Former Alabama Crimson Tide Head Coach Mike Dubose Seeks Redemption

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IMarch 4, 2011

From glory to gone so quickly, that was the Mike Dubose story
From glory to gone so quickly, that was the Mike Dubose story

Everybody loves the story of a man who rose to the top, had problems, fell down and tried to return to the top again. Hollywood has made dozens of these types of movies.

Mike Dubose is living that reality right now.

A former Alabama player under Paul "Bear" Bryant with a gritty style of play, Dubose was eventually able to become a coach after his collegiate days were up, something quite common for Alabama players.

Few however made it to head coach, and even fewer have made it to head coach at Alabama.

After his playing days were up, he became a graduate assistant for his beloved Crimson Tide.

Following that year, he went into high school coaching at Fairhope High School in Alabama and was an assistant there for two years before moving on to Pratville High School to become the head coach and athletic director in 1978 and 1979.

Then it was time to return to college football. He accepted the defensive line coaching job at UT Chattanooga. He was there for two years and became known as not only a great defensive line coach, but a good recruiter too.

He wanted desperately to return to Alabama and asked Bryant for a job, but Bryant told him there wouldn't be a position open for another year and that he should take the job at Southern Miss instead.

That is what Dubose did and it was advice that perhaps Bryant regrets.

Under Dubose, The Golden Eagles' defensive line was so imposing that they ended Alabama's 57 game winning streak.

It was to be Bryant's last year, and when Ray Perkins took over for Bryant, one of the first calls he made was for Dubose to come home.

He coached the defensive line for four years with Perkins, and when he left to become the head coach at Tampa Bay, Dubose left with him. He stayed there for three years but decided he wanted to get back to Alabama.

Mike got the chance when Gene Stallings came to be the head coach and offered him the defensive line job again, and in the four years under Stallings, he saw his fortunes rise and he became the defensive coordinator.

When Stallings retired in 1996, Dubose was quickly named the new head coach.

Here was Dubose, a 43-year-old, in charge of one of the nation's top teams with no head coaching experience.

The pressure to win proved to be too much for Dubose.

Still, this was Alabama and they had the recruits and the program to hide many of the things that Dubose himself called his short comings.

In his first year, the team won their first four games only to drop seven of the last nine.

Fans began to wonder if the young man could handle the job, especially with the strain of scholarship reductions placed on him during Stallings' tenure. They ended the year with a 6-7 season.

The start of next year seemed more promising, the team finished with seven wins, but lost in their Bowl Game to Virginia Tech in horrible fashion.

Still, that year, he pulled off an upset win over LSU and beat Auburn in the last game at Birmingham—there were signs that things were close to coming together.

His next year in 1999 proved to be the best and worst of his years at Alabama.

There was the alleged sexual impropriety with his secretary that came to light. Mike, always a devoted husband and religious man, had fallen into the trap that he himself called, "the head coach head rush."

That rush he said was having everyone treat you like a king and women making themselves far too available. The temptation proved to be too much.

Fearing he'd lose the real love of his life, he initially denied the reports before coming clean and asking both the Tide and more importantly, his wife Polly for forgiveness.

In the season, the team still had question marks everywhere and scholarship reductions hurt it badly. After a 2-0 start, the Tide was shocked on a last second play by tiny Louisiana Tech.

Fans became irate and began screaming for his head, but to his credit, his team responded and started fighting.

Everyone thought that the Gators would blow Alabama away in their regular season match up and that Dubose would be fired, but instead, the team pulled off a huge upset.

They only lost one more game that year and had to face Florida once again in the SEC championship game in Atlanta.

Alabama shocked the sporting world again by defeating Florida and earning yet another SEC championship.

Dubose was the SEC coach of the year and it looked like he may have worked his way out of the dog house with the fans and the administration.

But the glory didn't last long. The following year he would be fired amid assistant coaching squabbles, poor performance on the field and his past problems.

What made it even worse was that Alabama was picked to contend for a national title in this his last year. Even with scholarship reductions, the season looked promising, but they lost their opening game to UCLA, and things went downhill fast.

Dubose offered his resignation mid season but was told "no" and finished the year 3-8.

One year he was the SEC coach of the year and the head of a national powerhouse poised to return to the top, the next he was out of work and virtually unemployable.

Such is the life of a head football coach.

Out of work for two years, Dubose finally took a job as a high school coach and that went terribly—he went the whole year without a win.

The next year, he took a head coaching job at Luverne High School and finally had success, going 20-7 and runner up in the 2-A state playoffs.

In 2006, Dubose was named defensive coordinator of tiny Millsaps College in Mississippi and in that first year, they went 2-7. They fired the head coach and named Dubose as head man. It was a good decision.

In a great turnaround, Millsaps went undefeated in conference play and went to the championship game. He was named that leagues coach of the year.

He built that program into a winner, never having a bad season and left in 2009 to join major college football once again at Memphis, where he joined new head coach Larry Porter as the defensive line coach.

Who knows what the future holds for Dubose, but the past is finally behind him.

"I was in over my head and didn't know it at the time." Dubose told me. "You think you're prepared to be a head coach whether you are or not," Said Dubose of his time as head coach at Alabama.

"I wanted to be the kind of head coach I always wanted to play for instead of the one I needed to be," he said. "I didn't take the time to discuss all this with Gene (Stallings) as I should have and I didn't seek advice when I should have."

Those lessons were hard learned and will never be forgotten should he get the chance again to be a head coach at a major college school.

It's been a long time and a long road and he's still not back yet. Time has healed most of the wounds left on the Alabama fans. The school and the coach both took blows to their pride, but both have rebounded.

"Alabama will always be special to me,"' said Dubose of his home…"I will always be grateful for my time there as a player and a coach and will always regret any sorrow I brought upon it."

Mike is still earning his redemption as a coach, he has earned it with his wife Polly and perhaps now it's time for the Alabama fans to finally forgive him as well.


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