When In Tuscaloosa, See Bryant Museum
On my first real day in Tuscaloosa, I was given a private tour of the Paul W. Bryant Museum by the director, Ken Gaddy. His knowledge of the subject matter was incredibly insightful and interesting.
As we walked around, I saw Bear Bryant's six national championship rings, his Medal of Freedom, and the replica of his Alabama office, among other special trophies, trinkets, and photos.
Bryant had a long couch that sat in front of his desk in his office. (It's on the left side in the museum mock-up.) The story often told is that if a player was sitting on that couch, he was in trouble. Deep trouble actually, since when a player sat on it, he'd sink way, way down so he'd be looking up at Bryant while the coach scolded him.
Keep on walking and you'll approach the side of the room with several tall glass cases commemorating many of Alabama's bowl victories over the years. Jerseys, pictures and awards won throughout that specific season are delicately placed on display. Each one also has a little TV that continuously shows highlights of every game played during that year.
In that same hallway are a few other glass cases, including the Foy Sportsmanship Trophy, which is given to the winner of the Alabama-Auburn game every year, and a small version of the Nick Saban statue that stands outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Then of course, there are the Waterford crystal BCS Coaches Trophies—the one from 2009 and the one from '11.
I took a picture of the '09 display case to send to my friends back in Texas. Let's just say they weren't too happy to receive the photo.
Ken said the most visitors the museum has ever seen in a weekend was 5,000, and that was during a recent Crimson-White spring game. All kinds of people flock to the museum on home game weekends, Alabama fans and non. The summer is also a popular time for tours, as families pick up their kids from football camp and come in to see some sacred football history.
Ken expects the Texas A&M game weekend, which is Nov. 10, to be bustling considering Bryant's past with both programs.
After seeing all the pictures, trophies and display cases, Ken took me behind the scenes, which was my favorite part of the tour. This is where the museum's library of sorts is. Every football game dating back to the 1920s is archived in print, film and audio means.
There are stacks of 16-millimeter game reels that people who work at the museum transfer onto computers as to update in a digital media form. There are also aisles of newspaper clippings from every Alabama football game since the '20s that are kept in large red and brown books. The papers are tarnished and old and look as historic as if they had been kept over from the dark ages.
There were other rows filled with cassette tapes of different game radio broadcasts, notebooks with Bryant's plays scribbled down, rosters, starting lineups…the place has everything any researcher or historian could ever want. Indeed, the area is for serious researchers only.
Though it is the Bear Bryant Museum, the library archives other sports, too.
The museum is quite an impressive site to see for any football fanatic. While there you'll be overcome with Alabama sports knowledge, including why Bryant became attached to houndstooth and how he got the nickname "Bear" (if you don't already know).
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