Alabama lost a football game Saturday, something that happens on occasion. In fact, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban’s fabulous record notwithstanding, he has lost at least one game in all but one of his previous eight seasons at Bama.
One of the predictable results of Alabama playing poorly and losing a football game are warnings that the sky is falling, at least on Tuscaloosa. National pundits, among others, are the first to realize that the good times are over, or at least nearing an end, for the Crimson Tide.
The dynasty is over.
One thing about that is true. It has been a dynasty, and not the first in Crimson Tide history.
The recent run has been the gold standard of college football. Not counting the first season under Saban, 2007, when he came in to rebuild, the record from 2008 through last Saturday’s 43-37 loss to Ole Miss has been 86-12.
That includes this year’s current record of 2-1, but not the supposed final 2015 record of 2-10.
Although Saban has coached Alabama to three national championships in the previous six seasons, now the suggestion is that the Tide will be lucky to finish 2015 in Shreveport.
This is not the first time there has been a national prediction (sometimes tinged with hope) that the end is near for Bama football.
The Tide suffered through back-to-back six-win seasons in 1969 and 1970. Although there was no talk radio or Internet to fuel the fires of Bama demise, some national columnists saw the situation. Paul Bryant had been a very fine coach, but it was over. As one put it graciously, he was “in the twilight of a great career.”
One of Bryant’s regular challenges to his players was that they would face hardships in their lives and the lessons he was teaching them on the football field would help them face up to those adversities.
He took his own advice. Bryant rolled up his sleeves, changed the way he had done things over the previous couple of years (notably changing to the wishbone offense from the pro-set of national championship days under the likes of Joe Namath and Steve Sloan), and over the next few years put most of his adversaries into the twilight of their careers.
From 1971—the season after the so-called demise of Alabama football -- through the end of his career in 1982 the Crimson Tide went 124-18, won 9 Southeastern Conference championships, and 3 national championships. Bryant won two more National Coach of the Year and six SEC Coach of the Year honors. He would finish his 25-year Bama career with a 232-46-9 record and his total head coaching mark at 323-85-17.
For some reason, there was a tendency then, as now, to think that great coaches suddenly forget their craft, or that the game has passed them by.
Don’t look for Nick Saban to change to the wishbone, but don’t look for him to fade away, either. Saban knows what wins football games. It takes good recruiting and good coaching, and on Saturdays blocking and tackling.
Saban shows no sign of letting up.