The Crimson Standard: How Greg Byrne built a blue-blooded football program

Alexander Plant | @aplant63, Sports Editor

Alabama football and its fans are accustomed to winning championships and having players drafted into the NFL. For the sake of the team, the recruits who come to visit Tuscaloosa and Bryant-Denny Stadium in particular need to see those accomplishments.

That was one of the main focuses of the new renovations of the stadium and The University of Alabama Athletic Department’s project, The Crimson Standard.

UA Athletic Director Greg Byrne was one of the key players in making sure phase one of the project was seen through before the start of the 2020 season for Alabama football.

“I’m really proud of the job our staff has done and everybody who we’ve worked with throughout the process,” Byrne said.

Phase one of The Crimson Standard cost about $107 million and featured the following renovations:

  • All four video boards will remain in their current locations and will be replaced with 60% larger screens ensuring all fans have a view of the improved videoboards.
  • Students will have access to a ground-level plaza with upgraded concessions, restrooms, charging stations and additional amenities.
  • A new team tunnel will lead directly into a fully updated home team locker room.
  • The recruiting space will be expanded to more than double its current square footage.
  • The press box will be relocated to the east side of the stadium.
  • There will be several new premium areas including loge boxes, Champions Club, Terrace Club, new skyboxes and Founders Suites.

For Byrne, the main focus was to be able to advertise these new renovations to fans and recruits.
“One of the things you want from a locker room standpoint is when recruits come in and when fans come in on tours, you want it to pop,” Byrne said. “I think everyone would agree that this pops, it shows the excitement of Alabama football and Alabama athletics.”

A key component to the renovation of the recruiting room was a wall filled with players who had left Alabama after being drafted into the NFL. Many stars of the NFL, like wide receiver Julio Jones and cornerback Marlon Humphrey, were on the wall. But what is important to push recruits is not the history of Alabama football, but the future, Byrne said.

“It’s a wonderful way to show our history and then also at the same time show today and the future of Alabama football,” Byrne said.

Former Alabama star running back Trent Richardson said seeing players like former Alabama standout wide receiver D.J. Hall reach college stardom was huge in his decision to come to Alabama.
“It took me in awe that these guys from my area were making a big splash on a college scene and they were doing it at Alabama,” Richardson said. “So I felt like if they could do it I could definitely do it.”
A large portion of Alabama football’s success has come under head coach Nick Saban. Since Saban became the coach there have been 116 players from Alabama that have played in the NFL. According to “Over The Cap,” an organization that keeps track of every NFL contract since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Alabama players who have entered the NFL since Nick Saban became the coach have made a combined $1,154,146,910.

This number is a testament to the success that Alabama football has instilled in its program since Saban arrived. Byrne and the University wanted to make sure that was shown throughout Bryant-Denny Stadium with The Crimson Standard.

To Richardson, being around a talented recruiting class was enough to convince him to commit.
“When I was visiting it felt like home,” Richardson said. “I’m a very loyal person and [Alabama] made me my first offer that meant a lot to me… when [Saban] gave me my first offer it showed that [he] wanted to give me an opportunity and he believed in me.”

Richardson was also surrounded locally by many Alabama commits like NFL star and former Alabama wide receiver Jones. Jones lived in Foley Alabama which was roughly 40 minutes away from Richardson’s hometown of Pensacola Florida.

“Me being around Julio, B.J Scott, Jerrell Harris, Mark Barron, it just made me feel like I was going to be at home,” Richardson said. “The whole relationship with Julio was real big for me because me and Julio were real tight.”

To both Byrne and Richardson, the success of the past has transformed what the future of Alabama football will look like.

“You always have to reinvest into your success and one of the worst things we could do is sit back and say, ‘Oh we’re Alabama. We’re going to be fine,’ but you always have to say, ‘What are our next steps to stay ahead in the competition,’” Byrne said.

The competition is other major football programs that consistently rank in the top of recruiting classes like Clemson, LSU and Ohio State, who have all made significant changes to their athletic facilities in the past 10 years.

Luckily for Alabama, with the 10-year dynasty that’s been established with players like Richardson, there is plenty of room for expansion.

“I remember when they built the new weight room and I came in and [former strength and conditioning] coach [Scott] Cochran was like, ‘Thank you three,’” Richardson said, referring to his uniform number. “That’s one of those things that make you smile. When these college recruits see that type of stuff that’s just letting them know that this stuff is built, [they think], ‘How can we take this to the next level?’”

The legacy and first impression of the athletic facilities has been a crucial part of recruiting to both players and recruiters.

“Quite frankly, some of our locker room areas and some of the areas that our student athletes [and recruits] are around on a daily basis, were starting to show their age,” Byrne said. “It was time to update, upgrade, and I think you can see with the renovations here in the locker room at Bryant-Denny, the locker room at Mal Moore [athletic facility], the Sports Science Center, the tunnel [entering the locker room at BDS].”

The new additions are not just for the players and recruits. Byrne wants to let the fans get involved and have a memorable experience at the newly renovated stadium.

“I’m told that Bryant-Denny Stadium is the most Instagrammed spot in the state of Alabama, so let’s be organized, let’s have things for people to come and see and want to be a part of,” Byrne said. “We know that fans literally come from all over the world to come and see Bryant-Denny Stadium and everything around it, so let’s make sure that the things that they can come see that will be memorable.”

Richardson also emphasized the importance of the new renovations.

“Every time I go back [to Tuscaloosa], I take my kids to go see my handprints at Denny Chimes,” Richardson said. “Those handprints and my footprints, those cleats will never be taken away from me. So when you see the new renovations and you see a picture of Trent Richardson, that’s the type of stuff I like to show my kids.”