From 1958 to 1982 Bear Bryant was the only head coach at Alabama. Over the following 10 seasons, the Crimson Tide went through three coaches. One of those coaches led Alabama to 26 wins over three seasons and a share of the 1989 Southeastern Conference title. His name: Bill Curry.
A native of College Park, Ga., Curry was a center at Georgia Tech from 1962 to 1964. Afterwards, he played 10 seasons in the NFL with Green Bay, Baltimore, Houston and the Los Angeles Rams and won two Super Bowls.
Curry began his coaching career in 1976 as a Georgia Tech assistant for one season. After three seasons as an assistant coach with Green Bay, Curry returned to his alma mater and served as the Yellow Jackets head coach from 1980 to 1986. He posted a 34-43-4 record and an appearance in the 1985 All-American Bowl, a 17-14 win over Michigan State.
After Ray Perkins resigned as Alabama head coach to accept the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching position, Curry was named to replace him.
In Curry's first season in 1987, all Alabama home games were played at Birmingham's Legion Field due to expansions at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He won his first two games, including a 24-13 win at defending national champion Penn State. Later in the season, however, the Crimson Tide suffered an embarrassing 13-10 loss at Memphis. After a 7-5 season, Alabama faced Michigan in the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Crimson Tide erased a 21-3 halftime deficit, but a Wolverines touchdown with 50 seconds remaining gave Michigan a 28-24 win.
Back at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 1988, Curry improved Alabama to a 9-3, including a 29-28 win over Army in the Sun Bowl.
However, Curry made headlines twice that season.
Curry was directly in the eye of the "Hurricane Bowl." He refused to fly his team to College Station, Texas for Alabama's Sept. 17 game against Texas A&M due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Gilbert. As it turned out, Gilbert did not directly hit the United States, and the effects on Southern Texas were minimal. The game was rescheduled for Dec. 1 and the Crimson Tide crushed the Aggies, 30-10.
Another incident occurred on Oct. 8 following Alabama's 22-12 homecoming loss to Mississippi. A disgruntled fan threw a brick through his office window following the game—a game in which the Crimson Tide failed to complete a pass.
Curry's best season at Alabama was his last. In 1989, the Crimson Tide won their first 10 games en route to a share of the SEC title with Auburn and Tennessee. Entering the regular-season finale against Auburn, Alabama was undefeated and ranked second. In the first Iron Bowl game at Auburn, the Tigers won 30-20. Meanwhile, Curry dropped to 0-3 against Auburn as Alabama head coach. The Crimson Tide earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl, but dropped a 33-25 decision to eventual national champion Miami. It was Curry's final game as Alabama head coach.
Despite a 26-10 overall record, Alabama's first SEC title since 1981, and two SEC Coach of the Year awards, Curry resigned as Crimson Tide head coach in January 1990. He left to accept the head coaching position at SEC rival Kentucky.
So, why did Curry leave? After the 1989 season, he was offered a contract that did not include a raise. In addition, his contract stated he would no longer have the power to hire and fire assistant coaches.
After leaving Alabama, Curry was not as successful at Kentucky. In seven seasons, he was 26-52 with only one bowl appearance, a 14-13 loss to Clemson in the 1993 Peach Bowl. Curry stepped down as the Wildcats head coach after the 1996 season.
After an 11-year absence from coaching, Curry returned to Atlanta as the first head coach at Georgia State in 2008. In 2010, he led the Panthers to a 6-5 record in their inaugural season in the Football Championship Subdivision. Ironically, Georgia State's season finale that year was at Alabama, a 63-7 loss.
Bill Curry may not have lasted at Alabama as long as Bryant, Wallace Wade and others, but despite his shorter tenure, he maintained the great tradition of Crimson Tide football.