Category: Features

Firebird reaches ‘Ultimate’ goal

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Photo Courtesy of @JSUFirebird

JP Wood, Staff Reporter


Football school? Basketball school? Marching band school?

How about ultimate frisbee school?

JSU’s Ultimate team- known as Firebird Ultimate- is making some noise across the region on the ultimate field. The team, still in its infancy as a program, competed in and won their very first sanctioned tournament earlier this month at UAB.

For program founder Andrew Record, this is the culmination of three years of hard work and team building to reach this very point. “This year we finally felt like we were ready. We had beat some teams that were sanctioned earlier and realized we could really start competing.”

Record, set to graduate in May, was part of a pick-up group within the Southerners when he got the idea to start an organized university team.

“I did as much to educate myself on the sport and get better, because I had hadn’t really played competitively before. After that the biggest thing was just recruiting. And that’s the hardest thing to do in any sport, is to get people to commit.” 

Firebird started out in a developmental league for their first two years. These years saw the team playing mostly B-teams and other upstarts. After a non-sanctioned tournament in Samford in the fall which saw JSU Firebird finish second overall, the team realized they were ready for the next level.

That brought them to UAB for their first sanctioned tournament: The Magic City Invite. Entering play as the dead-last #12 seed, JSU upset #1 seed UAB 11-4 in their first game of pool play. JSU would finish pool play undefeated, taking down Middle Tennessee State, Berry, Alabama, and Ole Miss en-route to the four-team playoff the next day. In bracket play, JSU would then defeat North Georgia and Mississippi State to claim the tournament title.

Seven major wins over two days and a first-place finish, all in their first taste of sanctioned play? Not bad.

For Record, this is just the stepping off point for a program with a very high ceiling. To be performing at this level in only its third season is pretty significant. “It’s a big deal for a team this young to be defeating teams that have existed for five, ten, twenty years already, and I think we can keep building upon that.”

JSU Firebird will compete in a sectional tournament this weekend, that will see them face off against teams within their section—teams like Alabama, Auburn, UAB, and Mississippi State. A high finish there will see them move on to regionals where they will matchup with teams from all over the southeast.

With Record’s graduation next month, the program he’s shepherded from the beginning will be passed on to someone else’s hands. In fact, he’s already named two new captains this year in order to prepare them to fully take over next year. One of those captains, Luke Thomas, looks to help the program succeed well into the future.

“Success is not necessarily just from winning, but also seeing the program grow.” he says. Success, he says, starts off the field with recruitment. He also wants to see the team make deep postseason runs and compete in larger tournaments. Under his leadership, he wants to see the team continue its upward trajectory in both wins and recruitment.

JSU Firebird has already initiated one move toward growth: A women’s team. Captained by Emily Yeend, the women’s team is new as of this semester.

“In the fall, the goal is to at least attend one tournament just for fun,” Yeend says. She says that in the past, girls at rookie week can be overwhelmed, and that one goal of the women’s team is to have prospective female players less likely to be intimidated. “I’m trying to get girls interested in playing, because a lot don’t even know what it is.”

If you’re interested in joining the JSU Ultimate team, keep an eye out for their rookie week announcements at the beginning of the fall semester. Rookie week is an opportunity for new players to come out and play with other new players to ease in to the game. If you’ve never played before, don’t let that turn you away. According to the JSU Ultimate website, most players don’t actually learn the game until they reach college.

For more information on the sport and the program here at JSU, jsuultimate.com has an FAQ section with more resources.

JSU Honors Program grows in numbers and opportunities

Honor's program portraits
Grace Cockrell/JSU
The staff of the JSU Honors Program Includes Coordinator Janet Whitmore, Director Dr. Lori Owens and Secretary Amy Tomlinson.

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


Ten years ago, the Jacksonville State University Honors Program consisted of eight students and a dream.

Since then, those eight students have turned into 394 members from all majors across campus, and the dream of creating an academic community that opens new opportunities for students has been realized.

JSU had offered honors classes in some form in the eighties and nineties, but the program as it exists today began in 2009, when eight incoming freshmen were selected as “Elite Honors Scholars” to kick-start the fledgling program.

Longtime JSU English Professor Dr. Steve Whitton served as the first Honors Program Director after the program kicked off under the leadership of former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences J.E. Wade.

Dr. Whitton spent five years helping to establish the program before returning to his classroom full-time in 2014. With the Honors Program looking to expand even further, Dr. Lori Owens was brought on board as Director.

“Dean Wade called me into his office one afternoon and told me he had the perfect job for me: Director of the Honors Program,” Owens said. “I was excited about this opportunity and immediately accepted the offer. I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to build on the foundation that Dr. Whitton and the Honors Board Members had established.”

The Honors Program continued to select eight incoming freshmen each year to serve as the core of the program, but began to offer not just honors classes, but emphasize membership into the program to the student body.

“We also began an effort to make the program more Program-wide instead of the emphasis being solely on those students on the top scholarship offered by JSU,” Owens said. “This has resulted in greater interest and involvement by students who are bright, dedicated students who might not necessarily be on the top scholarship that JSU offers.”

This brought in more students, and with that, more opportunities for the program to expand.

Janet Whitmore, who has served as Coordinator of the Program since August of 2010, has seen the program grow immensely during her time.

“Over the almost nine years that I have been here, the Honors Program has expanded in many ways, including the number and type of classes offered, the travel opportunities offered, and the community involvement,” Whitmore said.

In the Honors Program, it’s not all just about the academics. The program has strived to create a community where students can nurture lifelong relationships and give back to the community.

Current Senior Katie Peyton, who has served as Honors Program Co-President during her time at JSU, is grateful for the people she’s met through the program.

“The Honors Program is not only the reason I came to JSU, as it gave me a great scholarship, but it’s also the reason I met some of my best friends in the world,” Peyton said.

Dr. Owens says it’s a goal of the program to help students build relationships.

“It is easy to get lost on a college campus unless a student becomes a member of a smaller learning community,” Owens said. “Honors is an opportunity for like-minded students from various backgrounds and majors to learn together, form life-long friendships, engage in service for the campus and community, and become a productive, global citizen.”

The service aspect of the program has also grown in recent years. Through Honors, students have the opportunity to collaborate on service projects or volunteer in the Jacksonville community. Students organize trips on Fridays to volunteer at the local Boys & Girls Club, and Jacksonville First United Methodist Church has partnered with the Honors Program to allow students to help with the church’s ‘Serving Table’, where they serve free meals to the community.

“It has shaped me into a better leader and has given me many opportunities to push myself a little further,” Peyton said of her opportunities within the Honors Program.

The Honors Program has grown a lot in its first 10 years, but it isn’t done yet. Dr. Owens and Whitmore plan to offer even more opportunities for students in the coming years.

“I look forward in the future to be able to offer more upper-level Honors classes and expand our reach to more of the university population,” Whitmore says.

Currently, the official Honors classes are limited to lower-level and introductory classes due to student numbers, but plans are already in place to offer interdisciplinary Honors courses starting in Spring 2020.

To learn more about the JSU Honors Program and its offerings, visit JSU.edu/honors-program

The Fruciante era kicks into high gear

Jack Vermuth, Special to the Chanticleer


After the hotly debated One Hot Minute would come one of RHCP’s biggest and best albums Californication. This album would include some of my favorite RHCP songs such as “Around the World, “Scar Tissue,” and “Otherside” Whereas Blood Sugar Sex Magik would serve as a preamble to the “Frusciante Era” of RHCP, Califonication would mark the rise to power of this funk rock train that has never had and never will have any brakes, and the true beginning of the “Frusciante Era.” With Frusciante rejoining after completing drug rehabilitation on top of Navarro being fired from the band after the “BSSM” tour due to creative differences. Californication marks a point when RHCP begins to mesh and become a truly creative powerhouse with driving guitars, moving and pumping bass lines, groovy drums, and powerful vocals and lyrics that sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

Following Californication, and a two year long international tour RHCP would together to form the album that is By the Way. This album includes excellent tracks such as “By the Way,” “The Zephyr Song,” and of course “Can’t Stop.” The album would go on to reach number two on the billboard charts, and selling 8 million copies worldwide. By the Way marks a departure from the funk and punk styles of previous RHCP albums, and a shift towards a more melodic, deliberate, and stylistic approach. Kiedis has gone on record several times crediting Frusciante with writing a majority of the parts on the album including drum parts, vocal melodies, and bass lines. This shift would mark a major change in the styling of RHCP that remains in apparent in the albums following.

Fresh off the tour for By the Way and riding the coattails of Californication, no one thought that RHCP could get any bigger or do anything better. Then Stadium Arcadium (Stadium) happened. There are too many perfect tracks on Stadium to list, but if I must, the best are “Dani California,” “Snow (Hey Oh),” “Hard to Concentrate,” “Charlie,” “Slow Cheetah,” the list goes on and on and on. Stadium would be RHCP’s first album to debut at number one, and not only did it remain at number one for 14 weeks, it was also nominated for SEVEN Grammy’s. It would win five of the seven. This  38 track, RHCP opus would forever go on to touch hearts and minds, and is still considered their best album. However, after the lifecycle and tour of Stadium RHCP would take a three year hiatus during which John Frusciante would leave the band for the second and final time in 2009.

The funk rock train continues to roll: A continued look at Red Hot Chili Peppers history

Jack Vermuth, Special to the Chanticleer


Up next on this funk rock extravaganza would be the three RHCP albums following The Uplift Mofo Party Plan.

Here we are at the second part of a four part review, and up first would be an album that would shake RHCP to the core. Mother’s Milk was an album filled with lineup changes and sadness. While on tour for their previous album, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, guitarist and original band member, Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose on June 25, 1988. His passing shook the band to their very foundation and Jack Irons would leave because he couldn’t handle the passing of his friend. Hillel is credited for one song on the album, that being “Fire” a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic. However it is also here that we see the most well-known RHCP lineup of Anthony Kiedis on vocals, Michael “Flea” Balzary on bass, John Frusciante on guitar, and Chad Smith on drums. Mother’s Milk would top out at number 52 on the billboard 200, and it would land the chili peppers their first certified gold album in 1990. Notable tracks include “Nobody Weird Like Me”, “Higher Ground(A cover of the Stevie Wonder hit), and “Pretty Little Ditty.

Next up is an all-time RHCP classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik. (BSSM). This album is the first time that we really see RHCP flex their creative muscles in such a monumental way. BSSM would go on to peak at number three on the Billboard 200, and is often cited as inspiration and “the lighting of the fuse” for the alternative rock explosion in the 90s. RHCP branched out away from the speed metal and punk influences (though not entirely), and it was a huge success. Frusciante’s influence is readily apparent on the album, and it’s quite obvious that RHCP finally found a footing and found their confidence enough to become the rock legends they are today with notable tracks such as “Suck My Kiss,” “Give it Away,” and “Under the Bridge” showing that this merry band was finally blossoming. However in true RHCP fashion the album would not come without interband controversy and dilemma

Soon after the tour for BSSM ended new guitarist John Frusciante’s mental health was in jeopardy. Frusciante couldn’t handle the popularity and new heights the band was reaching. Keep in mind that he was only 22 when the album was recorded, and he was being introduced to the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. After his departure however, RHCP had to fill that hole. Bassist Flea called up his good friend Dave Navarro, who was the guitarist for 90’s alt-rock legends Jane’s Addiction, and he asked him to fill in. Together this new iteration of RHCP would go on to record and tour the hotly debated One Hot Minute album. The album sold over 8 million copies and produced great songs such as “Aeroplane,” “Warped,” and “My Friends.” The album really illuminates inner struggle within the band and emotional distress within Kiedis who had resumed his drug habits. Despite this, the album would certify multi-platinum and reach number four on the billboard charts.

One Year Later: A year after the March 19 tornadoes, Jacksonville picks up the pieces of a wounded community

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Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


One year ago. An EF-3 tornado. $100 million in damage. All but seven campus buildings affected. Three academic buildings that were complete losses. Two weeks of missed class. Thirty-nine homes in the surrounding communities that were condemned. 6,000 volunteers that flooded into the town in the next few days.

There are several statistics bouncing around Jacksonville, Alabama this week.

One year ago, on March 19, 2018, the little college town that houses Jacksonville State University was slammed with a storm that altered many lives.

The statistic heard most often as those on campus and in the community look back on the events of that grim day?

None of those altered lives were taken.

“The biggest blessing of the tornadic event is that we lost no lives,” JSU president John Beehler said at a commemoration event on Tuesday. “We were blessed that it was spring break, and that no one was killed a year ago. The recent tornado in Lee County illustrates that it is far too easy to have loss of life.”

Hearing stories from survivors of the tornado in Jacksonville a year ago, it truly is amazing that such devastation didn’t result in a single death, like the Lee County tornado that claimed 23 lives just weeks ago.

Stories like Kate Mason’s, who rode out the tornado in the former Winn Place apartments while her roof was literally ripped from over her head.

Or Phany Gangbo’s, an International student whose first ever experience with a tornado was last year when her room in the International House was severely damaged while she stayed with her host family

Or Paul Lindsay’s, a veteran who settled in Jacksonville for a peaceful life after serving two stints in Iraq, who had his left arm amputated after an iron pipe hit him during the storm.

Or Meagan Medders’s, an employee of the since demolished and rebuilt Dollar General on Highway 204, who had just gotten under a table in the break room of the store before the roof collapsed in on her.

All of those individuals told their stories in a candlelight ceremony Tuesday night, 365 days to the hour of that night that has left such lasting impact for each of them.

These stories are echoed by the hundreds of students still on campus during spring break and the residents of a town hit hard. Those that were in Gamecock Village, The Reserve, or any of the other apartment complexes that were ravaged on that night. Those that lived in the over 400 houses in Jacksonville that received damage. The members of West Point Baptist Church, which was almost completely blown away by the tornado and has since been long finished off by bulldozers.

So much damage, so much devastation, so many people who lost all their possessions or their homes.

Yet, a year later, you sometimes have to be looking hard to even see the results of that March night.

You’ll still notice the spots of blank where hundreds of trees used to be. You’ll still see the hulking ruined desolation of Merrill Hall as the University fights for more insurance money before tearing it down. You’ll still inevitably have to walk around fences and cross under covered pathways as the few repairs that are finishing up around campus are completed.

One year later though, Jacksonville and its University have done so much healing for the little time they’ve had.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s already the one year anniversary, and it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in rebuilding our campus in such a short period of time,” Beehler said on the anniversary of the storms. “FEMA personnel have told us that they’ve never seen a campus with such destruction come so far, so fast.”

Ask anyone what makes Jacksonville special, and they’ll immediately respond that it’s not the buildings and landscape that was lost or scarred, but its people. A people that came together to prove why the “Friendliest Campus in the South” moniker has little to do with the physical campus itself.

“It’s really a celebration of how far we’ve come so fast,” Beehler said. “It’s a celebration of the human spirit that came together to help us rebuild. We got knocked down physically and mentally, but we immediately took action.”

That human spirit saw thousands of volunteers, with a great number of them students or Jacksonville residents that were less affected than some, coming together to get a community back on its feet. Restoring a campus that was able to hold class just over two weeks later.

For a University that could have easily been affected for a long, long time, students were patient and understanding while recovery took place.

“We couldn’t have made the recovery that we have made without the students being patient with us as we scrambled and struggled through all the issues that we dealt with,” said Timothy B. King, the Vice President for Student Affairs at Jacksonville State.

“When we talk to our students, we find that the students really wanted to come back and rebuild JSU because they love it here,” Beehler stated. “Typically when there is a natural disaster, a university will lose 5%-10% of enrollment.”

Yet JSU hasn’t. A small dip of enrollment in Fall 2018 was followed by an increase that saw Spring 2019 actually boast more students than the pre-tornado Spring 2018.

A year later, JSU stands poised to rebound from the March 19 disaster better than before.

With repairs completed on all but three buildings, a new recreation center, and new-and-improved Merrill and Wallace Halls on the way in the next few years, JSU is putting the finishing touches on a remarkable recovery.

Although no one in Jacksonville will likely ever forget March 19, 2018, they are ready to put it in the rear-view mirror.

“In the wake of devastation and disaster, we all showed a true Gamecock spirit,” Beehler said on Tuesday. “We did not complain, we did not waver, we did not succumb to defeat. With the help of God and many others, we will come out of this victorious. That Gamecock spirit is just going to carry us through, no matter what hits us.”