“I didn’t know Alabama was a college.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Football and education intertwine in many rural states where flagship university teams are dominant. Is UA a place to get an education or is The University of Alabama just a football team?
Just out of college I found myself working as a recruiter for The University of Alabama. This was my first professional job after graduating. I was a recruiter of students, also known as an admissions counselor. As I traveled throughout the state of Alabama, Mississippi, and even Dallas, I traveled through many rural areas. This was particularly the case for Alabama and Mississippi. Being from a rural Alabama community, I felt at home.
Because Alabama has no professional football teams, college becomes the identity of most residents. Alabamians are typically an Alabama or Auburn fan from birth. Newborn babies unknowingly identify their allegiance by wearing team onesies or school colors. They sit in their baby swings with their families watching college football games, whether they follow the Tide or the Tigers. A few may stray, as I did for a while (that’s for a different article), but typically return to their family team.
As a former admissions professional for The University of Alabama, I learned some things on the road:
Only Fans Get a University of Alabama Education?
Some students attend Alabama just because they or their parents are diehard football fans. Perhaps some research should be conducted on just how many students do this, and how many of those graduate.
Alabama Football or University of Alabama Education?
This next fact wasn’t exactly learned on the road, but it was learned by being a student and employee of Alabama. Some students are studying in the library while thousands of fans are tailgating and attending games. Therefore, attending UA isn’t always about allegiance to the Crimson Tide. Many attend solely for academic purposes.
“I Didn’t Know Alabama was a College.” Is The University of Alabama More than a Football Team?
While the list could go on and on, my most memorable time on the road was this. One of the perks of being an admissions counselor, was the use of official UA vehicles. On this particular trip I was headed to North Alabama in a white, chevy minivan. All of the UA fleet were identified with the “University of Alabama” logo and government tags. This van was no different. On my way to the recruitment program I was attending I zipped through a McDonald’s drive through in a small town north of Tuscaloosa. It wasn’t uncommon for people who saw my vehicle to make comments.
The Crimson Tide is a big deal in the state. At this particular drive through a young lady took my money as she confirmed my order. She then looked at the print on the side of the van and said, “Oh you’re with the University of Alabama.” I said yes and further told her that I was headed to a recruitment event a few miles away. In my summary of what I do I told her that I told her that I recruit students to attend college at UA. That is when I heard the statement that has stuck with me for all these years. “I didn’t know Alabama was a college.” I smiled and said yes then headed on my way.
In my previous travels I had already discovered that the term “university” confused some. That is why I used the term “college” which in turn helped her to understand what I do. I thought about the rural southern states and how individuals are so easily drawn to a college football team, but don’t even realize their favorite team is tied to a post-secondary institution. When my thoughts run even deeper I wonder if we’ve got it all wrong. I love Alabama football as much as the next person, but I also consider my self an academician.
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