he was following the top five American males as they prepared for the world championships. He phoned Head, who thanked him for his interest but said she wasn’t interested. She’d been burned by previous interviews, but it was news to Heslinga, who’d had no trouble convincing the guys to go on camera: “I think he was a little stunned,” Head said.

“So  about a month later, he calls me back and says, ‘Listen, all the guys are telling me that you have to be in it or it’s not going to be complete,’” Head said of their second conversation in 2016. She turned him down again. Heslinga later called a third time, asking Head to meet him and talk it over. She did and in 2020 Head was the star of the Sidewalk Film Festival premiere of the movie that was soon nationally broadcast on ESPN.

That was high cotton for Head, who’d grown up in a poor household on the wrong side of the tracks. She said her father “was not a positive influence.” When she started playing foosball at the Someplace Else game room in Woodlawn, the sport became a saving grace for a kid who had to stand on wooden crates to play. She went most every afternoon for an hour or so after finishing her homework. She would take on all comers, looking for any chance to play foosball.

“These three guys came in one day and I thought, ‘Oh boy, I can go play a game with them,’” she recalled. “So, I go running up and was like, ‘Hey, you guys need somebody to play?’ And I’ll never forget, this one guy looks at me and says, ‘Uh, not this time, sweetheart. We need somebody just a little bit better.’ And it just crushed me, I mean it just hurt my heart. And I remember looking up at him and thinking, ‘Mister, one day you will not be able to say that to me,’ and from that moment on I was determined to become a good player, and I did.”

Head’s mother eventually bought a foosball table to practice on at home. Soon, she didn’t have to bring any quarters to put in the game room machines, since winners don’t pay to play. After graduating from school, she worked eight years at a printing business and then 21 years as a Birmingham Police officer, continuing to play professional foosball tournaments around her work schedule when possible.

“You don’t win a lot of money for the women’s tournaments; it’s more about the glory,” Head said of a career where her top winning prize was $2,200 and most championships earned her in the $500 range. “But, I have traveled. I got to go to Europe and play on the USA Team. I’ve been to Italy.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Alabama marches past Iona to round two of the NCAA Tournament

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide are playing their best basketball in March, and they are looking better than ever.

The second-seeded Tide continued their winning ways against a tough 15-seed in Iona, winning 68-55 on Saturday.

Iona, coached by Rick Pitino, who has upset Alabama before in the Tournament before, came out strong against the Tide. The Gaels went on a 7-0 run before the half to bring them within one point at half-time. The two teams went back and forth trading blows for the beginning of the second half until Jahvon Quinerly began to take over the game.

A 9-0 run midway through the second half for the Tide built up a seven-point lead over the Gaels. Alabama eventually went on to win the game 68-55 by playing stiff defense and not allowing Iona to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball.

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Herb Jones paved the way with 20 points to go along with six rebounds in the first-round win. Jones has been a leader for the Crimson Tide all year, and today was no different.

While Jones scored the most points for coach Nate Oats’ squad, Quinerly really stepped up when the Tide needed him the most. Quinerly seemed to score almost every time Iona tried to go on a run in the final five minutes of the game.

He managed to never let the Gaels get in a rhythm by driving to the basket, and his speed and quickness were too much for the opposition every time he drove in late in the game.

Other Tide players who made a big impact in the win were Jaden Shackelford and John Petty, who both scored in the double digits. The two both struggled from deep this game as they each shot 1-5 from beyond the arc. However, Petty’s seven rebounds led the team.

Alex Reese went 2-2 from deep, but couldn’t get any more buckets besides those two.

Next for the Tide will be a matchup against the winner of UCONN versus Maryland. If Bama can survive round two, they would be projected to face off against three-seed Texas in the Sweet 16.

One thing to keep in mind during Alabama’s run in this tournament is that the one-seed in their region is Michigan, who lost arguably their best player at the end of the season.

Alabama’s round of 32 game is set for Monday, March 22. The Tide will look to keep this magical season moving forward no matter the opponent.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 weeks ago

The World Games 2022 announces three of the Birmingham venues to be showcased across the planet

(The World Games 2022 Birmingham/Facebook, YHN)

The organizing committee for The World Games 2022 Birmingham on Friday announced the next three competition venues for The Games: Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham-Southern College and Avondale Park.

Signage has already been installed at all three venues, per a press release.

The World Games 2022 is a multi-sport event that will take place in the Magic City from July 7- 17, 2022. An anticipated 3,600 athletes from over 100 countries will participate in more than 30 different sports throughout The Games.

Through this extraordinary Olympic-style sports experience, elite athletes from all over the globe will compete for gold in multi-disciplinary competitions. However, the big winner is set to be Alabama.

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With fans traveling from worldwide destinations to Birmingham and experiencing over 25 unique venues around the greater metropolitan area, The World Games 2022 will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact.

“We’re excited to announce this next round of venues for The Games,” The World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers said in a Friday statement. “As we move closer and closer to the beginning of The Games, the announcement of venues where these world-class athletes will compete, and where fans from all over will congregate to watch, drives the anticipation. All of our venues offer athletes and fans a unique sporting experience they can’t get anywhere else.”

At the historic Sloss Furnaces, spectators will watch athletes compete in adrenaline-inducing Sport Climbing, Breaking, Parkour and Beach Handball.

Originally operated as a pig iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971, Sloss Furnaces became one of the first industrial sites (and the only blast furnace) in America to be preserved and restored for public use. In 1981, the furnaces were designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“Sloss Furnaces is more than a landmark or museum, it represents the spirit and character of the South’s rich industrial heritage—and of the people that made Birmingham the Magic City,” commented Karen Utz, interim executive director/curator of Sloss Furnace. “In that same vein, we’re excited to help show the rest of the world that spirit with our involvement in The World Games. This global event will mark yet another historical chapter in the history of the Sloss Furnaces.”

Several competitions will take place across the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, a private institution founded in 1856.

Goldfarb Field at Berylson Soccer Park, the home of Birmingham Southern soccer, will play host to Fistball. Bill Battle Coliseum, the home of Birmingham-Southern basketball and volleyball, will host a variety competitions including Orienteering, Karate, Wushu and Ju-Jitsu. Birmingham-Southern residence halls will also serve as the accommodation for several athletes competing at The Games.

“Promoting the community that surrounds us is a key part of our mission at Birmingham-Southern College, and we see that same vision in The World Games 2022,” stated BSC President Daniel B. Coleman. “We look forward to welcoming fans and athletes from all over the world to the Hilltop.”

At Avondale Park, the natural beauty of Birmingham will be on full display for Target Archery and Field Archery competitions.

A 40-acre wooded park on the slopes of Red Mountain that sits directly across from one of the most popular neighborhoods in Birmingham, Avondale Park re-opened after $2.88 million in city-funded renovations in November of 2013.

“Avondale Park is one of the best recreational areas our community has to offer, making it a perfect venue for the World Games 2022,” concluded Shonae Eddis-Bennett, director of the Birmingham Parks and Recreation. “We are excited to have the opportunity to show off Avondale Park to fans and athletes from all over the world.”

Previously announced The World Games 2022 venues include Legion Field, Birmingham CrossPlex and Boutwell Auditorium. The under-construction Protective Stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 weeks ago

Nate Oats named finalist for Coach of the Year award by two organizations

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

Public recognition for Alabama Crimson Tide head basketball coach Nate Oats continues to roll in as the recently-crowned SEC champion awaits the start of the Big Dance.

Oats has been named a finalist for the Naismith and USBWA Coach of the Year awards. The USBWA is the United States Basketball Writers Association and the Naismith Coach of Year award is a function of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The two organizations announced their selection of Oats on Wednesday.

Only three other coaches — Baylor’s Scott Drew, Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Michigan’s Juwan Howard — made both lists.

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Oats led the Tide out of decades in the basketball doldrums during the 2020-2021 season. Alabama captured its first regular-season SEC title in 19 years and its first SEC Tournament win in 30 years.

RELATED: Alabama defeats LSU to win SEC Tournament — ‘We are a championship school’

The ultimate winner of the Naismith Coach of the Year award will be announced on April 4. Fans have a say in who receives the award, and those interested can go here beginning March 19. The voting allows the public to cast one ballot per day.

There is less delay in learning the winner of the USBWA award. The organization says it will announce its Coach of the Year, which is based on regular-season performance, on Friday, March 19.

Over the weekend Alabama was named the fifth overall seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Tide are set to face off against a Rick Pitino-led Iona College team on Saturday, March 20 in the first round of the tournament.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

4 weeks ago

Alabama defeats LSU to win SEC Tournament — ‘We are a championship school’

(Alabama Athletics/Twitter)

It has been a long journey already, but after Alabama’s SEC Tournament Championship win on Sunday the Tide hope that one of the greatest seasons in school history is far from over yet.

After winning both the regular season SEC Championship and then the SEC Tournament title, Bama has their sights set on the NCAA Tournament. What Nate Oats and company has been able to do so far is especially impressive for a second-year coach.

After the game Oats spoke to the media and had some high praise for Alabama’s athletics program as a whole. On what the university’s basketball and football teams have been able to accomplish, he said, “We aren’t a football school or a basketball school. We are a championship school.”

However, Oats isn’t satisfied yet with his team’s season. He wants to take his players far into the big dance with Alabama as a projected two-seed.

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In the SEC Tournament finale LSU stayed toe-to-toe with Alabama down to the final buzzer. No team led by more than eight points the entire game and neither squad kept a lead for long in the second half.

Alabama, much like they have all season, got a huge impact from their bench while LSU relied heavily on their starting five to get their points. In the first 33 minutes of the game Alabama led 26-0 in the points off-bench category.

One of those bench players for the Tide is Jahvon Quinerly who finished the championship game with five rebounds and 14 points — including going three for seven from deep. Quinerly has been playing at a high level down the back stretch of this season.

He has been giving Alabama a lift while John Petty seems to be in a bit of a shooting slump and Josh Primo is injured with a sprained MCL.

Quinerly was recognized for his efforts by winning the SEC Tournament most valuable player (MVP) award. His 47 total points over three games and shooting 46% from behind the arc pushed Quinerly past Herb Jones for the honor.

Jones did have a dominant performance in the championship game by grabbing his second double-double of the tournament. Rebounding was key and Alabama had one of their best games on the glass of the season. Jones is partly responsible for that feat by leading the team with 11 rebounds.

Although it looked like Alabama was going to come away with an easy win early, the Tigers’ Trendon Watford made sure to make it a tough game for the Tide. Watford is a Birmingham native who attended Mountain Brook High School.

That made this game mean a little more to Watford who went on to have a career high night with 30 points and eight rebounds. Alabama wasn’t able to stop Watford in the second half, but they were able to outlast him to come away with the championship win.

Jaden Shackelford led the Tide in scoring with 21 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists on Saturday. He made five three-point shots against the Bayou Bengals to boost his team to a win.

The NCAA Tournament officially begins this Thursday. Alabama will find out what seed they will be and who they will matchup against first, Sunday at 5:00 p.m. CT. While most experts think Bama is locked in at a two-seed, it is possible that the Tide could sneak their way into a one-seed.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

4 weeks ago

Alabama basketball heads to the SEC Championship Game for the first time in 19 years

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

Alabama kept on rolling to defeat Tennessee 73-68 on Saturday in a huge comeback win in the SEC Tournament semi-finals.

Tennessee came out on fire by scoring points in a hurry as well as playing suffocating defense, causing the Tide to start out 3-13 from the three-point line. Usually a great three-point team, Alabama needed to adapt to the Volunteer’s defense.

The Volunteers were able to run out to a 15-point lead in the first half before Alabama came roaring back from behind. That deficit is big in its own right, but to the Alabama faithful, it probably felt like a 25-point lead the way Tennessee was beginning to run away with it.

Bama did adapt to the Vol defense in the closing minutes of the first half by driving the lane and getting to the basket.

Only a handful of teams have been able to shut down the Tide’s perimeter game. While Alabama does love to shoot the deep ball, they are just as comfortable at the rim. When those adjustments are needed, one name always seems to rise to the top of the stat chart: Herb Jones.

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Yes, Jones is a star in almost all of Alabama’s wins.  He can knock down a three as good as anyone and when they really need to play ball underneath, he is the biggest star on the court.

Jones finished with a game-high 21 points. To put into perspective how much Jones took over this game, he was one of only two players for his team with double digit scoring and also managed to snag 13 rebounds to make it a double-double.

As a matter of fact Jones led his team in the “big three” statistics in the Tide’s win over Tennessee — scoring, rebounds and assists.

He scored over a quarter of the Tide’s points with only Jahvon Quinerly coming close with a solid 19 points.

Quinerly has become one of the Tide’s most consistent players as just a sophomore. His numbers may never be at the top, but his scoring has been above average and consistent in the latter half of the season.

Jaden Shackelford had an off night with just two points in the game. Yet it is a good sign to see players like Shackelford, Bruner and Ellis all struggle and the Tide still come out with a win. That is a testament to the talent and teamwork on this team from top to bottom.

The Crimson Tide will play in the SEC Championship game on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. CT. Bama will face off against the winner of the semi-final game between Arkansas and LSU.

Alabama swept LSU in the regular season but did suffer a loss to Arkansas on February 24.

Arkansas has been picking up steam lately and has a similar record to Alabama, but the Tide is still the top dog in the conference and will be the favorite for the title game.

Alabama has the unique opportunity to win a conference championship in football and basketball in the same academic year tomorrow in what could be a historic year for Bama athletics.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

4 weeks ago

Auburn University’s Football Performance Center construction bid awarded for $64.6 million

(Auburn University/Contributed)

Auburn University awarded Rabren General Contractors a $64.6 million contract to build the university’s Football Performance Center, with work to begin this month.

Four prequalified contractors submitted bids for the project. Rabren, based in Auburn, was determined to be the lowest responsible bidder.

Construction will include a 233,400-square-foot overall facility consisting of a 138,100-square-foot football operations building, a 95,300-square-foot indoor practice facility and two full-sized, natural-turf football practice fields.

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“This bid is a result of a lot of effort by the design team using target value design and continuous estimating to align scope with budget; and providing clear construction documents while giving bidders an appropriate bid schedule,” said Simon Yendle, Auburn assistant vice president for Planning, Design and Construction. “All contributed to the project coming in on budget.”

In January, the Auburn University Board of Trustees approved a $91.9 million total project budget for the center that will be on the site of the old Hutsell Track at West Samford Avenue and Wire Road.

“The site is prepped and ready for construction,” said David Bess, campus architect and design lead for the Football Performance Center. “The building contract with Rabren is being finalized, and we should be starting construction the first weeks of March. The project’s design team and site work contractors have worked hard to meet our deadlines to date. We had an aggressive schedule that was met, and we will maintain this momentum as we start work with Rabren.”

In addition to the contract for the center, the overall budget includes a $3.9 million site works package, which prepared the land and installed infrastructure to support the new facility.

It also includes a $2.1 million tennis courts relocation package. This will allow the university to relocate the tennis courts to the corner of Hemlock Drive and West Thach Avenue. This construction package will build 11 tennis and eight pickleball courts. It is scheduled for completion this summer.

The remaining $21.3 million includes architectural and engineering services, furnishing, equipment purchases, contingency and other construction-related support.

The center is scheduled for completion in fall 2022.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Alabama House passes bill allowing college athletes to make money from their name, image, likeness

(PIxabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY  – The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow college athletes to hire agents and receive payment for making appearances or letting companies use their likeness in advertisements.

Sponsored by Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette), HB 404 would also establish the Alabama Collegiate Athletics Commission to oversee name, image and likeness (NIL) issues among colleges in the Yellowhammer State.

States including California and Florida have passed NIL bills in recent years, though they are currently in conflict with NCAA rules.

South acknowledged the current NCAA regulations barring athletes receiving compensation, saying on the floor that his bill “would not have an effect until NCAA passes bylaws providing for [athlete compensation].”

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The legislation passed the lower chamber with a vote of 63-31 with five abstentions. Votes against the bill came from members of both major political parties.

Some opponents voiced concerns that the bill would effectively rid college athletes of their status as amateur players, while others felt that it would not be fair under the presumption that relatively few athletes would be in the position to profit off their NIL.

Examples of ways college players could receive compensation would be a video game company paying to use the likenesses of players in a college football game or an athletics apparel company paying a player to endorse a piece of sportswear.

Additionally, student-athletes with large social media followings – a frequent occurrence across many sports and both genders – would be able to generate revenue endorsing products or otherwise entering into contracts through that medium.

The NCAA, college sports’ governing body, moved in January to delay a vote on permitting college athletes to profit from their NIL, citing “a series of judicial, political and governmental enforcement events” that the body felt made it imprudent to go ahead with such a notable policy change.

The delay put on ice a movement that had been gaining speed, especially an announcement in April 2020 that appeared at the time to be paving the way towards allowing compensation of student-athletes by third parties.

South’s legislation would go into effect in July 2021 if it becomes law. It would require universities to provide financial training and life skills for their student-athletes.

Athletes, under the proposal, could not accept compensation from tobacco, alcohol or adult entertainment companies. Moreover, they could not do any business with companies that deal in marijuana or nicotine.

Schools would have the authority to reject NIL contracts between their athletes and companies they felt violated the ethical standards of their institution.

The bill heads to the Alabama Senate where its fate is uncertain.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

1 month ago

Auburn defeats Mississippi State 78-71 for Bruce Pearl’s 600th career win

(Auburn Men's Basketball/Twitter)

In a season filled with uncertainty, injuries, and the looming notion that Auburn had self-imposed a post-season ban, the Auburn Tigers finished their season on a high note.

Bruce Pearl managed to get his team involved and excited in a season where they could have easily folded and written this season off. However, Pearl got his team focused on the season at-hand and managed to pick up his 600th career win against Mississippi State today.

On Auburn’s post-game radio broadcast, Pearl talked to Andy Burcham after the game. On how he got his team motivated in a year like this, he said, “Really happy with our effort tonight. I was concerned heading into this game knowing that this is our last practice, and this is our last game. You know, we aren’t playing for the tournament, so what is going to be the motivation?”

Effort is the main takeaway from Pearl’s response, and his team has struggled with almost every problem this season except effort.

With what is an admittedly underwhelming season by Auburn’s standards, the Tigers used effort to defeat Mississippi State 78-71 in front of their home crowd in Auburn Arena.

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Earlier in the week, Pearl said that this week of practice was different than any he has ever had at Auburn because the players and coaches knew that this was without a doubt the last game of the season.

For the Tigers, four different players scored in double figures. Allen Flanigan continued to improve and led the team in scoring with 22 points along with four rebounds and two assists.

The team as a whole had one of their best halves of the season in the second half of this game.

Auburn shot 82% from the charity stripe this game which is well above average for the Tigers. They also shot 5-10 from three in the second half, and were over 50% from the field as a whole.

Defensively, the Tigers stepped up big and made it more difficult for the Bulldogs to answer Auburn’s scoring runs. On what changed in the second half, Pearl said, “We played a little bit more zone in the second half. I think we did really well in the zone in this game.”

With Sharife Cooper still out, Auburn needed players to step up again. While Flanigan and Williams led the way in scoring, Jamal Johnson stepped into the point guard role once again this season.

Johnson has been selfless in bouncing around to whatever position he has been needed. He shot 4-8 from deep and dished out seven assists in this game.

On Cooper’s absence, Pearl said, “To win two out of the last three games without Sharife, is just a testament to how much our guys have improved as well as how great of a job my staff has done.”

JT Thor led the team in rebounding with nine boards in the game. Thor also scored ten points against the Bulldogs including a three-pointer.

Dylan Cardwell had one of the more impressive highlights of the game with a turn around three-point jumper as time was running out on the shot clock. In the final game of the season, Cardwell took his first and only long range shot of the season and drained it.

On Cardwell’s circus-type shot, Pearl said, “You know what’s funny is that he hasn’t worked on that shot, but he has been working on his three-point shot. So that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”

On what it means to get his 600th career win, Pearl said, “It means I’m old, that’s what it means. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Pearl later continued saying, “I hold myself to a high standard. I answer to God and God only, and he has a really high standard. There is no way I can meet that standard, but I’m going to try, and that is what I expect from the people around me.”

Auburn’s coach will be looking for more wins in the future. As for now, the Tiger’s season is officially over, and Pearl will be looking forward to getting to work on next season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

Alabama finishes regular season with win over Georgia, looks ahead to SEC tournament

(Alabama Men's Basketball/Twitter)

Alabama is enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory and continued with their winning ways today as they defeated Georgia 89-79 in the Bulldogs’ house.

The Tide have been cruising through the SEC this season, with only two blemishes on their conference record.

With the regular season SEC championship already claimed by Bama, they now have their sights set on the SEC tournament title. They will get a double bye in the tournament and will be the favorite to win it all as the number one seed.

Simply put, if Alabama plays like they have all year, they should have no problem winning the SEC tournament. They have not won their conference tournament in 20 years, so this team will be looking to make a statement that Tide basketball is back.

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Continuing to play as they have all season will consist of not straying far from their game plan, as well as keeping the ball in the hot hand. However, for Alabama the hot hand is almost everywhere on the court.

In the win today over the Georgia Bulldogs, they had five players score in double figures. Jahvon Quinerly led the team in scoring with 18 points. Quinerly also had four rebounds and four assists in today’s game.

Georgia got out to an early 14-point lead in the first half of this matchup but couldn’t hold on as Alabama took over the second half. The Bulldogs kept the game close in the closing minutes, but there was no stopping the Tide’s barrage of threes.

Alabama went 10-22 from deep, which at 45% is well above their season average of 35%. Even from the three-point line where Alabama has looked comfortable all year, they are still improving.

John Petty and Jordan Bruner both went 2-3 from downtown in the win over Georgia. If these two can keep shooting lights out along with Jaden Shackelford and Quinerly, then the Tide will have to continue to live on the three-point line. Head coach Nate Oats has stated he doesn’t want to “live or die by the three,” but Bama has prescribed to the don’t fix what isn’t broken method this season.

While their players can score underneath on the drive, when a team is hitting long range shots like the Tide are, they don’t just stop for philosophy’s sake unless a team makes them abandon the three.

For a team like Alabama, which has been dominant all year, to continue improving into March should have other teams concerned for the upcoming tournaments. As a one seed in the conference tournament, and a projected two seed in the NCAA tournament, the Tide are by no means underrated.

However, with limited non-conference play this season, the Tide could possibly show the nation that they deserve a one seed in the NCAA tournament if they can win their conference tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

Crimson Tide’s Nate Oats, Herbert Jones named semifinalists for coach, player of the year

(Alabama Athletics, YHN)

The head coach and star player of the University of Alabama men’s basketball team received notice this week that they are finalists for the awards given each year to the best coach and top player in the college ranks.

Nate Oats, in his second year leading the Tide, has accrued a 20-6 record and the regular-season SEC Championship. He was announced Friday as a semifinalist for the Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year award.

Herbert Jones, Alabama’s undisputed leader on the court, is averaging 11 points per game while hitting 44.9% of his shots. He leads the Tide in assists and three-point shooting percentage. Per an announcement on Thursday, Jones is a semifinalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award.

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The lists of semifinalists published this week consisted of 10 coaches and 10 players, respectively. The eventual winner of the national wards will be chosen from among those listed.

Jones is the only player from the Southeastern Conference to be named a semifinalist for what is college basketball’s most prestigious award.

Jones was also named a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year this week, one of only two players to make the list of Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year.

National analysts have identified Iowa’s Luke Garza as the favorite to take home the Player of the Year Award, with some mentioning Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois and Jared Butler of Baylor as contenders.

The four finalists for Player of the Year will be announced on March 19 with the winner to be made public on April 4.

On the coaching side, ESPN analyst Myron Medcalf identified Oats as “on the short list for national coach of the year.”

Eric Musselman of Arkansas joined Oats as SEC coaches among the semifinalists, which include names familiar to hoops fans such as Bob Huggins of West Virginia and Juwan Howard of Michigan.

On March 17, the four finalists for the coaching award will be announced, with the winner being made public on April 4.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

1 month ago

Alabama basketball completes the sweep against Auburn

(Twitter/AlabamaMBB)

Fresh off of winning the SEC regular season championship for the first time in 19 years, the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday completed a sweep of Auburn for the first time in six years after defeating the Tigers at home 70-58.

Jayden Shackelford led the way for Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as the talented sophomore guard went 5-9 from behind the arc to finish with 23 total points in the win over Auburn.

Sophomore Jahvon Quinerly scored 11 points off of the bench and provided sparks for Alabama in crucial moments of the game.

While Alabama led by as much as 16 points in the first half, Auburn was able to cut the lead to five in the second. However, Alabama’s defense began to stiffen up, and seniors Herbert Jones and John Petty stalled the Tiger’s offense out before they could get too hot.

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For the Tide, the three-ball has become a major part of their offense. Second-year head coach Nate Oats always tells his players to get at least one touch in the paint first before shooting. This green-light mentality is becoming more and more popular throughout college hoops.

Bama has done really well with this philosophy by becoming one of the most dominant teams from downtown in the conference. Tuesday’s game showed that even when the three doesn’t come through for the Tide, they have other ways of scoring.

Alabama drove the basketball extremely well in the second half against Auburn and proved to be the more physical team in their win on Tuesday night. When tournament time begins, they may have to lean on this more physical style of play in certain games.

The Tide have one more regular season game against Georgia in Athens on Saturday. Bama will look to finish the regular season on a win before the SEC Tournament in Nashville gets underway.

The Tide are currently projected to be a two seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

TAP helps inner-city school athletes reach for the stars with STEM

(Chris Rogers/TAP)

Chris Rogers left the heights of college football at the University of Alabama knowing he wanted to make a difference.

Ten years later, he’s seeing his dreams come to pass through his nonprofit Together Assisting People (TAP).

Rogers founded TAP with a focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – to help propel young Black athletes into strong careers and a bright future. Since 2009, more than 5,000 students have gone through the TAP program. The organization has helped place more than 100 students in college with about $35 million in scholarships. About 80% of TAP’s college students are Black and are their family’s first generation to enter higher education.

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Around 2009, as a young college graduate, Rogers saw a deficit in the educational system: Fewer than 2% of minority students take advantage of STEM careers. He’s “paying it forward” by helping to change that statistic – working at a grassroots level – through TAP.

“Right now, we’ve got three students in internships with tech companies,” said Rogers, who is leveraging his experiences with TAP in his Diversity and Inclusion role. “We’re trying to get students prepared and ready.

“What I like about STEM is you can unlock the key to your own destiny; these are things I wish I had known as an athlete,” said Rogers, a 2009 member of the University of Alabama’s first national football championship team under coach Nick Saban. “We’re trying to make these inner-city kids know about these opportunities and present them with the possibilities. Most of the time, they don’t know. We have professors and professionals come talk to them about those type of things, and that’s how we introduce them early to the concept of working in tech.”

Building on a five-pillar foundation – education, STEM, workforce development, servant leadership and civic engagement – TAP’s mentoring program provides opportunities for promising students who lack financial resources. The students commit to a yearlong schedule that includes after-school tutoring and professional development, university and corporate site visits, and weekend community service events. Students receive guidance on taking math and science classes to prepare them for future STEM careers. TAP’s program managers help family members understand Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) paperwork to help finance college.

Rogers and his program managers share the STEM initiative with educators, coaches and guidance counselors at high schools who locate athletes to take part in TAP. The program has worked with young men at Blount and Bryant high schools in Mobile, Central High in Tuscaloosa, Lanier High in Montgomery, and Huffman, Ramsay and Wenonah high schools in Birmingham.

Currently, Rogers and TAP program managers are helping 20 students. Upon entering the program, most students have a 2.2 to 2.3 GPA. While they’re in the program, the average GPA rises to about 3.2, Rogers said.

The goal is to give athletes aged 16-22 a head start in STEM by exposing them to computer- and cloud-based technologies.

“We bring them in and track the students for three or four years,” Rogers said. “We’re trying to stay with them and give them the tools they need to be successful, to make sure they have real degrees, real opportunity and leadership. When they come out of college and graduate, they’re getting internships with these tech companies. It’s a beautiful thing.”

During each meeting, TAP program managers reinforce that education is the key to excel. Students understand they’re in control of their future, and know that good grades are important to their future success.

“They start understanding early about what they must do to prepare to take the SAT, to transition into the situation they want,” Rogers said. “I tell my students, ‘This is the way – this is the future.’ The tech industry is virtually bulletproof: It’s the one industry that has thrived during the pandemic. Other businesses have gone under, but companies in the tech industry have doubled, tripled, even quadrupled during this time.”

The pandemic also ushered in changes to TAP. Now, TAP’s mentors meet with students during 2- to 3-hour Zoom sessions.

A recent grant from the Alabama Power Foundation helped TAP purchase laptops and other equipment and materials for students.

“This Alabama Power Foundation grant is helping us plant the seed to consider a STEM career in these athletes’ minds,” Rogers said. “With the grant, we were able to increase our STEM activities to provide access to this technology. Now we’re able to have professionals in the field talk to our students. Fortune 500 companies talk to them about job descriptions, and our high school athletes are majoring in computer science information technology. They’re starting to look into that space. We thank the foundation for helping our students to do this.”

In everything TAP does, the focus is on increasing athletes’ vision of what they can achieve. Rogers tells the young men that a bright future awaits even if athletics doesn’t lead to a career on the football field or the basketball court.

“As athletes, everybody is trying to talk to you about being a superstar, making it to the NBA or NFL, but you’ve got a better chance if you understand how to code and how to do the simple things on a computer,” Rogers said. “You can have a career for 20 or 30 years with great pay, great benefits and stock options.

“I’ve got to thank the Alabama Power Foundation for supporting us and recognizing the need to introduce kids in our community to STEM,” he said. “We’re touching kids throughout the state of Alabama.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Alabama defeats Mississippi State, wins 2021 SEC regular season title

(Twitter/AlabamaMBB)

Since the arrival of Alabama basketball head coach Nate Oats, the Tide have been waiting on their time to come. With what Oats did at Buffalo prior to coming to Tuscaloosa, it was clear that he could bring a team from low spots to national prominence.

That time is finally here for Bama hoops fans, as Alabama won at least a share of the SEC regular season championship Saturday after defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs 64-59.

Jahvon Quinerly has become one of the most important pieces to the Bama offense in the late-season, along with fellow guard Jaden Shackelford. Saturday was no different, as Quinerly led the team in scoring with 19 points in the win.

Shackelford actually did end up being second in scoring this game with 15 points, along with grabbing six boards on the night.

However, just reading stat lines does not always show the entire story of a game. The unsung hero for the Tide on Saturday was without a doubt James Rojas. Although he had a modest stat line of nine points, six rebounds and zero assists, Rojas was one of the keys of the game.

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Rojas played very stingy defense when it mattered. Also, he was able to drain a three-point shot with under a minute left to put the dagger in the Bulldogs by putting Bama ahead by two possessions.

It is worth noting that Rojas has only hit four threes this year while attempting 22 long-distance shots, making him 18% from deep on the season.

Coach Oats is known to give his players the freedom to shoot whenever they feel necessary. That is a lot of freedom, but it does come with one stipulation: You have to play hard on defense to have free-range to shoot the ball.

Rojas, Quinerly and Shackelford all played great defense all game. Coincidently, these three also had great offensive performances. That is the system Oats has put in place in Tuscaloosa.

Senior Herb Jones, a fan favorite, went 1-9 from the field with only two points total, but he was a menace at the rim. While going 0-3 from downtown, he had 14 total rebounds on the night. His defense was also tough, and he made sure to make things hard on Mississippi State, especially in the paint.

Alabama’s next matchup is against an improving Auburn team in a big rivalry game. Auburn is coming off of a big win over Tennessee. However, freshman star Sharife Cooper’s status for the game is in question as he deals with an injury.

Cooper played his first college game against Alabama in Auburn Arena earlier this season and had a great night. However, even if he is available for the Tigers, Oats and the Tide will be ready for Cooper this time at home.

The two teams are set to square off Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

Auburn extends winning streak versus Tennessee to six with Cooper still out

(Twitter/AuburnMBB)

Auburn’s basketball team has had the most up-and-down seasons in recent memory — starting with freshman phenom point guard Sharife Cooper waiting nearly half the season for his eligibility to go along with Auburn self-imposing a postseason ban.

With a 12-13 overall record, 6-10 in conference play, the Tigers needed something to make this season positive. The Auburn players, coaches and fans got a chance to host ranked rival Tennessee inside of Auburn Arena.

In the only meeting this season between the two teams, Auburn defeated the Volunteers 77-72. Auburn led the game the entire second half, but Tennessee kept things interesting in the final minutes.

Bruce Pearl spoke to Andy Burcham on the “Auburn Basketball Review” show the day before the matchup with Tennessee and explained how he felt about the matchup.

On how good Tennessee has been this year, Pearl said, “The league has been much more competitive than most people realized. … Tennessee is still one of the best teams in the league, but probably isn’t going to win it this year.”

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It is worth noting that Auburn has not lost to Tennessee since January 2017, meaning it has been over four years since the Tigers have lost a game to the Vols. Saturday’s win actually extends the win streak to six games for Bruce Pearl and the Tigers.

Pearl described Tennessee as a “really good defensive ball club that is physical and tough.”

He added, “They are probably not too happy about the fact that they have lost five straight to Auburn. They will come in here with their hair on fire.”

With Cooper still being out with an ankle injury suffered last week in practice, the Tigers knew they would have to rely on their sophomores to step up. That is just what happened Saturday, with Allen Flanigan and Devan Cambridge leading the team in points.

Flanigan was the point leader, as well as the team leader, shooting two for five from beyond the arc; he put in most of his work in the paint to get to 23 points in the win.

Guard Jamal Johnson also had a great game shooting two for three from downtown and adding 14 total points to the Tiger’s score.

All five of Auburn’s starters were in the double-digit scoring. Jaylin Williams also had one of his best performances this season with 13 points and two rebounds.

While the Tiger defense played exceptionally well, they still couldn’t stop Tennessee star guard Keon Johnson from hitting nine three-point shots as part of his total of 23 points. Auburn was able to return the favor on offense almost every time Johnson and the Vols started trying to claw back into the lead.

It was positive to see Auburn play one of their best games without arguably their best two players on the court. When Bruce Pearl called on his players to step up in Cooper’s absence, they showed out.

Saturday’s game was an AUTLIVE Cancer game for Auburn where the school raises awareness and money for cancer prevention and detection. It is worth noting that this great cause has been great for Auburn as they are 6-0 in AUTLIVE Cancer games.

Auburn will travel to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. to take on the Crimson Tide, who sit at the top of the league and will be playing for at least a share of the SEC regular-season championship Saturday night against the Mississippi Bulldogs.

If Bama falls to Mississippi State, that game on Tuesday will be a chance for Auburn to help ruin Bama’s championship season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 months ago

Alabama head basketball coach Nate Oats agrees to extension through 2026-2027 season

(Alabama Basketball/Twitter)

University of Alabama director of Athletics Greg Byrne on Thursday announced that head men’s basketball Nate Oats and the university have agreed to a significant raise and contract extension.

The new agreement will extend his current contract by three seasons to six total years, keeping him in charge of the rising Crimson Tide basketball program through March 14, 2027.

His base salary and talent fee will increase to $3.225 million annually; Oats is currently earning a total of $2.462 million per year.

While appropriate members of the University of Alabama System board of trustees have been notified of the proposed terms and conditions of the contract extension, the financial terms remain subject to the approval by the board of trustees. This is considered a formality.

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“We are excited to agree to a contract extension with The University of Alabama,” Oats said in a statement. “Crystal and our daughters love it here, and we are committed to The University of Alabama. We feel like we have a lot of positive momentum going with our team and have the program headed in the right direction.”

“Our administration is making a major statement with this extension as we all work on building a successful program for the long term. I know the winning history we’ve had with Alabama basketball, and I feel like we can add to that and accomplish great things here,” he continued. “We appreciate the opportunity Greg Byrne and our athletics administration, President Stuart Bell, Chancellor St. John and The Board of Trustees have provided us. This is really a reflection of the outstanding job that our players, coaches and basketball staff have done the last two years. Now we need all of our focus to be on finishing this season the right way and giving our team the best chance to succeed down the stretch.”

Only in his second season at the helm of the Bama program, Oats has guided Alabama to a 17-5 overall record so far this season — including a dominant 12-1 mark in SEC play. The Tide is currently ranked No. 8 in the latest Associated Press poll. Projected as a No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, which would match the highest seed in program history, UA is just two wins away from clinching the program’s first regular season conference title in 19 years.

Prior to coming to Alabama, Oats spent four seasons (2015-19) at the University at Buffalo where he led the Bulls to a 96-43 (.691) record, three MAC Tournament Championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances. He was named the league’s Coach of the Year and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 14 Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons (2018 and 2019) and finished fourth in the voting for the 2019 Associated Press Men’s College Coach of the Year.

“We are thrilled to be able to announce a contract extension with our head men’s basketball coach Nate Oats,” stated Byrne. “We had great expectations when we hired Coach Oats. He has exceeded those expectations, and we want to ensure he is compensated among the top half of the SEC. We have put buyout measures in place that show the long-term commitment between both parties. Coach Oats and his staff have built a comprehensive program that has maximized our student-athlete’s experience, significantly increased interest in Alabama Basketball with future recruits and put forward a product that has excited our fan base. Nate, Crystal and the Oats family have embraced our community and state and, in turn, our fans have embraced them. A special thanks goes to President Bell, Chancellor St. John and our Board of Trustees for their support in helping to get this extension done.”

Dr. Stuart Bell, president of the University of Alabama, added, “We are very proud of what our men’s basketball program has accomplished in just a short period of time under Coach Oats’ leadership.”

“His emphasis on effort, continuous growth and selflessness has helped our student-athletes excel on the court, in the classroom and in the community,” Bell concluded. “He has embraced the standard of excellence at The University of Alabama, and we are excited he will continue to lead our program for years to come.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

State Rep. Stadthagen seeks to prohibit transgender athletes in K-12 girls’ sports — ‘Whatever your birth certificate says’ is the sport you will play

(Facebook)

There have been instances of transgender athletes competing in athletics of their chosen sex around the country, which in some circumstances may afford them an advantage given their biological sex.

State Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle) seeks to prevent that from happening in Alabama’s public school athletics at the K-12 level.

During an appearance on Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show,” Stadthagen discussed his HB391, which has 32 co-sponsors from every corner of Alabama, that would require the stated gender on one’s birth certificate to be the classification of the sport a student-athlete would participate in.

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“Basically, this bill — whatever your birth certificate says, if it says you are male or you are female, that is the sport you will play in K-12 athletics,” he said. “I think this is more of a women’s rights [issue]. You know, this is something we definitely have to stay on top of. We have roughly about 16 other states that have filed legislation that is similar to this one. And I’m excited about it.”

The Morgan County lawmaker argued for his legislation in the spirit of fairness.

“The crazy part about it is it is a violation of the intent of Title IX,” Stadthagen explained. “As a parent, as all the parents of our state, I think we all have that concern, especially with daughters, for them to grow and have life fair. And men competing in women’s sports is definitely not fair.”

“It is about being fair,” he added. “Basically, we’re not saying if you feel you want to play the other sports, you just can’t do it in K-12. You can be who you want to be. You just can’t do it and take — if a girl dreams of being a track star, and this is actually a true story from Connecticut that we’ve been paying attention to, and she didn’t qualify for the playoffs because of two guys. She had to sit from the sidelines and watch them two individuals win the trophy that she is supposed to be winning. We definitely need to stay on top of it, that’s for sure.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 months ago

19-year-old from Montgomery area is first Alabamian to earn spot on U.S. Ski Team

(Dani Loeb/Facebook)

A teenager born in Pintlala is the first native of the Yellowhammer State to make the United States Ski Team.

Dani Loeb, 19, told WSFA she began her athletic career doing gymnastics at United Gym Stars and Cheer in Montgomery.

“I was really into gymnastics. I got up to pretty high levels,” Loeb told the station. “It’s really good for aerials because of the whole air awareness.”

Loeb transitioned from gymnastics to skiing around age 13, eventually catching the eye of a national team recruiter at a ski demo in Virginia.

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According to her website, she became the youngest woman to ever become a member of Elite Aerial Training Center and moved to Lake Placid, New York, to continue her training.

Loeb quickly ascended through the ranks of high-level ski and snowboard competitors, relocating to Park City, Utah in 2019. Park City is the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team’s official training site. Loeb was officially selected to the national team shortly afterward, in the spring of 2020.

The world-class skier has more in her life than competition.

“At age 6, Dani endured a near-death water moccasin accident that compromised her immune system for two years,” relays her site.

The incident stuck with Loeb who is now an ambassador for Children’s of Alabama, according to her Facebook page.

Loeb continued to represent her home state even though her career keeps her in colder climates. She recently posed for a photo on top of a snow-covered mountain, wearing a University of Alabama sweatshirt.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 months ago

Gus Malzahn hired at University of Central Florida as next head coach

(UCF/Contributed)

The University of Central Florida (UCF) confirmed Monday the hiring of former Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn as the Orlando-based school’s next head football coach.

“I’m thrilled to be the head coach at UCF, and I’m truly looking forward to being part of Knight Nation,” said Malzahn in a release.

Malzahn was let go from Auburn in 2020 after eight years leading the program. During his time at the helm, the Tigers amassed a 68-35 record, went to eight bowl games, and won the 2013 SEC Championship.

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“When I started the search process, it became very evident very quickly that, based on the conversations I had with the players last week and what they told me were looking for, Gus Malzahn was the guy for the job,” said UCF Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir in a statement.

Malzahn’s most decorated season at Auburn came in 2013 and saw the Tigers make their way to the BCS National Championship game, where they lost to the Florida State Seminoles for a final record 0f 12-2. The Tigers had gone winless in conference play the year before. Malzahn earned virtually every major coaching award for leading the remarkable turnaround.

The University of Central Florida, most commonly referred to by its initials UCF, competes in the FBS subdivision of college football, but outside the power five conferences. The Knights play in the American Athletic Conference alongside teams like the Houston Cougars, SMU Mustangs and Tulane Green Wave.

UCF gained national prominence in the 2017-2018 season when, under then-coach Scott Frost, the team went undefeated.

The Knights were not picked as one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff that season and were later selected for the 2018 Peach Bowl.

They defeated Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers by a score of 34-27 in the Peach Bowl and later declared themselves national champions, a move that was seen by many as a protest of the small size of the field in the official playoff.

Frost left after the undefeated season to take the head job at the University of Nebraska. He was followed by Scott Heupel, who earned a 28-8 record during his three seasons in Orlando. Heupel left UCF in January to take the head coaching job with the University of Tennessee.

As noted first by Alabama Media Group’s Greg Stephenson, Malzahn will be the only head coach from a school in the Power 5 conferences to be offered an FBS job after being fired in 2020. Those in the same situation as Malazahn, such as Will Muschamp or Jeremy Pruitt, are now assistants at other schools or do not currently have a coaching job.

“It’s exciting to be head of a program where the future is extremely bright. I will be hitting the ground running in terms of getting to know our team and everyone else connected with UCF. Our goal is to be ready to win championships,” Malzahn concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 months ago

Foundation launches to provide equitable sports opportunities to Birmingham-area youth

(ZeroZero Foundation/Facebook, YHN)

The ZeroZero Foundation on Monday announced that it will launch this week, serving the Birmingham area.

Founded last year to address perceived gaps in the sports industry, the ZeroZero Foundation will provide children with sports-related enrichment and educational opportunities through several key programs and events.

A release outlined that the ZeroZero Foundation was founded by Caleb Schmidt, an executive at Magic City marketing agency Knight Eady, after seeing three critical areas lacking in the sports industry: access, inspiration and aspiration.

The organization reportedly aims to broaden children’s perspectives and identify their passions to help them achieve a career path in sports, if they so desire. The foundation’s mission is to leverage the diverse opportunities of sports to enrich the lives of others — one child, one family and one community at a time.

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The release noted that a typical family with kids who play sports spends about $700 a year on fees, equipment and other related expenses; however, some families spend up to $35,000 annually.

“This financial gap does not allow families of lower socioeconomic status to provide the same opportunities as other more financially advantaged families,” the release remarked. “The sports industry also lacks inspiration; only four percent of children who graduate from high school will receive an athletic scholarship to play sports for their college or university. While many children dream of playing sports at the collegiate level, it is not feasible for all. ZeroZero wants children to know that a career in sports is still possible even without playing at the collegiate level. Finally, of top roles in sports outside of playing professionally, white individuals comprise most of the industry. The ZeroZero Foundation aims to close these gaps in the sports industry because when the score starts at 0-0, the foundation can create equitable opportunities for success.”

The foundation features three phases: entry, enrich and enhance. Each phase will reportedly provide unique opportunities to children from ages 6 to 18 that they would not otherwise have the ability to access.

“We are thrilled to start making a difference in the lives of countless children in the Birmingham area,” stated Schmidt, founder and president of the ZeroZero Foundation. “As someone who believes in sports and is passionate about the industry, it is time for a change. We need to create equitable opportunities for all children interested in sports and show them that a career in sports is more than just playing professionally.”

Upon its launch, the ZeroZero Foundation has 12 board members serving to further its mission:

Bertram Young- Resource Development and Communications Director, BGCCA

Caleb Schmidt- Vice President of Sponsorships, Knight Eady

Carlos Aleman- Deputy Director- Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama

Charles DeCroes- Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama- Vice President of Technology Support

Holly Dubois- Senior Accountant, Truitt Tingle Paramore Agent

Jeh Jeh Pruitt- Reporter – Fox6 WBRC

Kristina Hendrix- Dynetics, Director of Communications

Leah Drury- Founder/Owner, Battle Republic

Martin Newton- Athletic Director Samford University

Reggie Torbor- Brasfield & Gorrie- Personal Development Manager

Ron Steele- Athletic Director & Head Basketball Coach, John Carroll High School

Trent Wright- Vice President, Grease Trap Solutions, BHT

“I am looking forward to serving on the ZeroZero board and working to enrich the lives of children through sports,” commented Torbor, a former Auburn star and NFL linebacker. “I was fortunate enough to see the power sports had in my life, but not all children had or will have the same opportunities I had. ZeroZero can help bridge the gap and allow more children who are passionate about sports with the opportunity to enter the sports industry other than through their athletic ability.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn