From The Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — The University of Alabama men’s basketball team will play in the inaugural C.M. Newton Classic on Tuesday, December 21, against Colorado State University. The game will take place in the new Legacy Arena at the BJCC and will be the first college basketball game played in the new venue since its remodel began in spring 2020.
“We are excited the Knight Eady group approached us about returning to play in Birmingham this year for the C.M. Newton Classic,” said Alabama head coach Nate Oats. “It should be an exciting game for the fans and a great way to honor a legendary figure in college basketball. We have a lot of fans and supporters in Birmingham and playing there is something we are open to doing each and every year. It’s also exciting because it will be our first opportunity to play in the newly-reconstructed Legacy Arena in front of what we believe will be an electric atmosphere.”
The neutral-site game is named after former Alabama basketball head coach, C.M. Newton. Newton was a member of the University of Kentucky national championship team in 1951. After college, Newton began his coaching career at Transylvania in 1956 and became head coach at the University of Alabama in 1968. During his 12 seasons at Alabama, Newton led the Tide to a 221-123 record, won three straight SEC Conference titles (1974-1976) and made two NCAA tournament appearances. The game is owned and operated by Knight Eady, a Birmingham-based company.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to compete against a great program like Alabama,” said Colorado State University head coach Niko Medved. “This is a game that will really challenge us as we get ready for our conference season.”
In addition to his coaching accolades, Newton was the first coach to integrate the men’s basketball team at the University of Alabama with Black student-athletes. When Newton started at Alabama, Vanderbilt was the only team in the SEC with one black player. Wendell Hudson of Birmingham’s Parker High became the first black athlete Newton recruited to play at the University of Alabama. In 1973, Newton put forth the first all-black starting lineup in SEC history at a holiday tournament in Louisville.
“I am thrilled to have two great teams playing in the inaugural C.M. Newton Classic,” said Martin Newton, C.M. Newton’s son and Samford’s athletic director. “My father didn’t care as much about wins and losses but more about creating equal opportunity for everyone to play, regardless of race. I hope this game will honor his legacy and shed light on the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion,” said Newton.
Newton helped pave the way for Black athletes to play at the University of Alabama and set the expectation for other institutions to follow. His commitment to diversity and inclusion made a difference for so many at the University of Alabama. This year’s match-up will honor C.M. Newton, the legacy he made and the example he set for civil rights and equality.
The game time will be announced later, and tickets to the game will go on sale later this fall. The University of Alabama is coming off an Elite Eight run in last year’s NCAA Tournament.