It was the second question many people in Alabama had after a devastating tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 27. The primary concern, of course, was for the human toll, the deaths and injuries and thousands of people suddenly and shockingly left homeless.
Then came the instinctive follow-up question, the one prompted by terrifying live television footage of the tornado carving a path of destruction near the University of Alabama campus:
“Was the stadium damaged?”
Alabama wins BCS championship
The stadium was not affected by the storm, providing a tiny respite to a community and a state that had been shaken to its core. A total of 62 tornadoes pounded Alabama that day, killing 248 people, injuring thousands more and destroying or seriously damaging approximately 14,000 homes. Damage estimates statewide have topped $1 billion. Tuscaloosa itself was especially hard hit, with 53 deaths — including the girlfriend of Crimson Tide deep snapper Carson Tinker — and more than 7,000 structures destroyed or damaged in a community of approximately 93,000 people.
So in the wake of all this wreckage, there was a small sigh of relief that Bryant-Denny had been spared. The physical scars sliced across the Alabama landscape were surpassed only by the emotional scars inflicted upon the state’s stunned residents. And there was no doubt that for many people, part of the healing process would come from watching their beloved Crimson Tide play football. That was evident in the weeks following the tornadoes from the not uncommon sight of “Roll Tide” flags sticking stubbornly out of the rubble.
This has, without question, helped motivate the Tide to an 11-1 record and a meeting with LSU on Monday in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans. Before the season began, as the state continued to remove debris and rebuild lives, Alabama players said they wanted to do what they could on the field to help people feel good again.
Or as star running back Trent Richardson said, “We want to bring joy back to the town.”
The players are not alone. Assistance has come many sources. Several players from Kent State, Alabama’s first opponent this season, showed up in Tuscaloosa in July to aid in the rebuilding and to help conduct a football clinic. A few weeks later when Kent State took the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium, they were met by a loud ovation from appreciative Tide fans.
“That situation, it was devastating. Lots of people lost everything,” safety Mark Barron said in July. “They lost material things, but they also lost hope. When the season starts, they follow Alabama. So if we go out and have a great season for them, we can give them a little something back.”
CFT: Former Penn State signalcaller Steven Bench joined the South Florida Bulls, he announced on Twitter.
CFT: The University of Nevada is honoring longtime coach Chris Ault, who stepped down in the fall, by renaming the school's football field after him.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
BCS title game
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