Is There New Sport In Tide Future?

A question was posed on the Bama Board of regarding the possible addition of a men's sport at Alabama. Among the possibilities suggested were lacrosse, soccer, wrestling, rugby, and hockey.

Once upon a time, Alabama had a very good wrestling team coached by Jim Tanara. With not much popular support at Bama or elsewhere in the South, the program was dropped. The University has sports at club level in most sports (including hockey, though not wrestling). When the athletics department added women's rowing as an intercollegiate sport, it was started with members of the UA club team.

A recent study showed only 22 schools nationwide had self-supporting (profitable) athletics departments. Alabama was one, but only about half the schools in the Southeastern Conference are in the black.

Athletics directors have to look at other numbers, too. It's a bit of an oversimplification, but Title IX mandates equal opportunities for men and women in college athletics. A women's sport is more likely to be added than a men's sport.

One problem is having enough SEC schools participating in a sport. For instance, only seven SEC schools have women's gymnastics teams. The rowing team participates in Conference USA because there are so few SEC rowing teams. A few schools have equestrian teams.

Lacrosse is widely regarded as the fastest growing sport both at the prep and college levels, and a good guess is that women's lacrosse has the best chance to have enough interest to gain intercollegiate status at Alabama.

Paul Bryant was athletics director at Alabama during his days as head football coach. Late in his career I had the opportunity to suggest a new sport for him to add.

I didn't do a lot of research and wasn't particularly passionate about it, but in the late 1970s soccer had exploded on the youth scene. I had a conversation with former Tide football great Lee Roy Jordan, who told me that in Dallas the kids weren't playing youth football because they were playing soccer. He said soccer fields were springing up everywhere.

I pointed out to Coach Bryant that Alabama was one of the nation's dominant football teams in part because Dr. George Denny, the president of The University from 1912 into the mid-1930s, had made a commitment to having excellent football facilities and outstanding football coaches. My suggestion was that Coach Bryant find the best soccer coach in the world and make a commitment to having the best soccer team in college athletics before other schools got started.

(This was before women's athletics was brought into the athletics department, so we were talking men's soccer.)

Coach Bryant thought a moment, took a draw on his Chesterfield, and said, "I think I'll let the next guy do that."


I won't be suggesting lacrosse – or any other new sport -- to Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore.

BamaMag Top Stories