Local Connection: Parrish has learned the Alabama way

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -If you have watched ESPN during the college football bowl season, you no doubt have seen the promotional commercial that features the two most-spoken words in the state of Alabama -Roll Tide.

It not only is a way of greeting one another, but it also is a right of passage. It says you are a University of Alabama football fan and that you belong to a select group.

Football isn’t a religion in Alabama, but it is a passion bordering on an obcession.

“It’s Alabama football 24/7,” says Parkersburg’s Erica Parrish, who transferred to the University of Alabama last spring after attending High Point University.

Growing up in Parkersburg, Parrish was used to attending games with her family at West Virginia University. But she quickly figured out things were much different at Alabama.

While T-shirts and blue jeans are in vogue at Mountaineer Field, Alabama fans dress up for football games. Males wear button-down shirts and khakis. Females are attired in dresses or skirts. Often, the Sunday best comes out on football Saturdays.

Alabama is football-crazed. Games are attended by 101,000 fans. One thing you won’t find is an empty seat.

The Alabama campus is relatively small and compact, encompassing approximately two square miles in the city of Tuscaloosa. The highest point on the campus is Bryant-Denny Football Stadium, built in 1929. It is the fifth largest football stadium in America.

Originally christened as George Hutcheson Denny Stadium after the school’s best known and most popular persident, the 1975 state legislature insisted that it also be named in honor of legendary coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.

On weeks when Alabama has a home football game, roads surrounding the campus start shutting down on Thursday. University personnel begin erecting tents for tailgaiting, tents they will take down following the game and store away until the next contest.

Parrish was familiar with the term southern hospitality but couldn’t fully grasp its meaning until seeing it first-hand.

A member of the Alpha Beta Pi sorority, Parrish quickly adapted and embraced the traditions of her new home. Sororities and fraternities are a huge part of Alabama campus life, with each owning its own house.

Those walking to the football games will go through the Quad, which features both the Denny Chimes -a 115-foot tall tower whose bells ring every 15 minutes – and the Walk of Fame, which bears the names of Alabama’s football captains. Some of the more familiar names are Joe Namath (1965), Ozzie Newsome (1977), Cornelius Bennett (1986) and Trent Richardson (2011).

The most familiar name on the Alabama campus is head football coach Nick Saban, who Parrish points out to her fellow students is a native West Virginian. Saban is an ever-present figure, attending pep rallies and other public functions. Plus, he always leads the team out onto the field on gameday.

Parrish thought she knew what big-time football was all about.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,”she said. “It’s a new experience. I like it.”

Parrish, who is studying interior design. learned all the traditional Alabama cheers before the first home game, virtually a requirement.

Like a true Alabama fan, she expressed confidence the Crimson Tide will beat Notre Dame on Monday night.

Parrish is a former Parkersburg High School softball standout who grew up playing for the Orange Crush. Her family is well known in Parkersburg. Father Rob Parrish is the owner of Family Carpet and her grandmother Judy Parrish is the proprietor of Family Furniture Galleries.