Tuscaloosa Tornado IV

Parts of Tuscaloosa ‘have been obliterated’ by massive storm

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Forget about the whole rise in the intensity/insanity level of the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry; the state of Alabama has a whole helluva lot more important things on the hearts and minds of its citizens Wednesday evening.

For those unaware, the state has been pounded by a massive storm system that has produced dozens of tornadoes and, according to the early reports, the damage has been devastating.  In particular, the city of Tuscaloosa — and home of the University of Alabama — has been hit by what could only be called a storm of epic proportions.

Tuscaloosa’s mayor, Walter Maddox, appeared on The Weather Channel shortly after the storm plowed through his city, and said that the “devastation is ‘catastrophic’ and parts of city ‘have been obliterated’.”  Maddox added “please pray for us.”

On his Twitter feed, Aaron Suttles, Senior Recruiting Analyst for the Alabama Rivals site, TideSports.com, wrote that “I don’t mean to overstate, but it looks like bombs went off. Nothing left standing. Complete rubble. Cars upside down and caved in.”

Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News wrote on his Twitter feed simply: “Scale of destruction in Tuscaloosa is very bad.”

Based on the early reports, the loss of property will be massive.  What’s uncertain at this point in time is what cost, if any, there will be in terms of lives lost, although initial reports indicate that there was one fatality caused by the storm.  The photos and the video shot on the scene, though, paint a sobering picture of it taking a miracle for there not to be many, many more:

It appears — and not that it even remotely matters in the grand scheme of things — that Bryant-Denny Stadium suffered no damage due to the storm, but videos that have emerged in the aftermath show the powerful tornado that apparently caused the devastation in the city passing in the background of the football home of the Tide.  For a high-quality video of that event, click HERE.  Click on the rain-blurred clip below for additional footage of the tornado passing behind the stadium.

Needless to say, our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Tuscaloosa and all the others across the South who have been impacted by this devastating series of storms.

UPDATED 10:44 p.m. ET: Heartbreakingly, Mayor Maddox, by way of the Tuscaloosa News, has confirmed that at least 15 people have been killed in his city as a result of the tornado.  All told, at least 31 people in the state of Alabama have lost their lives.

As for the university and its campus, the News writes that “power outages at the school are widespread, but they have no reports of structural damage to buildings on campus after a storm swept through the city.”

Additionally, the same storm system that tore through Alabama is wreaking havoc in parts of Georgia and Tennessee.  Fatalities are also being reported in those states as well.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.

Bowling Green WR Gehrig Dieter transferring to Alabama

Bowling Green wide receiver Gehrig Dieter makes a reception for a touchdown against Georgia Southern during the first half of the GoDaddy Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP)
Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP
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Alabama will be adding a 1,000-yard wide receiver by way of a graduate transfer from the MAC. Gehrig Dieter will transfer from Bowling Green to Alabama in 2016, and he will be available to play right away. Dieter announced the news of his transfer to Alabama on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon.

Dieter is scheduled to graduate from Bowling Green in May, which means he will be a graduate transfer. This makes him eligible to play right away next fall at any other FBS program with a spot available. That FBS program just so happens to be the defending national champions. With freshman Calvin Ridley breaking out for the Crimson Tide in 2015 en route to a national championship, it looks as though Alabama will have quite a 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position.

Dieter was Bowling Green’s second-leading receiver in 015 with 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns. Together with Roger Lewis (1,544 yards, 16 touchdowns), and quarterback Matt Johnson (4,946 yards, 46 touchdowns), Bowling Green had a dynamic offense that now faces a bit of an uphill battle heading into the spring. With Dieter transferring and Johnson graduating to the NFL and head coach Dino Babers taking a job at Syracuse, Bowling Green could be set to take a step back next fall.

Johnny Lattner, Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer, dies at 83

GPHR 45/1638:  Football player John Lattner, posed action diving in uniform inside the Stadium for Football Guide, May 1952.
Notre Dame Athletics
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The Notre Dame football family lost a legend today. Johnny Lattner, winner of the 1953 Heisman Trophy, passed away at the age of 83 after battling lung cancer.

In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy in 1953, becoming Notre Dame’s fourth in program history, Lattner also received the Maxwell award in both the 1952 and 1953 seasons. He was also named a consensus All-American in 1952 and 1953. The Chicago native played halfback for the Fighting Irish under Frank Leahy from 1950 through 1953. The “bread and butter ball carrier” went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a knee injury suffered during a two-year stint in the United States Air Force cut his pro career short. Lattner went on to dabble in some coaching at the high school level as well as at the University of Denver. He remained the head coach at Denver until the school shut down the football program in 1961.

Lattner was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

FCS may rebrand its championship game as a bowl game

Members of the North Dakota State football team hold the championship trophy following their FCS Championship NCAA college football game against Illinois State, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in Frisco, Texas. North Dakota State won the game 29-27 for their fourth straight national championship.  (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)
AP Photo/Tim Sharp
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As if there were not enough bowl game sin college football, we could be on our way to adding one more. Well, at least in name.

The Football Championship Subdivision national championship game could be rebranded as a bowl game in an attempt to spark more interest from the casual college football fans. Inspired by the relative success of the inaugural Celebration Bowl, played between the champions of the MEAC and SWAC, the Missouri Valley Conference is reportedly leading the charge to rename the FCS national championship game in a marketing ploy to generate more buzz with the help of the NCAA and television partner ESPN, which broadcast the national championship game in addition to providing coverage for additional playoff game sin the FCS postseason.

“The public understands playoffs, so we benefit from that for the first rounds of the championship,” said Patty Viverito, commissioner of  the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Pioneer League (just imagine if Jim Delany was the commissioner of the Big Ten and the MAC). “But then when it comes time for the championship game, because it’s in the mix of what is the bowl frenzy, it gets lost. So we think we can have the best of both worlds by having the playoffs leading up to the ‘Football Championship Bowl’ – however it is branded, but with the name ‘bowl’ so that we become part of the bowl lineup.”

This past season’s FCS national championship game was played on January 9, 2016. The championship game moved to January starting during the 2010 season. Previously the game had been played in mid-December. The move to push the championship game back closer to the BCS Championship Game was a strategic move to draw more attention to its national title game. This occurred a year after the game relocated to Frisco, Texas from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“To be in the same space, if you will, as the FBS bowls was absolutely tremendous,” MEAC commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas said, referring to the Celebration Bowl, which preceded the New Mexico Bowl and its official kickoff to the FBS bowl season. “We were the first game on ABC to start the bowl season. It was branded that way, it was marketed that way, it was promoted that way.”

Changing the championship game’s name to a bowl could have a downfall attached to it. While bowls certainly spark interest for some, it could also lead the game to fall under the radar amid a full slate of bowl games during bowl season. Having the game defined in title as being a national championship game could have a more positive effect on how the game is viewed by the casual fan.

VIDEO: Pitt RB James Conner working out with Panthers

James Conner
AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett
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Pittsburgh running back James Conner is continuing tow work out with his Panther teammates despite an ongoing battle with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his neck and chest. If you need video evidence to serve as a reminder just how tough Conner is, here he is putting work in, complete with a summersault at the end of his drill.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi previously said he believes Conner will be able to play for the Panthers in the fall.

“I saw him yesterday in the hallway and he’s been working out with our kids to keep his sanity and he’s having fun doing it,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said last week. “That’s the key is he’s having fun beating cancer and he’s got a great attitude and he looks good right now. He’s doing well and looks well. Doesn’t look like he lost weight. Looks like he could still play. He doesn’t look like he has cancer.”

Judging by that one short video clip shared on Narduzzi’s Twitter account, Conner certainly doesn’t look as though he has missed a beat.