Information You Need For A-Day

It's billed as "Nick Saban and 90,000 or so Friends." Saban and Alabama players would love to see Bryant-Denny Stadium filled to capacity to impress the several dozen top high school prospects visiting and to impress any other prospects who may be watching ESPN's telecast of the scrimmage. Almost anywhere, that would be an unrealistic expectation. At Bama there is reason to believe it can be done.

Alabama football fans astounded everyone in 2007 by filling the 92,138 seats at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It was like the hottest new nightclub in Manhattan. The fire marshal would let a few more in as some left after halftime, so total attendance was really more than capacity. It is listed as a national record for attendance at a spring football game.

Last year attendance fell off to about 78,000.

Will ESPN's coverage hurt attendance? It may actually help as fans decide, "If ESPN wants to be there, then I do too."

Here are the nuts and bolts of a busy Saturday.

The main event is the A-Day Game. It will begin at 2 p.m. CDT, and have four 15-minute quarters with a running game clock. The clock will be stopped ponly following scoring plays, penalties, and changes of possession. Regular clock rules (stopping the clock for first downs, incomplete passes, runs out of bounds) will be used during the final two minutes of the second quarter and fourth quarter. Halftime will be 10 minutes.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban will be recognized for having been selected the 2008 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year. Alabama went 12-2, reaching the Southeastern Conference Championship Game and playing in the Sugar Bowl. He set an Alabama record for greatest improvement in number of wins from one year to the next. The selection carries with it a presentation of $50,000 to Saban to give to his "Nick's Kids" charity and $20,000 for the National Alumni Association.

The first offense and first defense will be on one team, the second offense and defense the other.

The A-Day game is the 15th and final practice of the spring. Alabama opens the 2009 season September 5 in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta against Virginia Tech. A compilation of early pre-season polls has Bama sixth and Virginia Tech seventh. Alabama opened last season in the GeorgiaDome and upset Clemson, helping propel the Tide to 12 consecutive wins through regular season play.

Two events are scheduled prior to the Crimson-White Game. At 12:15 at Denny Chimes on the quad, last year's captains–Rashad Johnson, Antoine Caldwell and John Parker Wilson–will have their handprints and footprints placed in the concrete plaza with previous Alabama captains in the Walk of Fame ceremony.

Also prior to the game, football members of the A-Club (former Alabama lettermen) will play a flag football game in Bryant-Denny Stadium. That contest begins at noon. Gates open at 11 a.m. There is no admission charge for either the flag game or A-Day.

Phil Savage, a former Alabama football graduate assistant under Bill Curry and pro football assistant for Saban and recently general manager of the Cleveland Browns, will be serving as color commentator on the radio broadcast. Kenny Stabler held that job for many years, but took a leave of absence last year. In 2008 there were various "guest" color commentators. There has been no announcement as to the position for 2009.

The Paul W. Bryant Museum will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Museum has recently published a book, "Twelve and Counting," with stories of Alabama's 12 national championships, plus some other seasons where title could be claimed. The book will be available and some of the authors will be available for autographs.

Here are some A-Day Notes:

Alabama did not have an A-Day Game in 1991 or 1996. Coach Gene Stallings held a Friday scrimmage at the Crimson Tide practice fields with only some 2,000 spectators each year.

In 1985, Alabama held an A-Day Alumni Game with the team of Coach Ray Perkins going against a squad of former Crimson Tide players. Dr. Joab Thomas, president of The University, played one down, running the ball on the first play of the scrimmage. He was tackled in the backfield–rather gingerly–by Bama All-America linebacker Cornelius Bennett.

Bama charged $3 for admission in 1972 and 1973.

Because of construction at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 1987 and 1988, Alabama played its spring games in those years at Legion Field in Birmingham. Currently there is construction on the South end of Bryant-Denny, but it will not affect play for the A-Day Game or for the upcoming season. The expansion and remodeling project is expected to be completed prior to the 2010 season, when capacity will reach over 100,000.

Alabama had Friday night (A-Night?) games in 1966 and 1967.

It is believed the first A-Day Game was in 1923, arranged by the legendary Hank Crisp, an assistant football coach, head basketball coach, and athletics director in his long career.

Coach Paul Bryant's first A-Day Game was on April 27, 1958, and drew 15,000 for a night game.

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