Alabama Football: You're Aware of the Name of This Ship, Aren't You, Mr. COB?

Patrick DavisContributor IOctober 21, 2008

With 122 Navy midshipman standing in the rain, Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) called out for Mr. COB to tell him the name of the ship they were serving.  When Mr. COB yelled back "Alabama Sir" all 122 enlisties, standing at attention, together yelled "GO BAMA, ROLL TIDE!"

You are correct if you thank that this is the greatest Naval movie of all time.  What you may not know is the history behind the real U.S.S. Alabama and it's association with a college football rivalry that to this day is one of the greatest in the country.

The date was October 14th, 1980.  The birth of a highly awarded Naval ship, bearing the name U.S.S. Alabama, was pressing the envelope for high tech nuclear submarines.   

The Alabama would go on to be one of the most highly awarded naval ships of all time.  With it's birth came a separation between the rest of the world and the United States Navy.

On the morning of the 14th, while the steel workers began building the U.S.S. Alabama, a few things were going on around the world: Ronald Reagan was making a promise to name a woman to the Supreme Court, Bob Marley had just performed the last concert he would ever play and the Alabama Crimson Tide were making their way up to Knoxville to play the Tennessee Volunteers.

Johnny Majors was the coach of the Volunteers and earlier that year he had hired an assistant coach by the name of Phillip Fulmer.  He had obtained him from Vanderbilt.  Phillip Fulmer had been a linebackers coach for the Vols in 1973 before moving to Wichita State University the following season. 

While Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer were preparing for the Crimson Tide to make their way to Neyland Stadium, Paul "Bear" Bryant was in Tuscaloosa preparing his boys in hopes that they would continue their undefeated season. 

Coach Bryant ran a smashmouth offense that liked to bloody the nose of his opponent.  He would establish the run and then run it again for emphasis just to let you know he could.  Then he'd punch you in the gut with it one more time for no other reason than to make sure he was earning his reputation.

The 1980 Crimson Tide were disciplined and aggressive.  They were the identity of a Coach that had made his name being physical and teaching others to do the same. 

That Saturday, the Crimson Tide celebrated in a Neyland Stadium locker room while Paul Bryant handed out cigars.  In a 27-0 victory they headed back to Tuscaloosa with their undefeated season intact. 

The Tide gave Phillip Fulmer his first loss to Alabama as an assistant coach.  He would later become the head coach of the Volunteers in 1992 when Johnny Majors became ill and since then has returned the favor to the Tide 11 times. 

It is now 28 years later to the day.  If you were to stand along I-59 later this week you would see the 2008 Crimson Tide making their way up to Knoxville in attempts of continuing an undefeated season of their own.

Alabama's mountain of a man, Terrence Cody, will not make the trip to Knoxville.  The Tide held Ole Miss to 3 points with the injured Cody in the game.  Ole Miss scored 17 points with him out of the game in the 2nd half.  Alabama will have to do what champions do if they want to claim the same success as Coach Bryant did in 1980, find a way to win.

They'll have to play through the adversity of a rivalry on the road.  They'll have to play through the injuries that every team experiences, and they'll have to trade complacency for starvation.  It's the difference between wanting to win and needing to win.

This Saturday Nick Saban's Crimson Tide will try to continue their undefeated season by defeating a Tennessee team that finds themselves "needing" a win as well.

28 years ago, on this day, the 122 crew members of the U.S.S. Alabama looked on as their ship began to take shape.  The 2008 Crimson Tide will go to Knoxville this weekend and try to write their own name into the tradition rich history at the University of Alabama.  It's with this desire that they will try to make proud those who have gone before them.