You could almost feel it in the air amid this week's brief respite from recent extreme heat in Tuscaloosa - fall is coming, and the college football season is just weeks away from beginning again.

This will be Stuart Bell's ninth year as President of the University of Alabama, and he has seen the Tide win two national championships during that tenure. Still, Bell said something feels different about the season Bama has in store.

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The Tide will host Texas for the teams' final regular season clash as out-of-conference opponents before the Longhorns and Oklahoma both join the SEC in 2024. Two weeks later, Lane Kiffin's Ole Miss squad will travel to Tuscaloosa. An October 14th bout with Arkansas starts a trio of in-conference home games for Alabama, including shots at revenge against Tennessee and LSU with home-field advantage.

"If you've been waiting for THE home season in Tuscaloosa, it has arrived," Bell said. "It's like we're going to host the Super Bowl every other week here at the University of Alabama."

A historically exciting season also means more need than ever for security, and Bell said the University of Alabama Police Department is hiring dozens of new officers and working alongside Tuscaloosa Police to keep Gameday safe.

But safety features including temporary speed bumps and a new joint TPD/UAPD precinct on the Strip aren't the only thing to look forward to.

"I don't know if you've heard. but we've got a brand new field that we've installed over this summer season and a lot of efforts have gone into upgrades to Bryant-Denny Stadium to welcome all these groups onto campus," Bell said. "A lot of planning has gone not just into improved safety but also on convenience features. Concessions were something we focused on and we have a good plan on that. I think you'll be able to get a hot dog and a Coke for a good price at the University this year."

Bell is a three-time Texas A&M alumnus who spent 16 years at Alabama and three years at LSU before he was hired back at UA in 2015. Even with ties to those in-conference foes, Bell said his allegiances are not in question - while he sits in the President's office, he's a Bama man.

"When my own children were in little league, you know, you change teams -- but I am always rooting for my kids' teams," Bell said. "Let me tell you, our players - I know them, I visit with them, I go into the locker room at half time and I'm there at the end of the games. We have a great relationship, and when they walk on the field man, you better know - those are my kids. I want them to win and have a great experience at the University of Alabama."

Bell praised the University's Athletics Department and Director Greg Byrne and its 600 student-athletes across all sports. Whether you're a Longhorn coming to your first game in Bryant-Denny or a lifelong tailgater prepping for another autumn on the Quad, Bell said the University is ready to host.

"The world that we live in now in athletics has certainly changed an awful lot, but I think that the Tuscaloosa experience is going to be never better," Bell said.

For more from our Wednesday interview with President Bell, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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