University of Alabama’s RISE program: Roll Tide!

stallings-center-home-of-ua-rise-program-cbd855be414c73afCollege football is having its first true playoffs. Here’s how one of the Final Four schools chose to showcase their university.

Here’s my Facebook post from Thursday night as I watched The Ohio State University face off against the number 1 seed University of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl:

The playoffs enjoyed huge ratings, with the Sugar Bowl being the 10th highest ranked game since the Bowl Championship Series. This means that for those who stayed on the couch during halftime, millions saw this video:

There are RISE programs in other states, as well. If you pay attention, you’ll see that Alabama’s RISE program is hosted at the Stallings Center. Gene Stallings is a former head coach for Alabama who won the championship title in the 1992 Sugar Bowl. But that’s not who the Stallings the Center is named after.

Instead, it’s named for Gene’s only son, John Mark, also known as “Johnny.” In addition to being the middle child with two older and two younger sisters, Johnny was born with Down syndrome. He was an ardent fan of his father’s teams and increasingly active with them as he got older–so much so that the equipment room at the University of Alabama is also named after Johnny.

Gene co-wrote a book Another Season that centered around being Johnny’s father and tracking Gene’s personal and professional life. As my friend and fellow parent & blogger Jawanda Mast noted in the comments to my Facebook post, Gene is from the generation who commonly referred to their children’s condition as mental retardation. Jawanda noted that as a caution for parents who may pick it up.

I received a copy of the book from a friend and another copy from my brother. Accepting that the language is dated, I enjoyed the tale. It’s an easy read and as a young father at the time it was gifted to me, it showed yet another possible, positive role my child may play as she grows up.

So, too, does the University of Alabama’s choice in featuring the RISE program during the halftime of one of the highest-rated bowl games ever. Hopefully those who saw it also saw a new possibility for lives still too often prejudged as being limited in their possibilities.

Unfortunately for ‘Bama fans, the Buckeyes won in an upset, ending the team’s season. But, like Stallings book reminds us, there is always Another Season. So …



  1. Deanna Tharoe says:

    The Stallings are from Paris and were supporters of RRVDSS while I was there. Even more so now, and as the new recreation center is named after Johnny. I enjoyed visiting with him when he would come in with his dad to do radio ads. He left us too soon but was a great member of his church and community.

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