The University of Alabama has a storied football tradition. As one of the winningest teams in NCAA football history, the Crimson Tide has racked up 12 national championships since 1892. Going into the 2009 football season, the Alabama Crimson Tide has won 799 times, giving them the seventh most victories in NCAA Division I college football history. So when football season comes ’round in the South, the first place many have looked over the years is toward Birmingham, where the sounds of “Roll Tide!” can be heard clear to the Gulf.
And with Nick Saban making the calls for Bama ball, the fans of Alabama are expecting the Crimson Tide to really roll this season.
Growing up in West Virginia, we heard the stories about the Marshall University plane crash and the program that Bobby Bowden built at WVU before going on to such an amazing career but it would be a few years before Coach Don Nehlen would start the West Virginia Mountaineers on a winning track that continues to this day. So for a little guy who loved the game and wanted a winner in his corner in the 70s, watching the resolute and ever watchful visage of Paul “Bear” Bryant stride the sidelines nearly every week on television was like watching a field marshal who knew where all of his troops were supposed to be. (And when they weren’t, you never knew, not from looking at “The Bear.”) That confidence reminded the kid of the Dallas Cowboys head coach, Tom Landry, his favorite professional football coach.
So the Alabama Crimson Tide became this writer’s favorite team and Alabama would win the national championship in 1973, 1978, and 1979. He would follow Alabama football with such zeal that he would apply to go to college at the University of Alabama a few years later, only to find out that the scholarships would not transfer out-of-state. The writer would go off to WVU. But that never stopped the writer from following the favorite football team of his childhood and adolescence, even when WVU would eventually usurp that role. But the two teams never played one another, the writer reasoned, so it was alright to have two favorite teams.
And Alabama would win another championship in 1992 under Gene Stallings, their last. Although they would continue winning for a few years, the Alabama football program fell on hard times after the turn of the millennium and head coach Mike Shula would lead them for three seasons and post a dismal 10-23 record.
Then Alabama would hire Nick Saban, a West Virginia boy himself, to set the Alabama program aright. After a rocky start in 2007 (7-6), the Crimson Tide finished undefeated in the 2008 regular season (the first Southeast Conference team to ever do so), before losing the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl.
But it’s a new year. And it’s time to play Bama ball once again. And although the country looks in various directions in the South these days (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida St., Miami, LSU) when it comes to seeing which way the season might turn, Alabama has returned to the fore of the crowd.
And this Alabama Crimson Tide football fan is ready to see a repeat of last year’s regular season and perhaps another national title. (And if they play WVU for that championship? This fan will cross that bridge only if he has to…)