“Dixieland Delight” is back for Saturday’s homecoming football game between the University of Alabama and Missouri. Whether it stays or not is up to 17,000 students.
The 1983 country music hit by the Grammy Award-winning band Alabama was a staple at UA home games for years, played at the start of the fourth quarter, before the school dropped it from the playlist in 2015.
Since then, students have fought to bring it back. Alabama’s administration has relented, but with a caveat: the school wants students to behave and keep it clean.
“Our goal was to bring it back and make sure it was done right,” said Price McGiffert Jr., a senior civil engineering major who is president of the Student Government Association. “We wanted to find a way to put the ball back in the students’ and the fans’ court to say we’re going to bring it back and do it right, and if they don’t then they are the reason why we can’t do it.”
At issue are some interactive chants that emanate from the student section in response to song lyrics, which have included an obscenity.
Here are the key lyrics with the response chants in parenthesis and the expletive replaced with asterisks:
“Spend my dollar (on beer)
“Parked in a holler ’neath the mountain moonlight (Roll Tide)
“Hold her uptight (against the wall)
“Make a little lovin’ (all night)
“A little turtle diving on a Mason-Dixon night (**** Auburn)
“Fits my life (and LSU)
“Oh so right (and Tennessee too)
“My Dixieland Delight”
Things came to a head after Alabama’s 2014 game against Auburn, when students interjected the chant aimed at Auburn after each lyric. Soon after, a copy of an internal UA memo instructing that the song be deleted from the playlist at all athletic events at the direction of Bill Battle, then UA’s athletics director, was circulated on social media.
The song returned for the 2015 game against Ole Miss, and the students continued the chant containing the expletive. It hasn’t been played at an Alabama game since.
Director of Athletics Greg Byrne, Battle’s successor, said the return of “Dixieland Delight” and upgrading Coleman Coliseum, which hosts UA basketball games and other events, are the topics he’s been asked about most frequently since taking the post in January 2017. The decision to return it, he said, wasn’t a sudden one.
“We’ve actually been talking about it for over a year,” he said.
Byrne held discussions with UA President Stuart Bell and Finus St. John, the interim chancellor, and met with student leaders.
“We basically said let’s give this a chance for a comeback, but ultimately it will be up to the students and the fans on whether it stays, if we can do this right,” Byrne said. “This is also something our current players and our former players were very vocal about wanting to have as part of our gameday.
“We talked about a lot of different ideas on how to bring it back and after a lot of discussions this is where we landed.”
The return of the song was announced via a video circulated Wednesday featuring Byrne, McGiffert, senior running back Damien Harris and Terry Saban, wife of UA coach Nick Saban. In less than 24 hours, it had been viewed more than 500,000 times.
“Students are so excited,” said McGiffert, a Tuscaloosa Academy graduate. “They can’t get over it. My four years at Alabama, we’ve never played it. But growing up I remember it, always thought it was the coolest thing. Probably 100 people texted me and said they got chills.”
Alabama will seek to manage the interactive chants. Video boards in the stadium will display a couple of alternative call-back chants. “Roll Tide” will be flashed to replace “Against the wall” and “Beat Auburn” will replace the obscenity.
“We think that’s the best way to do it,” McGiffert said. “We’ll see. Hopefully it will all work out.”
There’s a lot at stake for supporters of having the song as part of the in-game experience. If the students are naughty, it might be a one-game-only return. Byrne met with leaders of approximately 150 student organizations Wednesday night to enlist support.
“Our goal is to have it be done in a first-class manner, and by the response (Wednesday) night I feel the great majority feel the same way,” Byrne said. “So just like anything we do, there’s constant evaluation of it.
“We’re trying to have everybody understand it’s up to each individual person to do things the right way.”
Alabama will also introduce free soft drink refills in the student section in the fourth quarter for this game. After the student section was half-empty for the Crimson Tide’s home game against Louisiana-Lafayette two weekends ago, there has been a renewed campaign to entice students to show up and stay until the final whistle. Nick Saban expressed his disappointment at the low turnout at his news conference the Monday following the game.
“All he asks is for us to stay for four quarters for seven games in Tuscaloosa,” McGiffert said. “He wants us to cheer loud. He’s done so much for the university and this community. He does way more in return.
“There is nothing more fun than sitting in the student section and watching the game. It’s more than fair. We do have a part.”
Barring unexpected complications, the free refills will be here to stay. As for “Dixieland Delight,” it’s up to the students.
“My goal is that we can keep playing it forever,” McGiffert said.
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.