TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Cecil Hurt, a longtime sportswriter and columnist for The Tuscaloosa News who covered Alabama football for nearly 40 years, has died. He was 62.
Hurt, who came to the News in 1982 and remained his entire career, died Tuesday afternoon at UAB Hospital several weeks after being admitted for pneumonia. His death was confirmed in a statement posted on his Twitter page.
“Dear friends, Cecil Hurt passed away this afternoon at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham. He was being treated for pneumonia complicated by underlying issues. Cecil passed peacefully while surrounded by family and a close friend.
“Please keep Cecil’s family in your prayers as they cope with his passing.
“His family sincerely appreciated the outpouring of love and support shown to Cecil throughout this process. They also would like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff at UAB ICU for the exemplary care and compassion they provided to Cecil and his family.
“Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.
“Rest in peace Cecil.”Statement on Cecil Hurt’s death
Following Hurt’s death, Alabama head coach Nick Saban released the following statement:
“Cecil Hurt was a good friend and one of the best sports writers I have ever had the privilege of working with, not just at Alabama, but at all of our coaching stops. He was a man of integrity and a fair-minded journalist blessed with wit, wisdom and an ability to paint a picture with his words that few have possessed. Cecil was loved throughout this community and state as an old-school journalist who covered the Alabama beat with class and professionalism. He was a role model for young writers and the most trusted source of news for Alabama fans everywhere. He leaves a wonderful legacy as one of sports journalism’s best. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as well as Alabama fans everywhere who loved Cecil as much as we did.”Nick Saban
Hurt, a voracious reader who was often seen in the press box with a book in hand, was a regular guest on national sports shows like “The Paul Finebaum Show” and was well-respected in his profession for both his knowledge of Alabama sports history as well as the way he covered the beat. In a column published in the Montgomery Advertiser in 2005, sportswriter Mike Tankersley called Hurt “the gold standard” for covering the Crimson Tide.
“Of course, Hurt has the ‘home-field’ advantage, so to speak, but even taking that into consideration, the guy still amazes people with all the news and notes he’s able to report before anyone else,” Tankersley wrote. “He has good sources, but that’s what a good beat write should have. He also has a grasp of what’s happening at UA, making his frequent appearances on Paul Finebaum’s radio show all the more interesting.”
In a Reddit AMA he took part in a couple of years ago, Hurt was asked about his writing process.
“I do most of it in my head,” Hurt said. “Things are relative but I’d say I’m better at columns than lengthy features. Deadline is good for me because I get distracted easily.”
Hurt’s career took him around the world. One notable trip was in 2008 when traveled to Cuba to cover the UA baseball team. It was here where Hurt’s way with words and his vast knowledge on a variety of subjects were on full display.
“Scholars suggest the perfect baseball weather here in Havana was not the only reason Cuba embraced baseball at the turn of the 20th century. At the time, the Cubans were chafing under Spanish rule. The Spanish sought to transplant the national pastime of Spain — bullfighting — to Cuban society as well. Baseball, seen as a blatantly American creation, was subsequently banned,” Hurt wrote in the News in 2008. Nothing makes an item more popular than the prohibition of that item — a maxim that has affected Cuba in many ways, some resonant to this very day. But the more fiercely the Spanish hated baseball, the more the Cubans loved it. The game remains a national fixation.”
However, Hurt didn’t just cover UA sports. Following the murder of Jalen Merriweather, a popular basketball player at the neighboring Holt High School in 2018, Hurt wrote about the impact his death had on the community.
So sad to hear the news longtime @tuscaloosanews sports columnist Cecil Hurt has passed away this afternoon. My prayers go out to his family and colleagues. This veteran, award-winning journalist will be missed dearly by the people of Alabama. #alpolitics https://t.co/qbPwV9cNwq— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) November 23, 2021
“On the sign outside of Holt High School, the one celebrating the basketball win, it proclaims Holt as ‘Home Of The Ironmen,’ one of the unique nicknames in Alabama prep sports, a throwback to the area’s industrial past and, in a way, its fierce will to survive through storm and sadness,” Hurt wrote. “These students aren’t iron, though. They are young people, boys and girls, even if they have seen a lot in their short years. They are flesh and bone, bodies that can tear and be torn and, as Saturday showed, they have hearts that break.”
Hurt received many awards over the years, including Alabama Sportswriter of the Year in 2016, 2018, and 2019 by the National Sports Media Association. He was also part of the team at the News that won the Pulitzer Prize for covering a deadly tornado that swept through Tuscaloosa in 2011. In 2019, he received the Mel Allen Media Award from the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Hurt’s Alabama connection went back to his father, Cecil Lamar Hurt, who played football at the University of Alabama under Jennings Bryan “Ears” Whitworth. Born in Tuscaloosa, Hurt grew up in Huntsville, where he graduated from Butler High School. He studied English at the University of Alabama.
Hurt wrote two books about Alabama football: “Tradition: The Pride of Bryant-Denny” and “The Rise of the Crimson Tide.”