When Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant died in January 1983, it was not only the death of an icon, but the death of an era in Alabama football too. For almost 30 years, this man and his program dominated college football. But since his death, Alabama football has gone through several changes; some good and some bad, but all have affect the program one way or another.
The hiring of Ray Perkins-Coach Bryant’s retirement and his death a month later shocked everyone, but in the most surprising turn of events, Bryant picked Ray Perkins to succeed him. Perkins was the head coach of the New York Giants at the time. Though Perkins struggled his first year as Alabama head coach, he had a pretty decent career and kept the ship floating most of the time he was there.
The Emergence of Auburn Football-Why is this important? Because most of time Auburn football was not even a blip on the radar and not even close to the achievements of Alabama until former Bryant assistant Pat Dye came along. Dye not only evened the score, but for a time in the 1980’s helped the Tigers move ahead of Bama in the state. Because of Dye they landed eventual Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, moved the traditional Alabama/Auburn game in 1989 to the Auburn campus for the first time ever and most importantly the Tigers became a national powerhouse.
The Hiring of Gene Stallings-When Alabama fans heard that former St. Louis Cardinals head coach Gene Stallings would take over as coach after Bill Curry left, there were a lot of snickers from Auburn fans and worry among the Bama fan base. There were reasons to be worried. Stallings didn’t have a stellar career as the Cardinals head coach, so there was no reason to believe that he would fair much better with the Crimson Tide. Stallings had a rocky beginning too at Bama, but after his first year in 1990, two years later he went on to lead the Crimson Tide’s to its only national championship since the death of Bryant.
Probation-If you wonder why the Alabama football has not been a constant winner since Bryant’s death, this maybe the number one reason: Probation. Bama has been hit three times in the last several years with some form of probation. Probation nearly crippled the program. Most experts said the second probation was the closes thing to the death penalty levied against a program since SMU had to disband its football program because of probation back in the 1980’s.
Coaching Scandals-If it wasn’t probation that nearly killed the program, it was the coaching carousel. After Stallings it was Mike Dubose then, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price and finally Mike Shula. Both Dubose and Price brought embarrassment and shame to the football program with their rumor affairs and involvement with drinking and partying. For awhile the ship was righted again when Athletic Director Mal Moore hired Dennis Franchione, but Coach Fran didn’t like the prospect of rebuilding a team on probation nor did he like the spotlight being squarely on him so he left for the greener pastures of Texas A&M. Since no one else wanted that responsibility either, Moore had to turn to former Alabama quarterback Mike Shula, an assistant coach in the NFL with no head coaching experience. Shula brought back a sense of pride and dignity to the program and set the stage for the arrival of Nick Saban.
The Firing of Tommy Tuberville-Tuberville’s firing is important because of the timing of the whole situation. This man was coming off his sixth victory in a row over Alabama and was on top of the world, that is until Nick Saban brought in the number one recruiting class two months later which included the number one recruit in the state, Julio Jones, and then it went downhill from there. Tuberville’s recruiting practices and his coaching methods were called into question especially after the team struggled last year with a 5-7 record which included a 36-0 loss in Tuscaloosa. Auburn had their first coaching change in years and brought in a coach with a sub-par record while firing a coach that brought them on the brink of their first national championship since 1957.
The Hiring of Nick Saban-Not a single sports expert in the country thought Alabama had a chance in hell in hiring the Miami Dolphins head coach away, but rumblings that Saban was not happy in Miami brought Mal Moore to South Florida to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse: Big money and total control over the program. Most thought it was a risk, but so far the risk has paid off with two top recruiting classes, a number one ranking in football, a Western Division title and a 12-2 record. Most experts are saying that Saban will bring Alabama its first national championship in almost 20 years to the Capstone sooner then later.