TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Cecil Hurt, a longtime sports columnist at The Tuscaloosa News, died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia. He was 62.
The newspaper said Hurt died at UAB Hospital in Birmingham. He had worked for The Tuscaloosa News since 1982, becoming the newspaper's sports editor and columnist seven years later.
"In pro football, teams put a 'franchise' tag on their most valuable players, and at The Tuscaloosa News, Cecil was the franchise," said Ken Roberts, the paper's city editor. "Our readers considered his column an essential part of being an Alabama football fan.
"I've attended Alabama football games for more than 30 years and many, many times I've overheard a fan in [the] stands saying, 'I wonder what Cecil Hurt will say about this.' I think that shows the power of his skills as a writer."
Alabama football coach Nick Saban said in a statement that Hurt was "a good friend and one of the best sports writers I have ever had the [privilege] of working with.
"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," Saban added. "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."
A 1981 graduate of the University of Alabama, Hurt was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of a deadly 2011 tornado.
He received the Mel Allen Media Award from the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 and was a two-time selection as the National Sports Media Association's Alabama Sports Writer of the Year.
Hurt won more than a dozen top-10 national awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors.