Late in Paul Bryant’s Alabama coaching career, a visitor knocked on his office doorjamb (the door was almost always open) and inquired, “Coach Bryant?” You don’t have to call me Coach Bryant,” he said, and then grinned. “You can call me Dr. Bryant.”
That spring The University of Alabama had included the coaching giant in its graduation exercises with an honorary doctorate. Bryant was also Bama’s athletics director and a former Crimson Tide player, and a second former Bama player and AD will receive that honor in Saturday’s commencement.
Former Alabama football player and director of athletics Bill Battle will be recognized during Saturday’s 6 p.m. ceremony in Coleman Coliseum with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College of Human Environmental Sciences. Battle played football for Paul Bryant in the early 1960s and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from The Capstone in 1963 followed by a master’s degree in education from Oklahoma in 1964. In addition to his tenure as an Alabama student-athlete, Battle served as the Crimson Tide’s AD from 2013-17.
Battle will join more than 80 University of Alabama student-athletes are slated to receive their degrees during the upcoming commencement weekend. That total includes four NCAA champions and more than 20 All-Americans.
“I am humbled by this truly amazing honor,” Battle said. “To be recognized in this manner is tremendous and I am beyond proud to stand among so many of our student-athletes who are receiving their degrees this weekend.”
“At The University of Alabama, our primary mission is for our student-athletes to make the most of their collegiate careers, both in their academic and athletic endeavors, and to have them graduate prepared to compete at the highest level in the next chapters of their lives,” UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said. “We are very proud and pleased to have such a large and accomplished group of graduates this spring who are ready to do just that.”
NCAA champions and All-Americas Katie Bailey (gymnastics), Connor Oslin (men’s swimming and diving), Hayden Reed (men’s track and field), and Erin Routliffe (women’s tennis) will receive their degrees this weekend.
Oslin is also one of four May graduates to earn CoSIDA Academic All-America honors during their Crimson Tide careers, joining Alex Gholston (women’s track and field), Anton McKee (men’s swimming and diving), and Krystal Rivers (volleyball).
McKee was recently named the Southeastern Conference Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was the 2016 CoSIDA At-Large Team Academic All-American of the Year. Oslin, Rivers, and Danielle Spielmann (women’s tennis) were also named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for their respective sports.
In addition to being the SEC Volleyball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Rivers was also named the SEC Player of the Year this past season, making her the first in league history to be named volleyball’s player and scholar-athlete of the year in the same season.
There are 22 All-America performers among the Tide’s May graduates, including: Bailey, McKee, Oslin, Reed, Rivers and Routliffe as well as Tony Brown (men’s track and field), Vanessa Clerveaux (women’s track and field), Kyle Felpel (men’s track and field), Justin Fondren (men’s track and field), Alex Gholston (women’s track and field), Angelo Goss (men’s track and field), Alex Gray (men’s swimming and diving), Jeremiah Green (men’s track and field), Elias Hakansson (men’s track and field), Caroline Korst (women’s swimming and diving), Antibahs Kosgei (men’s track and field/cross country), Tadashi Pinder (men’s track and field), Marisa Runyon (softball), Bailey Scott (women’s swimming and diving), Brittany Thomas (volleyball), and Joe Williams (men’s track and field).
Among the student-athletes going through commencement this weekend, eight earned graduate degrees in May, including Thomas and Williams as well as Corban Collins (men’s basketball), Chandler Dare (softball), Cammie Gray (women’s golf), Jordan Meier (soccer), Mike Oczypok (baseball), and Robby Prater (men’s golf).
There are nine members of the Crimson Tide’s most recent College Football Playoff and SEC champion football teams among the May graduates, including starters Brown, Bradley Bozeman and Shaun Dion Hamilton, as well as four members of the men’s basketball team, including Collins and team captain Jimmie Taylor.
There was a commencement ceremony on Friday and there will be three on Saturday at 9 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.