Who Are the Champions?

January 7, 2013
Alonzo Gee

On Monday night, while the Wine and Gold are in the Windy City taking on the Bulls, college football’s BCS Championship Game will be taking place across the country in south Florida.

And while many of the Cavaliers’ traveling caravan will have their DVRs set back home – and their mobile devices at the ready – there are a few among them who have a very keen interest.

One is high-flying small forward Alonzo Gee, who played hoops for four years at Tuscaloosa, starting over 70 games for the Crimson Tide. He’ll be keeping an eye on Nick Saban’s seasoned, hard-hitting SEC squad.

The other is Mr. Cavalier himself, Austin Carr, who had one of – if not the – greatest college careers during his time at South Bend. A.C. put up numbers for Notre Dame that will likely never be equaled in the college game before becoming the No. 1 overall Draft pick to the Wine and Gold in 1971.

(And I can’t forget Cavs radio play-by-play man and former Golden Domer, John Michael, who [quite impressively] graduated from N.D. with mechanical engineering, law and MBA degrees – all cum laude.)

Cavs.com asked tonight’s combatants – (not John Michael; he’s a lover, not a fighter) – about their time at ‘Bama and Notre Dame, respectively, whether they still keep tabs on their school and, of course, who’ll be National Champions on Tuesday morning.

Did you play football growing up, and did you ever think about playing in college?

Austin Carr: I played linebacker and, back then, it was called a “fullback.” (laughs) But once I got to high school, I got knocked out and I never played again. I was gonna try at Notre Dame, but they had Alan Page and Terry Hanratty and Jim Seymour and all those guys. And I thought: I’d better stick with my sport.

Alonzo Gee: I played D-end, linebacker, wide receiver. I liked defense. I liked defensive end – run in, get the running back, get the quarterback. (Playing at Alabama) was something I thought about doing. But eventually I was influenced to just play one sport.

Did you ever hang out with the football team?

A.C.: Yes, my freshman year I hung out with the football guys: Hanratty, Seymour. Those were guys that let me hang out with them once in a while.

A. Gee: Yeah, our strength and conditioning coach worked with both basketball and football, so when I went to work out and stuff, I knew a lot of the football players because I worked out with them.

My freshman and sophomore year, Saban wasn’t there yet. And that’s when I worked out with (the football team) a lot. My junior year is when Saban got there. And by then, I dialed it down from the weights because I was getting too big.

Did you get to check out a lot of football games?

A.C.: Well, I sold programs my first two or three years at Notre Dame. I used to see programs before the game outside the stadium.

A. Gee: I went to a few. The atmosphere was wonderful, man. It was amazing. All the fans come out – they’ll be there, for like, two nights before, camping out. The whole campus kind of shuts down, tensed up for that football game. We don’t have an NFL team or a basketball team, so it’s FOOTBALL.

What’s it like playing basketball at a school known for its football program?

A.C.: It was interesting because fans watched the game like it was a football game. At first, they really didn’t know how to watch a game. But as we went on through it they got better. My freshman team, we had eight high school All-Americans (although freshman couldn’t play varsity then). We beat the varsity team seven out of eight games and we only lost one game my whole freshman year (to Marquette). But we sort of changed the culture there and we tried to make people realize that there’s another sport that’s played at Notre Dame.

A. Gee: We did pretty well. Football season is over with, so everybody wants to come in and watch us play. Of course, if we’re winning, we’re going to get more people. During SEC play, we get a lot of fans in there. My freshman year went to the tournament. My sophomore year we went to the NIT. But my last two years, we kind of died down a bit.

Do you still keep in contact with the program(s)?

A.C.: I watch pretty much every game, every time I get a chance. And I stay in touch with the basketball coach Mike Bray. And they put me in the ring of honor and dedicated the concourse to me. That was really nice. I stay in touch with the Athletic Director. So it’s been a good relationship for a long time and I really appreciate everything they’ve given me the opportunity to do.

A. Gee: I actually went back before our season started – before Training Camp started – to see a football game. I can’t even remember what game it was. But I got to go to a football game, walked on the field. Went to watch the boy’s basketball team practice, as well. It was pretty good.

So on Monday night, while we’re playing the Bulls, what’s the plan for the National Championship? DVR the game and ask people not to tell you? Check Twitter at halftime? Ask the ballboys for updates?

A.C.: I’m gonna record it, but I’m not going to ask people not to tell me. I’m going to be on top of the score the whole game. That’s what we have high-tech phones for! I’m going to be in contact with the score and what’s going on. I’ll be focused on the Cavs game, but I’ll have one eye on the National Championship.

A. Gee: I know they’re going to have the TV on at some time, just to see what the score is. Or somebody’s gonna come up to me and tell me, ‘Bama’s doing this … ‘ or ‘’ Bama’s doing that.’ People are gonna inform me of what’s going on. (When we get home) I’ll kind of just watch the highlights. I don’t have to watch the whole game. If we win, I’m satisfied. I’ll be good.

The Million-Dollar question: Who wins the whole enchilada on Monday night?

A.C.: I’m going to say, Notre Dame – 24-21. I think Notre Dame will win by a field goal. Both defenses will show up early, but the last team with the ball – the Irish – will win the game.

A. Gee: Roll, Tide!