Within the last seven days the University of Alabama Athletic Department has once again placed its well-worn foot into the national conversation. And while the school is well known for its dominance in football, it was basketball that took center stage for the university.
Both the men and women’s college programs qualified for the big dance, punching their tickets to the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
The men earned automatic qualification with their emphatic 73-68 victory over Tennessee to clinch the South Eastern Conference title. Along with the trophy, the game earned them a no. 2 seed in the tournament, tying a program-high placement. The Crimson Tide will take to the floor on Saturday, March 20 to face Iona College.
The women also secured a spot in the tournament and were given a number seven seed placement, the program’s highest on this side of the turn of the century. The team will face the University of North Carolina in their open game on Monday, March 22.
Lost in the celebratory coverage of both teams getting to dance in March was the news that the Alabama Women’s Wheelchair Basketball program cemented a dynasty, winning their sixth National Championship with a 67-53 triumph over University of Tennessee, Arlington.
Women’s Head Coach Ryan Hynes joined the men’s team in 2009 as a player and helped his team earn their first national title his senior season. Three years ago he was named Head Coach and has brought home two trophies, only missing out on the third due to the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s crazy to think we started in 2003 and to see how far the program has come as a whole, from practicing in the rec center to actually having our own stadium and then being able to host the National Championship,” Hynes said.
Following the game, Adapted Athletics Director Brent Hardin told reporters, “It really brings a tear to my eye thinking of how we have progressed, and a smile to my face knowing we’re not done progressing.”
Meanwhile, the Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team finished second, ultimately falling in the National Championship game.
After what has been a tumultuous year the feeling of lifting that trophy was even more sweet than in the past because of how long the road was to get there.
“It’s really special for myself and the athletes to have gone through so much this year and then to be rewarded with the championship on our home court,” Hynes said.
The Alabama Adapted Athletic program sponsors competitive men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis and will soon offer both adapted rowing and wheelchair tennis. Alabama is currently one of 21 universities that has adapted athletic programs, and in-state foes, Auburn University, also offers wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.