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Alabama, Winning in Classrooms and Banks, Just Like on the Field

At the University of Alabama, winning isn’t just about football anymore. (Photo Univ. of Ala.)


Alabama, Winning in Classrooms and Banks, Just Like on the Field

By:  Larry Burton

Gone are the days of “Forrest Gump”, the fictionalized character from an Academy Award winning film that portrayed a simpleton playing football at the University of Alabama. He’d never make the admissions cut here.

But the author of that book did and now more than ever, winning at Alabama is no longer determined by what by what men with footballs in their hands are doing, but what students with with books, laptops and pens in their hands are doing.

“Anyone who portrays the University of Alabama as a football school only interested in bringing in jock football players has already proven to be fools themselves. They don’t realize that this university is one of the nation’s leading academic institutions and that our graduation rates, even among football players has climbed to leading numbers.” Mal Moore, former athletic director of the University of Alabama told me last season before stepping down.

“The changes that Dr. Whitt started and brought forward and those that President Bonner are continuing, rival the same type of accomplishments that are being done by our athletes. Now our national academic standing has the same kind of clout that our athletic standing has enjoyed for so many years and that makes this university truly unique among all colleges and institutions.” Moore said with a proud grin.

What accomplishments was Moore speaking of?

Mentioning Alabama in the same breath as Harvard in not a joke. National Merit Scholars determine how good a school is in attracting the very best of the best. The 2012 ranking also put Alabama fourth among all universities. The leaders were the University of Chicago, Harvard University and the University of Southern California, of which are all private schools.

While the 2013 rankings are not yet official, the University of Alabama may lead the nation in public schools with National Merit Scholars enrolled. The university had 241 National Merit Scholars in its 2012 freshman class and that ranked first among public universities. That number was up from 181 in 2011. About 645 National Merit scholars were enrolled at Alabama in 2012 and the new number will be much higher.

Now it can truly be said that the Tide is not just bringing in the best athletes, but the best students and not just from the best students from Alabama, but from all over the world.

Out of state and out of the country admission numbers have never been higher, nor has the scramble to earn admission. About the same time that Nick Saban came, 64 percent of students applying to the University of Alabama were accepted. By 2012, the acceptance rate had dropped to 53 percent.

And out of state students mean higher tuition being paid and more money being brought in to the university. In-state tuition and fees are $9,200 (2012-13); out-of-state tuition and fees are $22,950 (2012-13).

Now for the first time, more students coming to the University of Alabama are coming from outside the state than in it. As time goes on, that means alumni will be scattered all over the planet and making the university even more nationally loved and respected.

Graduation rates are up, student population is up, money raising hit an all time high. Everywhere you look in Tuscaloosa you see success. About one in four students from the 2012 freshman class carried a 4.0 high school GPA. If you’re a numbers person, that mean that more than 1700 incoming freshmen have a GPA of 4.0 or higher.

The University of Alabama led the entire nation with a record 10 students named to USA Today’s 2010 All-USA College Academic Team.  But that’s nothing new. Alabama has been placing students on this national team of  academic all-stars from across the nation for years, having placed 46 students on the team since 2003.  Alabama also had the most students on the list in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 and tied for the top spot in 2007.

So when the “best of the best” of all college minds come together to compete that academic contest, a great majority of them will be Crimson Tiders. In other competitions, Alabama’s debate and forensics program has won 19 national debate championships, marking even greater Crimson Tide domination of national academic contests.

PRWeek Magazine has recognized the public relations program at  Alabama as one of the top five programs in the nation for several years in a row now. They are regularly ranked among the top 100 public universities in Kiplinger’s annual list of colleges and universities that combine “great academics and affordable tuition” and U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings for more than a decade have placed Alabama among the top universities in America.

And to risk a flag for piling on,  Alabama’s graduates and students include 15 Rhodes Scholars, and in the past 25 years, UA has produced 37 Goldwater Scholars, 8 Truman Scholars, 19 Hollings Scholars, two Javits Fellows, one Udall Scholar and one Portz Scholar.

But in the ranking of big accomplishments, let’s also look at what is being done for minority students. Alabama is number one in the nation in enrollment and graduation of minority doctoral students under the Southern Regional Education Board’s Minority Doctoral Scholars Program. No less than 66 SREB fellows have completed their doctorates at UA, and 20 SREB doctoral fellows are currently enrolled in this program that encourages minority students to pursue doctoral degrees and become college-level professors.

This means that Alabama trained professors will be shaping minds in universities across the globe for years to come.

Overall, black graduation rates rose from 38 percent seven years ago to 68 this past season. That beats national averages almost anywhere. That attracts minorities to the university. Presently Alabama is a one of the top five public flagship universities in the nation in the enrollment of African-American students. For the 2011-2012 academic year, African-Americans represent 12 percent of the student body and that number will surely climb.

And as Moore liked to comment, good football and good academics can and do go hand in hand at Alabama. To totally dispel the notion of  “athletes, not students”, Moore was proud to point out that of the teams who had football programs in the best bowls, that the SEC had five of the top 13 best graduation rates.

Richard Lapchick, author of a study of the the 2012-2013 bowl bound college football teams’ graduation rates stated,  “Notre Dame and Alabama, which will contend for the National Championship, both had fine academic records. They had APR rates of 970 each. They graduated 97 percent and 75 percent of all their football student athletes, 100 percent and 68 percent of their African American and 93 percent and 90 percent of their white football student athletes, respectively. They beat the national average for bowl teams in each category.”

He stated that Notre Dame leads the entire nation in graduation rate with an astonishing 97 percent rate and that Alabama’s rate places it among the top tier also.

And there is so much more that Alabama could brag about, like community involvement and service.

Alabama has been selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its 2008 Community Engagement Classification. This designation recognizes them as one of the nation’s premiere institutions in community outreach and scholarship, and it underscores its commitment to apply its resources and expertise to address critical community needs.

Also Alabama has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its role in helping with its surrounding area.

And then there’s fund raising, something that Mal Moore was a genius at in putting up some of the best athletic facilities in the country. But it wasn’t just Moore and athletic fund raising.

As mentioned earlier, with out of state tuition being at the highest rates ever, the school realized $50 million more in out-of-state tuition revenue for last fall’s incoming class than it did for the same class in 2007 ($76 million vs. $26 million).

Added to the additional $8.5 million in in-state tuition, which rose to $9,200 a year from $6,400 and overall tuition revenue rose to $104 million from $46 million for the respective 2012 and 2007 freshman classes.

Then the alumni and private donations raised another $600 million for scholarships and facilities, hitting all time highs. The University of Alabama does not cost the state one penny in revenue. It makes money, serious money for the state.

Yes, this is a good time to be Alabama. The winning and accolades just continue to pour in from every direction and the next time you hear someone say that Alabama is just a football factory, now you have the ammunition to set them and the record straight.

Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at


Larry Burton is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and was the most read SEC and Alabama football writer during his time at Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed by all the major bowls and the University of Alabama. Larry provides some of the best insight in the business through his "Larry's Lowdown" segment with TDA.

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