At the celebration of Alabama’s first national championship under Coach Nick Saban in 2009, the Crimson Tide coach proclaimed, "I want everybody here to know, this is not the end. This is the beginning,"
And it was the beginning of a dynasty as the Crimson Tide under Saban won three national championships in a four-year span. The last one was in 2012, and since then Bama has gone 11-2 and 12-2, but come up short on national titles.
On Sept. 19, the third game of this season, Alabama was upset by Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa, 43-37.
From there, a common theme in the national media was that the Alabama dynasty was over. That didn’t come just from Internet types, and the opinions of ESPN “experts” like Danny Kannell and Joey Galloway could be ignored. But even respected journalists like Dan Wolken of USA Today and Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports were heralding the end of the era.
The game had passed Saban by. The famed Alabama defense had been rendered obsolete by the spread offenses.
A few weeks later after Alabama had rebounded with a resounding 38-10 win over then-sixth ranked Georgia in Athens, Saban took the offense. “It really doesn't matter what you think,” he said. it really doesn't matter what you say. I'm hoping nobody on our team is playing for you. I hope they're playing for each other and not what you think. because that's not what iIm doing. I'm coaching for our players and our team to be as good as it can be. If that's not pleasing to somebody else, it's not pleasing to somebody else.
“I said before, I do believe in our team. We're going to work hard to make our team better. I hope our players respond the right way. and it's not going to be for you. The fans, yes.
“Because if it was up to you, we're six foot under already. We're dead and buried. Gone. Gone.”
It seems that Saban coached, the players responded, and now Alabama is in Dallas with a Southeastern Conference championship, a 12-1 record, and a Thursday night meeting with Michigan State in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
Dynasties are hard to build and hard to maintain. Depending on who is counting, there may have been a couple of dozen in modern college football history.
This, certainly, as Saban promised in that January 2010 celebration of the win over Texas in the BCS title game, is a dynasty. Many consider the necessity of three national championships in an era for it to be a dynasty.
Check. Alabama went on to crush LSU in New Orleans to win the 2011 crown and to trounce Notre Dame in Miami for his third Bama title, the 2012 championship.
Although Saban called the 2009 season the beginning, it really started in 2008 when the Tide came up short in the SEC Championship Game for a chance to go to the BCS championship game. In the last eight years, Alabama has won more games than any other team with a 96-12 record. Three of those losses came against national championship teams and three of them to Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks. (Boise State and Oregon are second to Alabama in that period with 89 wins. LSU is second to Bama in the list with 77).
Alabama has had two other dynasties, both under Paul Bryant. From 1960-66, Alabama went 68-6-3 and won three national championships and four SEC titles. From 1971-81, the Tide was 116-15-1 with three national titles and nine SEC crowns.
The owners of dynasties over the past few decades have been the usual suspects – Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Miami, Florida State, and Southern Cal.
The most recent dynasty prior to Alabama’s run was USC under Pete Carroll from 2002-08 with the Trojans going 82-9 and taking two national championships and seven conference titles.
Lane Kiffin was a key member of the Southern Cal staff, including being offensive coordinator for the Trojans in his last two seasons there, 2005-06.
Kiffin, who is now offensive coordinator at Alabama, spoke of dynasties and his experience under two very different coaches in being a part of them, during a media day event in Dallas Tuesday.
“A dynasty is winning for a sustained amount of time,” he said. “You always win a little bit because you have a great quarterback, great defense. But can you do it for an extended time with different players and with different coaches? Obviously, we’re in the midst of one with Coach Saban. It’s great to be a part of another one.
“The only way you have that is the head coach. It changes too much. There are too many things going on. Players leaving early for the draft, coaches moving all over the place. So it has to come back to the head coach to create a dynasty and I’ve been fortunate to work for two of them.”
While Carroll was vocal in promotion of the USC dynasty, at Alabama, Kiffin said, “It’s not mentioned.”
He said that Carroll and Saban “are completely opposite and both approaches work. So it’s not really about how you do it; it’s about you have a philosophy, learning from them, learning about yourself on how you do things instead of just making mistakes on the fly. They made them, but a long time ago on a smaller stage.
“They win games because they have a philosophy, they have it nailed, and everyone in that building understands it.”
Kiffin heard about the reports of Alabama’s dynasty being over, and also about Saban’s “dead and buried” reaction to those reports. He said, “All that stuff really helped us. Because it pissed him off, obviously. So it brought everyone together. ‘Everyone’s off the bandwagon. No one out of this room matters.’ I think it worked really well. Players, coaches kind of band together ‘forget about everyone else; let’s go win.’
“That’s where coach (Saban) is so good.
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“You in the media may see a different side of him from a win or a loss, but what we see is no difference. We don’t change, meetings or practices, and that’s why he’s so good. The process is always to do better no matter the result.”