TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Throughout its history in college athletics, the University of Alabama has become renowned for primarily one sport and one sport only: football.
And that’s completely understandable. With 18 national championships, the Crimson Tide is a household name when it comes to the sport. However, recent success in basketball has begun to raise and interesting question among fans: could Alabama become a basketball school?
To Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats, he asks why not both?
The Crimson Tide still has a long way to go before it evolves into a basketball school, but this season has laid down the groundwork for what could become something special. Alabama is currently on track to be a 2-seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and is just a couple of wins away from winning the regular-season SEC title.
While the Crimson Tide’s best finish in program history was an Elite Eight appearance back in 2004, this year’s team possesses the qualities needed to surpass that should it not falter.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Oats said that demeaning football schools is a tactic used in recruiting by some programs in order to dissuade prospective athletes from going to other schools.
He added that that particular notion is ridiculous.
“People have asked because a lot of people with recruiting insist on trying to turn it into a negative that our football team is so good,” Oats said. “Asking guys when recruiting ‘Do you really wanna go to a place that’s a football school?’ To me, it’s kind of absurd and ridiculous. Like, yeah football’s great here. They win national championships frequently, but it also brings in a lot of money, it also shows that the athletic department as a whole is real healthy. There’s a lot of positives that come with having a great football program.”
There is no denying that Alabama is seeing success across the scope of its athletics programs. The Crimson Tide football team just won a national title in January and the basketball team is ranked No. 6 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. On Monday, baseball moved up to No. 22 in the nation while softball is now No. 4 in the country. Gymnastics, which was won six national titles, is currently the No. 7 team in the NCAA.
When you look at all of the success, it’s pretty easy to see that just because one program is known on an almost global scale for its success does not mean that the other programs will fall by the wayside.
If anything, it helps them.
Oats defended that point by bringing up other universities that are experiencing success in different athletic programs.
“I think you see it here; you see it at Ohio State,” Oats said. “I mean Michigan, their football is not as good as it maybe has been in the past but they’re a proud football program that’s gonna be talked about top 10 every year. Their basketball program is great now. There’s even in our conference back when Billy Donovan was at Florida they were competing for national championships in both sports. I think it can help each other.
“Shoot, I’d like to be at a strong football school. I’m a big football fan. I think it’s good. I’d rather be at a strong football school than a weak football school. Whoever wants to use it as a negative? I think it’s reaching at straws trying to come up with something.”
In addition to Oats discussing his thoughts on Alabama becoming a multi-sport school, two players on the team also let their thoughts be known.
Sophomore guard Jahvon Quinerly, who transferred to Alabama from Villanova — a basketball school — following his freshman season, said that playing the sport at both universities provided unique experiences and doesn’t diminish the sport of basketball.
“It’s two different experiences but you know this is really exciting,” Quinerly said. “Just being able to bring this kind of excitement to the university and the state of Alabama so it’s a blessing for us and for the fans. We just got to lock in this end of the season and just make sure we’re playing our best basketball.”
Alabama will indeed need to be locked in this week as it travels to Fayetteville, Ark. on Wednesday to take on the No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks. Should the Crimson Tide win it will clinch at least a share of the regular-season SEC title with two more chances to lock it up.
With each passing win, Alabama draws closer to putting its basketball program on the map — just like its football program has been doing since its first title back in 1925.
Senior forward Alex Reese added that he hopes to be able to help his basketball program bring in the success that the football program is known for doing.
“It’s been really fun,” Reese said. “We’ve been getting a lot more recognition this year. The way we’ve been playing, we’ve been playing really well so it’s been fun. Hopefully we’ll be able to go out there and compete for a national championship and stuff like that like the football team did so hopefully we’ll be able to get on their level pretty soon.”