The ASWA convention is not all work, although there will be a seminar with commissioners of the Southeastern Conference (Mike Slive), Sun Belt (Wright Waters, an Alabama alumnus), SWAC (Robert Vowels), and OVC (Jon Steinbrecher). It will also be a time to mingle with a number of coaches and athletics directors, particularly from Alabama. Crimson Tide Athletics Director Mal Moore will lead a tour of the completed and under construction athletics facilities. Head Football Coach Mike Shula, Head Basketball Coaches Mark Gottfried and Stephany Smith, and others will participate in the ASWA reception and Athletes of the Year Banquet. Some will play in the group's annual golf scramble, "The Sandbaggers Classic," at NorthRiver Yacht Club later this week.
The banquet will honor athletes, but is also an occasion to provide awards to the state's sportswriters, who compete in a number of categories. The best sportswriter of the year will earn the Herby Kirby Award, named for the late Birmingham Post-Herald sportswriter (one of my co-corkers when I was at the Post-Herald and who it was my sad duty to sit vigil with after he suffered what would prove to be a fatal stroke while covering the Alabama-Notre Dame Sugar Bowl game at the end of the 1973 season).
The convention kicks off at noon today with a luncheon at Bryant-Denny Stadium catered by Bob Baumhower. There are plenty of caterers and restaurants in town capable of taking care of the luncheon needs of sportswriters. There were thoughts of Dreamland and Cypress Inn and others. But a handful of writers hoped that Bob Baumhower might not only cater the event, but also drop by so they could interview him.
And so Baumhower will get us started with chicken and pork and all the sides. And he will also join us.
I will probably introduce Bob. It will give me a chance to shamelessly plug a new book to be released in mid-August, because Bob Baumhower is one of the players whose story is told in "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide." (In case anyone isn't aware, $27.95 plus tax, if applicable, and shipping and handling, no charge for autograph by the author, 1-205-345-5074.)
Although Bob wasn't a Tuscaloosa native, he ended up in Tuscaloosa for his senior year in high school. He was not highly-recruited. In fact, late in the recruiting season he had only one offer, from Vanderbilt.
In "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide," Bob remembers that he was in Nashville, where former Alabama Assistant Coach Charley Bradshaw, who had played for Coach Paul Bryant at Kentucky, was recruiting Baumhower for the Commodores. Bob had all but committed, but said he needed to call home before making a final decision. When he talked to his mother, she said, "Don't do anything yet. The coaches at Alabama want to talk to you."
Bob told Coach Bradshaw that he was going back to talk to Alabama's coaches before making a final decision. Bradshaw said he understood, and added, "I don't think I'll be seeing you again."
Bradshaw was correct. Baumhower went on to an all-star career both at Alabama and with the Miami Dolphins. Another nice story in the book is how Baumhower provided a thrill for young Mike Shula, the son of Dolphins Coach Don Shula. But to get that, you'll have to read "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide."
Among others who will be making their 34th consecutive appearances at ASWA conventions this week are Bill Lumpkin of the Post-Herald and John Pruett of the Huntsville Times.
A few years ago the radio and television sportscasters of the state attempted to start a group similar to the ASWA. Doug Segrest of The Birmingham News pinpointed the reason for its failure: "They couldn't get a hairspray sponsor."