Old Photo Brings Back Memories

I had been working at my seat at the Hyatt Regency-Wynfrey for a few hours on the final day of Southeastern Conference Media Days Thursday when I realized I was sitting next to Mark Mayfield. Mark had been an outstanding sports editor of the Crimson-White, Alabama's school newspaper, back in the 1970s and is now a University professor of journalism.

After exchanging pleasantries and discussing the current Alabama football situation, Mark mentioned that he had discovered some old photographs from his days at the C-W, including several of me with Coach Paul Bryant in the press room at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The photos were following Bama's 1976 win over Tennessee, the sixth consecutive Bama win over the Vols.

This was not a great season for Alabama, a year of three losses in the middle of SEC championships 1971-75 and 1977-79. Quarterback Jack O'Rear had a couple of key runs in the winning drive in '76 in Knoxville.

There are several things I remember about the situation in the photograph. One, I think that room had been constructed primarily because of Coach Bryant. In those days, the post-game press conferences at most stadiums were conducted in a corner of the dressing room or just outside the locker room; and then one year we went to Tennessee and were introduced to this venue.

There were windows out into the exit tunnel that divided the locker room from the press room and fans gathered at those windows to watch, even though they could not hear what was being said inside.

This was the era of Alabama players and coaches smoking victory cigars after wins over Tennessee. Coach Bryant did not like cigars at all. When the subject came up, he would remember that his coach – Frank Thomas – smoked "stinky" cigars, and that Bryant hated to go into his office because of that. Nevertheless, the coach joined in the tradition (started by Tide trainer and Tennessee graduate Jim Goostree) and puffed away while answering the questions of journalists.

Finally, I vaguely remember the relatively young sports information director at the far right in this photo having dark hair.

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