Over the past 40 years, Bryant Hall has been a part of many historic events in the life of University of Alabama athletics, and on Friday the venerable old building unveiled a renovation that allows it to keeping making history for years to come.
Following 18 months of interior redesigning, Bryant Hall – the dorm – has been transformed into the Paul W. Bryant Academic Center. More than just fresh paint and new carpeting, Bryant Hall has been converted into a state-of-the-art academic facility that covers 52,300 square feet and features some of the most modern technology to benefit all of the over 425 Crimson Tide student-athletes.
The Academic Hall of Fame, located in the lobby of the Paul W. Bryant Academic Center.
The building was formally dedicated during ceremonies at 2 p.m. on Friday. A host of dignitaries, including members of the Board of Trustees, University of Alabama President, Dr. Robert Witt, Athletics Director Mal Moore and others were on hand.
Paul Bryant, Jr., Mal Moore and UA President Dr. Robert E. Witt.
The Bryant Academic Center, which will serve as not only a functioning full-service academic facility but also as the home for the staff of the Center for Athletic Student Services (CASS) and the Champs' Lifeskills program, is the crown jewel in the Alabama athletic department's Crimson Tradition Fund facility enhancement campaign. The renovation project at Bryant Hall was completed for $10.3 million.
"This project has been priority one since we started the renovations of our athletic facilities," said UA athletics director Mal Moore. "Academics is at the center of our mission at Alabama and we wanted to create a place that would aid all our student-athletes in their educational pursuits. I feel very strongly that Bryant Hall will benefit every student-athlete, not just during their years at Alabama, but for a lifetime."
Among the building's many new amenities will be a 48-seat computer lab equipped with brand new equipment. The computer lab will also have 25 laptop computers available for student-athletes to check out and use on team road trips. The building features Math, English and writing labs along with 40 individual study rooms. A pair of 50-seat classrooms and a 140-seat lecture hall are also available.
The 48-station computer lab in the Paul W. Bryant Academic Center at the University of Alabama.
The classrooms in Bryant Hall will possess some cutting edge teaching devices as well, including digital overhead projectors and "smart boards" that allow instructors to interact with students on the go. Throughout the building there will be 16 information stations that can provide student-athletes with news about tutorials, study sessions and even practice schedules. There are also several student lounges located around the premises, giving student-athletes a more relaxed place to gather and study.
"We couldn't be more excited about being in our new home," said assistant athletics director for student services Jon Dever. "There is no doubt that in terms of both aesthetics and services offered, this will be an outstanding facility and one of which everyone associated with the Crimson Tide can be proud."
One of the brightest new additions to Bryant Hall will be located in the lobby of the building. The Crimson Tide Academic Hall of Fame, including plaques recognizing all of Alabama's Academic All-American selections, will be beautifully housed and displayed in the entry area.
Another highlight of the renovation is a pair of VIP apartment suites. The rooms, which will be available for hosting visiting dignitaries to the University and the athletic department, harkens back to a bit of the buildings' original history as the old Bryant Hall had similar rooms that played host to luminaries such as Billy Graham and Robert Kennedy.
Originally dedicated on May 8, 1965, Bryant Hall served as the home for Crimson Tide football and men's basketball players for over three decades. Constructed for $1 million in 1963 and equipped with rooms for 136 athletes and a dining hall to feed 150, Bryant Hall was one of the finest athletic dorms in its time. Named for then athletic director and head football coach Paul W. "Bear" Bryant, it was the first building in the state of Alabama named for a living person and required the state legislature to waive a law that prohibited buildings from being named after a living person.
In the late 1990s, the NCAA passed legislation that did away with athletic-specific housing and dining so part of Bryant Hall was then turned into an academic center.
The completion of the renovation and the rededication of Bryant Hall is an event that has folks around the Alabama athletic department extremely excited. Crimson Tide coaches see the advantages of the new facility not only in assisting in the overall development of their student-athletes but also in recruiting.
"I'm real excited," said UA head men's basketball coach Mark Gottfried, who lived in Bryant Hall as a player for the Crimson Tide in the mid 1980s. "I think it is a phenomenal facility. It is going to benefit our student-athletes like never before. It shows that there is a commitment from our athletic department to seeing our young people graduate. I'm very appreciative of Mal Moore's efforts and those of other people that helped put this together."
Wendell Hudson, Mike Shula and Mark Gottfried are all former residents at Bryant Hall.
"The new Bryant Hall is going to set the standard for all intercollegiate academic facilities for student-athletes," UA head softball coach Pat Murphy added. "I can't see why a student-athlete wouldn't want to spend their off-time in an academic palace like that."
"This is an exciting new facility that is right in line with the University of Alabama's commitment to producing the finest student-athletes in the nation," Tide gymnastics head coach Sarah Patterson said. "Our goals, both athletically and academically, have always been at a championship level, and this facility certainly speaks to that. My only regret is that we can't be here Friday for the rededication of this ‘championship' facility as we will be competing at our 23rd consecutive NCAA Championship that same night, striving to win our fifth NCAA Gymnastics crown."
Crimson Tide coaches are not the only ones thrilled to have a new academic facility at their disposal. Alabama student-athletes have been flocking to check-out and take advantage of all the new opportunities provided by Bryant Hall.
"It is a great place to go when I want to get away and get some studying done," said senior football player DeMeco Ryans, a three-time Academic All-SEC honoree and 2005 Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sport Scholar. "You can get your own room to study in and it is much quieter that way. You also have better access to the internet if you need to do research for a paper."
"I think one of the best things about Bryant Hall is the computer lab," said junior volleyball player Abbi Blackburn, a two-time Academic All-SEC performer. "It is open and accessible, but it is also very private for when I am focused on finishing a project. I look forward to having to go to Bryant Hall. I just love everything about it."
"I like the convenience of everything," added junior women's basketball player Marverly Nettles, a 2005 Academic All-SEC selection. "It is nice being able to use your student ID to check-in to the computer lab and also track your study hall hours. I think it is great having all the resources in the same building and having a central location to go to for all my academic needs."
While the renovations inside Bryant Hall are complete, there are still more changes in store for the historic building. Plans call for a new University dorm and dining hall to be built adjacent to the current structure in the near future. The dorm will serve as the home to general students (51 percent) and freshmen and sophomore football and men's basketball student-athletes. The dining hall will be open to all students who purchase a meal plan for the facility and will also serve as the host for the daily training table meal for all Alabama student-athletes.
Bryant Hall is part of the history, tradition and lore of the University of Alabama and with its recently completed renovation it will also be part of the school's bright future.
Mal Moore speaks at the dedication Friday.
Photos were taken by UA Athletic photographer Michelle Lepianka. of the Bryant Hall Rededication ceremony on Friday (Apr. 22) afternoon.