April 28, 1997
April 28, 1997

Table of Contents
April 28, 1997

Jock Schools



This is an article from the April 28, 1997 issue Original Layout

Imagine how an Elvis buff would feel if he or she could take up
residence at Graceland. That's about how the average
football-loving Alabama teenager feels about heading to
Tuscaloosa to spend four years at his state's namesake university.

At Alabama the role of Elvis is filled by coach Paul (Bear)
Bryant, whose presence on campus has diminished only slightly
since his death on Jan. 26, 1983. The football team plays in
Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is connected to other campus
athletic facilities by Paul Bryant Drive. Also on Bryant Drive
is the Bryant Conference Center and the ultimate Gracelandesque
shrine: the Paul W. Bryant Museum, "where football season never
ends!" according to a school media guide.

The museum averages 40,000 visitors a year and features a
larger-than-life bronze bust of the Bear and a re-creation of
his office, complete with houndstooth hat and coat on the rack,
as if he had just stepped out. There are relics of the glory
days: license plates that read ALA'BEAR'MA 1981 and full bottles
of Coca-Cola bearing his likeness and a year-by-year listing of
the Crimson Tide's records during his 25 seasons as coach. Most
excessive is the Waterford crystal replica of his hat, which
rotates slowly on a black velvet pillow, encased in glass and
perched on a pedestal.

Bryant's sport still dominates 'Bama, even at the recreational
level. More than 175 men's, women's and coed teams participate
in flag football, the school's most popular intramural sport.
They play on any of nine rec-sports fields that are illuminated
by a $250,000 lighting system. Each year about 20 prospects try
out for the campus (and SEC) three-on-three champs, the Daisy
Dukes, including some former varsity players. Competition is so
stiff that some of the ex-Crimson Tide players don't make the

A big change since Bryant's day has been the rise of women's
athletics. Perhaps not surprisingly, a team from campus won the
1995 national women's flag-football title. Enthusiasm for
women's basketball has grown so intense that according to
athletic director Bob Bockrath, who came to Alabama last summer
from Cal, "when our team was knocked out of the Sweet 16 this
year, I received phone calls saying I should fire [coach] Rick
Moody. People didn't do that at Berkeley."

But the most impressive showing has been turned in by the
Crimson Tide's female gymnasts, who have won three national
championships since 1988 and in February sold out 15,040-seat
Coleman Coliseum, something the men's basketball team failed to
do last season. Their 1996-97 average home attendance (10,301)
ranked third in women's collegiate sports--behind that of
Tennessee's and Connecticut's basketball teams. Women's
gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson, who turned a program about to
fold in 1979 into a juggernaut, gives credit to--whom else?--the
Bear. "He hired me when I was 22, and I used to go and listen to
his press conferences," she says. "The man was a genius. I
learned from everything he said." So continues the legacy.