It was about this time in 1979 that Bear Bryant, the legendary head coach, had his Crimson Tide ranked at the top of the preseason AP Poll. Alabama was on top of the football universe at the time. No one could predict what the next decades would hold.
Bear Bryant was to retire a few years later and pass a vibrant and thriving football program on to his hand picked successor, Ray Perkins. Perkins kept the program in the rankings, but could never quite get to the top. Gene Stallings took his place in 1990 and the Tide eventually rose to the top in 1992. Then the NCAA started their investigations and a long list of setbacks for the program ensued.
The program at Alabama didn't fully recover until 2009, when they found their way back to their customary position as a national football powerhouse. The Crimson Tide is again ranked as the preseason favorite in the AP Poll, after three long decades.
It is ironic that the AP chose to use this year’s poll to give the NCAA a small dose of humility. They included another traditional college football powerhouse in their poll even though the NCAA has stripped them from post season play and they were excluded from the BCS.
Southern California was found responsible for rules violations during the middle of the last decade. The players involved in the incident have long since left the school. The coaches that were involved are no longer part of the program.
Trophies were returned and voluntary sanctions were set in motion to avoid the wrath of the NCAA and possibly keep the NCAA from destroying the program, like they had Alabama doing during the previous three decades. Once the NCAA starts investigating a program, they simply will not go away.
It's ironic that one powerhouse program has fought their way back to the top of preseason polls at the exact time another powerhouse has been singled out for the unending wrath of the watchdog program. This time is different though; it would seem that the AP has ignored the NCAA and ranked Southern California in their poll.
They have chosen to include the program that was ostracized from their normal place in the college football world. In effect, the AP has chosen to send a clear message to the NCAA. They gave them the finger, flipped them off, told them to shove it, said kiss my foot, the NCAA has no power or authority with our poll. We rank who we want, when we want.
This has given an entire program of young men a reason to go out every day and try their hardest. It will let them know where they stand when compared to other teams around the nation. It will give them a goal to achieve. It will give the punished, but not guilty, a point to rally around.
The AP has used this poll to ask the NCAA one often overlooked question. Why is there a need to punish the present for the actions of the past?