Alabama Football: 5 Reasons Nick Saban Will Supplant Bear Bryant in Alabama Lore
Greatness is a term that is often loosely thrown around and given to almost any sports figure with moderate success.
However, two things are completely clear. Both Nick Saban and Bear Bryant are two of the greatest coaches in college football history. With 10 championships between them, it is almost impossible to dispute this.
Although most believe that Bryant is the best ever, it seems as if Saban is suddenly narrowing the gap between the two.
There will come a day where the legend of Mr. Bryant will have to take a back seat to the greatness of Saban.
It's a New World
College football is an entirely different world now compared to what it was during Bear Bryant's days.
The field of BCS contenders is much more packed now than it has ever been, and the competition gets stiffer on a yearly basis. It is very difficult for any one team to dominate now, so the fact that Alabama has done it so consistently within the past four years is one of the most impressive feats in sports.
Most of this has to do with the changing of the times. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have made the competition to get recruits even stiffer. The age of social media has also ushered in new rules from the NCAA and stiffer penalties for breaking said rules. Therefore, coaches have to be much more furtive in their recruiting practices.
Also, we now live in an era where kids are, for better or worse, starting the recruiting process at an extremely young age. This cutthroat atmosphere was showcased to an extreme when USC's Lane Kiffin offered 7th grader David Sills a scholarship.
Also, kids don't necessarily grow up with loyalty towards the program of their home state, and have no problem going across the country to a rival program. This was evinced when Michigan recruit Reon Dawson declared his allegiance for rival Ohio State.
The landscape of college football has changed completely, and it is incredible that Nick Saban has been able to dominate it.
Nick Saban's Success Is More Impressive
It's almost blasphemy to say that any college football coach is more successful than Bear Bryant. But, Nick Saban is.
Over his six years at Alabama, Saban has amassed an unbelievable .840 winning percentage. He did not need much time to get the Tide turning, as he was able to secure a BCS berth within his second year and a championship in his third.
By contrast, Bryant won a championship in his fourth year and needed eight years to get to three. Although these numbers are incredible as well, Saban's success came at a faster pace than Bryant's.
Saban has already won half of the National Championships at Alabama as Bryant has, and he hasn't been there a fourth of the time.
Bryant's Legacy Is Colored with Prejudice
Although he was a champion on the field, he wasn't a champion of tolerance.
In the 1970's Alabama's football team played as a microcosm of the entire state itself. The team, like the state, was segregated. Only white players were on the team until the faithful day when they played USC, and Sam Cunningham destroyed the Crimson Tide, leading the Trojans to a 42-21 victory.
Bryant said that he could not recruit black players, because "the social climate" did not permit it. Although this is somewhat believable, the fact remains that Bryant was at the helm of one of the most prejudiced programs in sports history along with Adolph Rupp's Kentucky WIldcats.
The fact is that Bryant gave black players scholarships off of necessity, not because of merit.
Though this may be a product of the society he lived in, it still haunts his legacy.
As time moves on and the University of Alabama moves past its history of overt discrimination, many will probably want to support the newer, more inclusive era of Crimson Tide football.
Media Exposure and Young People Can Help Build a Legacy
The media and the younger generation are going to be the ones who will ultimately decide who will be considered the best.
As time goes on and as memory fades, it will be the coach who is the most promoted that will be deemed better.
The same phenomenon exists in the NBA between LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Although Jordan may be the better all-around player, the media tends to create hype and controversy for the sake of ratings and discussion.
However, the difference is that the gap between MJ and LeBron is a decade, while Saban and Bryant's is three decades.
Many of those around during Bryant's prime are older or are no longer with us. Therefore, the younger generation will have fewer ties to Bear Bryant, and will more likely remember the greatness of Saban.
Also, collegiate sports is much more of a business now than it ever was. It's covered constantly, and the ratings are astronomical.
The amount of exposure Saban gets as a part of this era gives him an advantage within itself.
Saban's Future Will End All Doubt
The scariest thing about Nick Saban is that he's not finished yet.
He's just brought in another top-ranked recruiting class that seems poised to dominate the college football world once again.
He already has four National Championships, three of which are with Alabama. He only needs two more to tie Bear Bryant, and by the looks of things, there aren't many competitors standing within their way.
Saban will almost definitely win more championships, because he never loses sight of the big picture. No matter how much success his teams have, he knows how to keep them grounded, disciplined and focused at the task at hand.
If Saban can win at least two more National Championships by the time he's finished at Alabama, then there will be no question who the greatest of all time is.