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December 30, 2012
TUSCALOOSA | Doug Walker has worked at Notre Dame and at the University of Miami, and now works for the University of Alabama athletic department.
No one, likely, has more ties to the two schools participating in the Jan. 7 BCS National Championship Game and to the host city.
"I've got three worlds colliding here," said Walker, UA's 48-year-old associate athletic director for communications.
Walker, a Texas native, worked at Texas A&M, his alma mater, and Texas Christian in athletic media relations before taking a job as Miami's primary football sports information director in 2000. He stayed there until taking a similar job at Notre Dame in 2004 before arriving at Alabama, where he runs the media relations department, in 2006.
The convergence of Alabama and Notre Dame in Miami is an intriguing one for Walker.
"I think it's great for the sport that these programs are doing this well," he said. "Miami is a cool place because it's an entertainment destination area. When I was there they would say it's an event city. If it's the cool place to be, the cool thing to do, people are going to be there. If it's not, you're going to know that it's not.
"I don't think we'll have a problem being the cool thing to do that week in Miami. It's going to be the center of the universe for about four days."
Walker's first encounter with Notre Dame made an impression.
"Being a college football person, it meant a lot to me," he said. "There's a lot of allure there, a lot of mystique. It definitely felt like you were part of something that mattered to people, which was true to an extent everywhere I'd been - but that's a different level.
"It's probably the only job that I ever got that my mom had an emotional reaction to, which really kind of surprised me because my mom is not a big sports fan. I grew up in Texas. I didn't grow up a fan or a hater or anything, it was Notre Dame, a power that was up there. I grew up Catholic and I am Catholic, but it didn't have much of an affect on my sporting loyalties or anything."
When Walker moved on to Alabama, he found another football mecca.
"There's so many similarities with Alabama in that you have a lot of people who didn't attend the school who are fiercely loyal to the program," he said. "It means a lot to people beyond just the score. They are institutions that mean a lot to a lot of people. I think you became aware of that if you're paying attention at all when you're working the job at those places, that you're in the public eye because it's a very important situation."
Walker's job is to deal with the media. At Alabama and at Notre Dame, he has been at two of the epicenters of college football coverage.
"You're definitely on a national scope regardless of how you're doing, there and here," he said. "I do think the coverage probably ebbs and flows locally, you're always going to get local coverage, but it's not as statewide intense (at Notre Dame) as it is here. Nationally you're relevant all the time.
"Even if they're not saying you're nationally relevant, you're relevant there all the time just like you're relevant here all the time. That doesn't change."
Walker grew up with more awareness of Alabama as a college football power. The UA program's roots and reach extended into Texas more than did Notre Dame's.
"Growing up in Texas the way I did in the 1970s, there were about three games on TV every Saturday, and more often than not Alabama was one of them," he said. "Growing up in an A&M type of area, 'Bear' Bryant was the one that got away. You were aware of that from an early age even if you didn't understand it. There's a mystique and an allure there, too.
"Coach (Bryant) used to talk about winning with class. Notre Dame was like that, too. They both have got a way about them, and I don't think there are many institutions in the country where in any endeavor everybody is going to have an opinion about it one way or another. They both mean something to probably everybody."
A career that has taken him to two of college football's top all-time programs is something Walker appreciates, especially being at UA in its current era of dominance.
"On a personal level, growing up the way I was as a college football fanatic, I'm so lucky. I've been given opportunities to be a part of these programs," he said. "They stand for something at Notre Dame and they stand for something here.
"I think everybody needs to look at this situation at Alabama right now and know we're all lucky to be a part of it and appreciate it for what it is. We're on a hell of a roll here, and you can't take it for granted."
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.