Tide Fans Can Take Bow For Recruiting

Give Alabama football fans credit for the Crimson Tide getting five commitments in the past few days. And give those Bama supporters credit for the Crimson Tide ranking among the top teams in recruiting each of the past three years. And you don't have to take my word for it.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has impressed upon Crimson Tide fans that they can play a part in recruiting. And Saban has said on numerous occasions that the energy of fan support at the A-Day Game has been an important factor in Alabama's football recruiting success in the past few years.

Don't want to believe me or Saban? Look how many prospects talk about the atmosphere in Bryant-Denny Stadium at the spring game when announcing for the Crimson Tide.

At some point it became fashionable among certain sports reporters (print and broadcast) to ridicule those who show up for spring football games. A Florida fan said it's because there is nothing else to do in Alabama, and cited the lack of major league baseball in the state.

Well, baseball has its charm. So does sitting on a porch glider drinking lemonade. But if we're talking boring, don't even think about comparing baseball and a spring football game.

The Birmingham News had a little piece in its Sunday edition on how Alabama officials came up with the attendance figure of 91,312 for Saturday's A-Day Game. It is not terribly difficult to estimate the crowd when the stadium is nearly full (as it was for Alabama) or when the stadium is nearly empty (as it was for Alabama-Birmingham, which drew 2,500 for its spring game Saturday). The News should have asked Auburn how it came up with 63,000. Don't say "ticket stubs." Some—but not all—buy tickets for the Auburn spring game.

Many, many years ago when I was sports information director at Alabama and Alf Van Hoose was sports editor of the Birmingham News, the A-Day Game drew a relative handful of spectators. Head Coach Paul Bryant sat in the press box with us (and a half dozen reporters).

Van Hoose asked me to estimate the attendance, which we guessed at perhaps 12,000. "Whatever we say, Auburn will have 1,000 more next week," I said. Van Hoose knew what I was talking about, that Auburn would try to out-do Alabama in anything.

But Alabama set the bar too high in 2007. Nick Saban's first spring game brought the legendary full house of 92,138. The fire marshal kept more from cramming in. It will take an expansion at Auburn before that number can be matched.

But, of course, it is not Auburn that is expanding its stadium. It is Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium that is moving towards a capacity in excess of 101,000.

A couple of springs ago an Auburn fan urged his fellow supporters to not go to the Auburn spring game. He didn't want the attendance at a spring football game to seem important.

It's hard for me to imagine a seat in Jordan-Hare being empty when the Tigers were having a three- or four-man race for quarterback. But that's fine.

Nearly 100,000 people think Tuscaloosa is a nice place to be on a spring Saturday.

ESPN thinks the Alabama spring football game is worth a couple of hours of national coverage for The University.

Prospects are impressed with the fan support at Alabama. And that's one of the factors that should keep the best ones headed to Tuscaloosa.

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