TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was a brainchild that became reality, spurred a new program at the University of Alabama and has sprung up in every sense of the term at football games across the country.
If you’ve watched a game during the past couple of seasons, you’ve seen the SidelinER, the sideline privacy tent that trainers and medical staff use to examine players during games. It was created and developed at Alabama, and the university announced on Monday that it’s been granted a patent covering the collapsible and portable design.
Specifically, United States patent 9,856,672 was issued on Jan. 2, the day after Alabama defeated Clemson 24-6 in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The application was dated Sept. 11, 2015.
“The patent clearly adds another layer of protection to what we feel like is a unique idea,” Jeff Allen, director of sports medicine at UA, said in a release.
The idea came from a brainstorming session between Allen and Chuck Karr, dean of the College of Engineering, in May 2015, after coming up with a portable spray system used to cool players during practices in the Alabama heat.
Allen starting talking about being frustrated that he couldn’t even talk to a player without numerous cameras zooming in and 100,000-plus fans staring down at the trainer’s table.
“Imagine going to the doctor’s office and getting on the table in the lobby, in front of 30 or 40 people,” he told Bleacher Report in 2016. “Now imagine 100,000 people watching you.”
He took a white board and crudely drew what he thought could be ideal.
“I need something that’s going to lay down and come up almost like an umbrella, that’s going to cover this but be up and down in a [snap] real quick,” Allen said. “Could you build something like this?”
Not only was the answer yes, but Karr made it the summer project of four engineering students who didn’t know quite what they were volunteering for: Jared Cassity, Christian Parris, Jared Porteous and Patrick Powell.
They built the first prototype using PVC pipe and a bedsheet, and a couple of weeks later had a working model with a metal frame and lightweight cover. After getting approval from Nick Saban and the SEC, to make sure there were no rules being violated, Alabama brought it to the season opener against USC in Arlington, Texas, but didn’t use it.
The tent finally made its debut the next week against Middle Tennessee and was an immediate hit.
“It’s definitely important,” former Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said at the time. “You just have that sense of privacy and you communicate with the trainers without having to worry about the cameras and the fans or anything. So that is definitely important as a player.”
Other teams started immediately requesting one and the project quickly went into development and became a business.
UA’s Office for Technology Transfer licensed the technology to Kinematic Sports, a Tuscaloosa-based company created by Cassity, Powell and Allen, and the engineering department created I-CAST, the Integrated Center for Applied Sports Technology, to help future ideas become reality.
In addition to seeing more of the SidelinER during sporting events, future applications include emergency response units and the military.