At issue is a luxury addition to the original plan, a basketball court on the roof of the five-story dormitory. Some have said that because the dormitory is 94 feet longthe exact length of a basketball courtthat it makes play around the basket somewhat dangerous.
"Coming down with a rebound might require a parachute," said Ben Madden, a high school junior tight end who plans to sign with Alabama next February and live in the athletics/engineering dorm when it is completed prior to fall classes in 2008. "That¹s okay for the engineering students; I can see them making something to save themselves. But it¹s the athletes who are more likely to be playing basketball on the roof. I can¹t imagine a real athlete wearing a parachute to play basketball."
The University issued a statement saying that playing basketball on the roof "is not mandatory. Part of the college experience is making decisions. We expect our students -- and that includes student-athletes -- to be able to make intelligent decisions. It is the position of The University that anything that keeps them off The Strip is worthwhile."
Alabama Coach Mike Shula said, "It's one of the things we'll look at for sure, so to speak. You might not want some of your guys in that situation."
Athletics Director Mal Moore said he could appreciate the concern of the athletes. "But if you look at the potential for fund-raising for Crimson Tradition, we think the trade-off is well worth it," he said. "This is a 'Naming' opportunity where some big donor can have his name on the Rooftop Basketball Court. And I believe that also might provide us with some protection in that the donor would also assume the liability."
Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried said that basketball players would not live in the dorm. "I would probably discourage my players from participating in any pick-up games there," he said. "I think our guys could handle it pretty well, but I'd hate for one of them to grab a loose ball while jumping out of bounds at the end of the court and think that by calling a time out that everything would be okay."
Gottfried did agree that the prospect of five-story retrieval could be positive incentive for avoiding air balls.
One concept for the rooftop basketball court included a fence around the perimeter, but this was eliminated for aesthetic reasons. "That would look like the top of a Brooklyn tenement," a project engineer who requested anonymity said. "The next thing you know someone would be raising pigeons up there."
Nevertheless, safety steps are being taken as rubber trees will be planted all around the building. Although it will be some 50 feet from the roof to the ground, in a few years the rubber trees will grow to some 30 feet. However, at least one Tide football player -- botany major Billy Vines -- said that would be false security. "A rubber tree is not really rubber," he said. "It¹s wood and leaves like other trees. The rubber is inside and won't help a player bounce back up onto the roof. Trampolines probably would have been a better idea."
Gene Marsh, a law school professor and former Faculty Chairman of Athletics for The University, serves on the NCAA Committee on Infractions. He said that the rooftop basketball court might be seen as an extra benefit for Alabama athletes, except that it will also be available for the engineering students living in the dorm. "And if an Alabama player or two goes off the roof, that actually would be looked upon favorably by the NCAA," he added.
Alabama is determined to increase student enrollment from the approximate 21,750 today to some 28,000 in a few years. Partly for that reason, said a spokesman for President Witt, no other campus dorm is expected to have a rooftop basketball court.
The story was broken by 'BAMA Magazine/BamaMag.com, which previously had such scoops as Alabama¹s plan to remodel Coleman Coliseum in order to start hockey at Alabama and former Athletics Director Ray Perkins' plan to add polo as a Crimson Tide intercollegiate sport. Coincidentally, both those stories, like this one, were announced on an April 1.