The LSU Tigers Are Finished For Another 50 Years. Return of The Empire.

Jonathan Fravel@jfravel135Senior Analyst IAugust 22, 2009


LSU and Alabama have played every year since the 1960s.

Alabama holds an historic edge in the series, 43–23–5.

Many trace the origins of the rivalry back to a 15-game undefeated streak Alabama had in Tiger Stadium, which is generally considered to be (the biggest joke all) one of the most hostile atmospheres in college football.

From 1971 to 1998, the Crimson Tide went 14–0–1 in Baton Rouge.

While their rivalries against Auburn and Tennessee may overshadow their rivalry with the Crimson Tide, the significance of this rivalry increased after Alabama hired former LSU coach Nick Saban in 2007. Prior to the initial Saban season, Sports Illustrated ranked the game #13 in its "Top 20 Games To Watch In 2007" list. [2] The 2007 game saw the LSU Tigers win a dramatic come-from-behind victory, with a final score of 41–34. LSU went on to win the National Championship in 2007.

In 2008, Alabama won the game, in Death Valley, 27-21 in overtime.[3]

True SEC football historians are tiring of the notion that ESPN and sports radio have conjured that LSU is a tradition powerhouse program in college football. What a joke. True, they have a football tradition, i.e. they have played football since the late 1800's, but not like traditional powerhouses.

LSU has had a few moments in the spotlight but the majority of LSU history has been in the shadow of a true powerhouse, chiefly, The Alabama Crimson Tide. For the last few years, LSU has made a surge to the top, and they have capitalized on opportunities for recognition as a good program. They have in fact been a dominant (not the dominant) program since 2003, but not a traditional powerhouse.

Nick Saban brought the Bengal Tigers out of a 38 year hibernation, taking three years to lead a team of his recruits to the pinnacle of the college football season, the National Championship. In his absence, in 2007, still with the leadership and skill of recruits left behind by the great teacher, they scored (in a season flawed by two, almost three losses) a 2nd AFCA National Championship trophy.

Despite the great legacy Saban left behind, the fans who once adored him spew venom and curses at the mention of his name.

Prior to the tenure of Saint Nick (2000-2004), LSU laid claim to only one National Championship, awarded after the 1958 season with the great effort of Heisman winner Billy Cannon, coached by the great Paul Dietzel. Dietzel didn't exactly establish a dynasty in his seven years at the helm but his teams did regularly finish in the top 10 at season end.

Dietzel, though he love LSU and was thankful for the support he received, left the bayou to lead the West Point cadets at Army, becoming the first non-Army graduate to accept the head coach position at the academy.

After Dietzel, LSU returned to mediocrity. From 1962 until the turn of the century, LSU finished in the top 10 a measly 5 seasons. 38 years in obscurity. 21 of the 38 years, they finished the season unranked. Very few athletes donning the purple and gold were recognized as All-American athletes in the sport of football. LSU National Championships were awarded notably, and repeatedly in baseball.

It was not until the arrival of Nick Saban that LSU football was even considered a real threat to win the SEC west, much less the SEC championship. In Dietzel-like fashion, after establishing a successful program, Nick Saban left LSU to coach in another venue, the National Football League.

As fortune would have it, CNS did not find the same happiness and fulfillment he had as a college coach in the NFL. Despite his success at Miami, the position as head coach in the college ranks was much more gratifying and met his needs and expectations more completely. As fate would have it, the University of Alabama had an opening that allowed him to re-enter the college ranks as a leader and mentor of young men.

Even the most avid LSU fan will admit they have real reservations regarding head coach Les Miles. Can he maintain the success established by CNS? Does Miles even like the long term outlook of living the rest of his life in the Creole State? Just one year ago, the Tiger Nation held their collective breath as Coach Miles was offered the opportunity to leave Tigerland and return to his Alma mater in Ann Arbor. It was not an easy decision and one that may resurface in the near future.

Miles has a uncanny way of sucker-punching high school athletes that choose to leave the Pelican State to pursue their own destiny at another program. This is not the way other head coaches of the Bengal Tigers have handled matters in the past.

Miles goes the extra mile to slander the youthful defectors, changing their names to "Mudd" in the process. He has gone as far as encouraging boosters to fire their fathers from their jobs to wreak havoc on their family. He is not infrequently caught on film in front of boosters cursing the name of CNS and other well known coaches in an attempt to fuel hatred amongst the boosters.

Meanwhile, Coach Saban in the process of rebuilding a one time Empire in the college ranks. A program steeped in traditional football lore. Football Championship titles abound at the Capstone, affirming the mark of a championship program, with many different coaches at the helm. 21 SEC championships and 12 National Championship crowns belong to the Alabama Football program. Four different coaches have lead the Tide to Championship titles.

Wallace Wade and Frank Thomas led the Tide to five national titles before the tenure of the master, Paul "Bear" Bryant. (1925, 1926, 1930, 1934 and 1941)

Bryant was asked why he left for Alabama. Bryant replied, "Mama called, and when Mama calls, then you just have to come running."[27] Bryant entered an Alabama program which had not had a winning record in four seasons. However, in his first season, Bryant led Alabama to a 5–4–1 record—one more win than Alabama had in the previous three seasons.[28][29]

In his fourth season, Bryant led the Crimson Tide to their sixth national championship which included Bryant's first bowl victory at Alabama.[2] Between 1958 to 1961, Alabama went 34–6–3 which also included a Southeastern Conference Championship, two undefeated seasons, and three bowl berths.[30]

Bryant coached the Tide from 1958-1982. For 24 years, the Bear roamed the sidelines guiding the men in Crimson and White to 6 National Championships. He was also a mentor of men. Developing them into solid citizens.

Between 1970-1979, the Crimson Tide was one of the most dominant teams in college football. Winning eight conference titles and three national championships,[2] very few teams were able to defeat Bryant and the Crimson Tide. Alabama was a combined 103–16–1 in the decade, a .863 winning percentage.[8]

Prior to 1958, All American honors were bestowed on 29 Alabama players. During Bryant's coaching tenure, Alabama players claimed the honor 46 times. following the retirement of Paul Bryant, Alabama players have been awarded the honor an additional 32 times. That speaks to continued pursuit of excellence for the program, not just one coach.

Even in the post-Bryant era, despite waxing and waning success, the Tide has managed to win Championships. Two SEC championships and one National Championship has been added to the hardware previously accumulated.

Admittedly, the Capstone has had their share of gaffes with regard to coaching hires and player recruitment. But the hiring of Nick Saban is a statement. Saban isn't the program. He is a part of the Alabama Football tradition. The statement made at the hiring of CNS is this: Alabama is committed to winning, winning with dignity and class. Alabama is bigger than any one player, bigger than any one coach. Nick Saban is a man of integrity and a damn good coach. 

If Saban chooses to relinquish the helm at the Capstone, before or after the receipt of a national crown, then so be it. We will honor and respect the man for the job that he has done. The program will continue to pursue excellence. Crimson and White will forever color the landscape of college football.

The defeat of the LSU Tigers by the Crimson Tide in 2008 is just the beginning. It is the "Return of the King" to His rightful throne. Someone better check Mike VI for a pulse. The mighty Thundering Herd has returned and refuses to yield to the lowly pussy-cat.

Tiger Bait. What the heck is that? LSU fans will have to settle for the great comebacks against the likes of Troy, battling the Green Wave for the traditional Tiger Rag, the occasional battering of Mississippi State and the less frequent victories over the Rebels and Hogs.

But the days of putting the hurt on the Crimson Tide are over. Welcome back to Alabama football domination. The Empire Returns.



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