Many probably do, but those who don’t should.
Sure, the football team had a lot to do with how the Bama Nation feels about a sports year that brought four national championships. A title in football makes everything else a bonus.
But what a bonus Bama fans got, and the football team, alone, didn’t make it the best year in Alabama athletics history.
It started with the football team’s 21-0 throttling of LSU on Jan. 9 and ended with the softball team, which clinched its national title and Alabama’s fourth of the 2011-12 school year with a victory over Oklahoma late Wednesday.
In fact, only one men’s sport had anything to do with the euphoria one sensed around the state this past week, as Alabama fans tallied history.
The men’s basketball team had little to do with it. The Tide made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006, but that first-round exit hardly registered a synaptic spark as Tide fans spent the past week saying “What a year!” and “Roll Tide!” in the same sentence.
The baseball team didn’t even make the expanded SEC Tournament.
To make the Capstone’s greatest sports year complete, the ladies had to win three out of four championships.
The gymnastics team got one.
The women’s golf team got another.
The softball team brought home its first national title to clinch Alabama’s greatest year ever, and how appropriate and timely.
Alabama clinched its softball title 17 days shy of Title IX’s 40th birthday. It was June 23, 1972, when equal opportunity for women in all collegiate endeavors, including athletics, became the law of the land.
It’s the reason why schools receiving Federal funds offer as many athletic scholarships for women as they offer for men, and it’s why schools around the country started adding women’s sports years ago.
Title IX wasn’t universally cheered when enacted and isn’t today. There are lots of reasons.
Women’s sports have never been big revenue producers, and some folks decry the forced addition of sports that cost more than the revenue they produce.
Some see Title IX as denying men opportunities. Scholarships added to men’s sports must be offset in women’s sports, and economic necessity limits scholarships. Schools have dropped men’s sports for that reason.
There are those who see equality campaigns as equaling little more than political correctness, and SEC country doesn’t exactly embrace political correctness. Next to pollen, it’s the most potent allergen.
So, don’t bring up Title IX around the South expecting hearty applause. Expect tepid applause, along with a few mumbles and eye rolls.
Well, hold those eye rolls and give Title IX a few “Roll Tide Rolls!”
It’s no coincidence that Alabama started its women’s golf and gymnastics teams in 1974, just two years after President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law as part of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Women’s sports gained in popularity and kept coming. The softball team’s first season was 1997.
All three of those women’s sports contributed to the current swell of Tide pride, and it all started 40 years ago, when lawmakers mandated equal opportunity for women.
So, here’s to giving Title IX its due amid the chest thumping, and here’s a thought for anyone who thinks in terms of how it all affects football.
It’s more than appropriate that Alabama won its titles in three women’s sports and football.
Title IX forces maximum emphasis on football. More than any other sport, SEC country’s most beloved sport produces the revenue that floats all athletic boats, including women’s sports.
Football also forces the creation of women’s sports. Top-division schools give a maximum of 85 football scholarships, which must be offset in women’s sports.
The two things go hand-in-hand, so how about a hand for Title IX, and how about a hand for the ladies that turned another big football year into the greatest sports year in Alabama history.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.