Student recreation at The University of Alabama: the influence of intercollegiate athletics
Student recreation, particularly intramural competition, is an integral part of campus life at The University of Alabama flagship campus in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. However, this recreational activity is often overshadowed by varsity athletics. The prominence of the national champion Crimson Tide football team is such that many campus activities, including student recreation, are secondary to athletics. This paper provides a focused history of student recreation at The University of Alabama from approximately 1958 to 1982 as it developed under the influence of a nationally prominent athletics program. Presently, a historical perspective on the Department of University Recreation at the Tuscaloosa campus, including its interaction with the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, is lacking. The discussion begins with a brief examination of student recreation and athletics since the founding of The University of Alabama through 1958, the year the University's first recreation facility was constructed and the year Paul "Bear" Bryant was hired as Head Football Coach and Director of Athletics. The paper reviews the influence of Bryant and the Athletics Department on recreational activities. This is followed by the events leading up to the building of the Student Recreation Center, the first campus facility constructed exclusively for student recreational use, and not joint use with Athletics. The discussion concludes by noting recent growth at The University of Alabama and the place of recreation and athletics in institution building.