Let’s just assume that Alabama fans appreciate what the Crimson Tide has done in the first nine years with Nick Saban being head coach at Bama. We’re talking four national championships, being the national brand of college football again, domination of the Southeastern Conference. Things like that.
And also suppose that Saban thinks those Alabama fans who revel in the success of the Crimson Tide football program can play a part in its continued success. Additionally, it won’t cost them a nickel, at least not at the gates at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
There are a number of things that Saban wants to see as he conducts his 10th Alabama spring football game, and among the most important is a turnout of Crimson Tide football fans.
Saban isn’t expecting have Alabama fans out to salute him as coach of Bama football, though that would not be without merit for the man who has given the Tide four national championships in his first nine years at the helm. He wants it for Alabama players.
The Bama coach noted that not many expected him to be in Tuscaloosa for a 10th A-Day Game. In fact, he said to reporters Thursday evening following the Tide’s final practice before Saturday’s spring game, “Nobody here thought that I would be here for a 10th A-Day.
“But I do remember the first A-Day here. That was probably as much to do with the success of the program because of the energy and enthusiasm and passion that 91,000 people showed up to support the program, which I think did as much to establish the foundation and the spirit around here to support players, make it special again for players to play here.
“It was certainly special for Terry and me, who had been beat up a lot about coming here to start with. It certainly did a lot to make us feel welcome and at home, and 10 years later we still feel welcome, very at home and very supported by a lot of people.”
What Saban wants Alabama fans to understand is that 10 years after that notable first spring game in which Bryant-Denny Stadium kept filling up until it was finally packed, is that attendance at the A-Day Game is still important.
Complacency seems to have set in as attendance at the spring game has dwindled over the years since that first extraordinary Saturday in 2007. Saban hopes there are long lines to see the early version of the 2016 Crimson Tide that will be playing for a second consecutive national championship and an almost incomprehensible fifth in 10 years next Fall.
Saban said, “I think it’s really important that our fans continue to show that kind of support because I know it’s so important to our players. The players we have here now are just as important as the ones we had 10 years ago, and they need all the support and help they can get and we want to make it special for them, so I hope we have a great crowd on Saturday.
“It’s a great event. I know a lot of our players are coming back. They look forward to this. It’s really special that players want to come back and be a part of Alabama’s tradition, program. It’s great for us to be able to express our appreciation to those players when they come back for all they did to help create the tradition we’ve had here. It’s a special day. A lot of special people are going to be here and I hope there will be a lot of people that turn out to support our team.”
And it’s not just for this team. There are too many examples to recount, but unquestionably past A-Day crowds have played a major part in Alabama recruiting success. The Tide will have a number of top prospects on hand Saturday for this A-Day, and Saban has no doubt a big crowd helps sway those prospects towards Tuscaloosa.
“I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that it has a tremendous impact on recruiting,” Saban said. “That was probably the catalyst that helped us. The spirit and the passion rekindled made a lot of players see that this was a great place to come and there was a great spirit and great support for them to come here. I think it was very important.
“I think it’s still important today.
“I think a lot of people try to use the number of people they have at [their spring games] to create that, because [Alabama’s 2007 A-Day crowd] was the first time that happened. It’s happened since then where people have gotten huge crowds to sort of ignite, kick start, whatever you want to call a program. I know a lot of people do that now.
“But just like we want to sustain success here, sustain recruiting success, which is probably the key, the foundation, to be able to continue to be successful. I think we also need to make the spirit and enthusiasm we show, which includes A-Day, that makes it special to be a player here. And I think that certainly impacts recruiting.”
The team held its final practice prior to Saturday’s A-Day Game, which will mark the end of spring practice. Bama worked in helmets and shorts for two hours outside on the Thomas-Drew practice fields.
The A-Day Game in Bryant-Denny Stadium will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday and there is no admission charge.
The game will have the first offense and second defense on one team, and the first defense and second offense on the other.
The game will consist of four 15-minute quarters with a running clock. The clock will be stopped only following scoring plays, penalties and changes of possession. Regular clock rules will be used during the final four minutes of the second quarter and the fourth quarter.
Saban said, “I’ve been really pleased in some ways with the progress we’ve been able to make this spring; a lot of turns, a lot of reps for a lot players. And I think that those players have improved. I think we have a long way to go as a team. I think every spring you find out a lot about your team and your team is always in a developmental stage, it’s a work in progress in terms of getting where you want to go.
“We can talk about last year’s team and the great leadership that we had and the great chemistry we had, but I’m not sure we had it [at this point in 2015]. I’m not sure we have it at this time of year. This is something that develops -- leadership, those kinds of things.
“A lot of young players are going to join the team right after Memorial Day -- in June -- and how they become a part of the team is going to be an important factor.
“We made a lot of progress this spring and I’m excited to see how some of the younger guys respond in playing in the game. I think there are areas on our team where we need to get better and add depth, and I think that’s going to be a real key to helping us be more successful in the fall.”