Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The college football tradition in
Tuscaloosa is unparalleled in the world. The only program that even comes
close is the one in South Bend, but even that is up for debate. So with the
bar set so high, is it any wonder that the Crimson Tide have been unable to
fill the enormous shoes of one of college football's most celebrated
Paul "Bear" Bryant is still at the pinnacle of college football coaching.
Despite his record for career wins (323) being surpassed by both Penn State's
Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden, no one has enjoyed the kind of
success with a program that the Bear did with Alabama.
The numbers speak for themselves -- a career record of 323-85-17 with four
schools (Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama), six national
championships (1961, '64, '65, '73, '78, '79) all with the Crimson Tide, and
three National Coach of the Year awards (1961, '71, '73).
There have been six men to step up and try to fill the void left when Bryant's
brilliant career came to a close in 1982. First up was Ray Perkins, who went
32-15-1 from 1983-86. Bill Curry gave it a shot from 1987-89, going 26-10
in his three campaigns.
|Paul "Bear" Bryant is still at the pinnacle of college football coaching.
The closest to reach for that bar came next, as Gene Stallings went 62-25 in
seven seasons with the Tide (1990-96), including a national championship in
Finding an adequate replacement for Stallings has been difficult to say the
least, while finding someone to return Alabama to the top of the college
football world has been impossible.
Mike DuBose walked the sidelines for four seasons (1997-2000), but after
winning the SEC title in 1999, his team went just 3-8 in 2000, while his
personal life (an affair with his secretary and subsequent sexual harassment
suit) invaded Tuscaloosa and ended his reign at Alabama.
The team would find a hard-working straight-liner in Dennis Franchione in 2001
and 2002, but he has had a history of jumping from program to program of late
and did just that when he ironically took the vacant Texas A&M job, the exact
opposite path that Bear Bryant took.
Enter Mike Price.
Athletic Director Mal Moore made what seemed to be a safe choice in the
former Washington State mentor. Price led the Cougars to two Rose Bowl
appearances in his tenure in Pullman and seemed to be a solid candidate for
the job. However, scandal certainly wasn't far behind, as the new coach never
took to the sidelines at Legion Field or Bryant-Denny Stadium for real,
instead embarrassing himself and the university with his recent antics at a
topless bar in Florida last month where he was at a pro-am golf tournament.
New university president Robert Witt wasted little time, as Price was fired,
even before he actually signed a contract with the school. Price agreed in
principle to a seven-year, $10 million deal, but the language of the contract
had yet to be finalized. Reportedly in that contract was a "morals clause,"
perhaps an area of debate, that prevented the contract from being signed.
|Mike Price is the sixth man in the revolving
door that is now the Alabama head coaching job.
That point is now moot, however, as Price is the sixth man in the revolving
door that is now the Alabama head coaching job.
Where do Moore and Witt go from here? The tarnished image of Alabama football
will certainly take some time to repair.
The logical choices are perhaps those with ties to the Alabama program.
Stallings' name has been thrown around and really who better to give the
program instant credibility than the man who last had a great deal of success
Perhaps, however, it is time to move in a different direction. NFL assistants
Mike Shula, Sylvester Croom and Richard Williamson are interesting candidates,
as all three are former Alabama players. Any of them could be the necessary
bridge to gap the past, present and future of Alabama football. Shula, a
former Alabama QB, is now with the Miami Dolphins, while Croom, who was an
All-American center under Bryant in the '70s, would also be the first African-
American head coach in the SEC. Williamson has actually been a head coach
before (Memphis State) and played under Bryant in the '60s, not to mention
joining the Bear's staff after his playing career.
Still, other candidates include former Boston College and Jacksonville Jaguar
coach Tom Coughlin, who pulls no punches and is as straight-laced a coach as
there is -- something the Crimson Tide desperately need.
Could Dennis Green be lured out of the non-coaching ranks to man the sidelines
once again? He is familiar with the college ranks, having success at Stanford
and could represent the kind of forward progress that Alabama is in desperate
need of, again becoming the first African-American coach in the SEC.
The names continue to swirl, including Carl Torbush (former North Carolina
head coach and Alabama assistant under Franchione) and Jim Donnan (former
Georgia coach, who obviously is familiar with the SEC).
There are others to be sure, but these names may just be the best of the
There is certainly no room for error this time around.
For the Alabama brass, they must think outside the box for a change and make
the right decision, not necessarily the logical one.
Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at