Who Wants To Be In Shreveport?

It is interesting to read what others think about Alabama being in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport for a Thursday afternoon game of no consequence. The consensus opinion: Bama doesn't want to be there and therefore will not play well.

That should not be the case for Alabama football players. No one on this Crimson Tide team has been in a bowl game with national championship implications. When all is said and done, the Independence Bowl falls into the same mix with most of the others.

Alabama will meet Oklahoma State in Independence Bowl Stadium (53,000) at 3:30 p.m. CST Thursday. ESPN will telecast the game, the first ever football game between the Crimson Tide and the Cowboys.

Although Bama went to the Cotton Bowl last year, the Dallas bowl is only a shadow of its former self when it was part of the Big Four. With college athletics now all about money, the Cotton Bowl's longtime tradition in college football was given the heave ho from the Big Four in exchange for the Fiesta Bowl's big bucks.

Some bowls have better payouts than others, but for teams in the Southeastern Conference there is a big payday for everyone at the spring meeting since much of the bowl revenue is divided. Some locales are better. Playing in Louisiana, who wouldn't take the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans over the Independence Bowl in Shreveport?

Everyone involved in Alabama athletics is pleased to be playing in a bowl game. Although it would not be difficult to argue that Bama didn't deserve a bowl game with its 6-6 record forged against woeful competition, the Crimson Tide nevertheless "qualified" for the Independence just as Florida qualified for the National Championship Game.

For every bowl team it means a reward for the players, reward today meaning the players enjoy the $500 value gift package put on each participant and the travel money schools are permitted to give the players.

Every bowl team also gets additional practice time. Teams use that time in different ways, but all teams will have players improve because of the extra work. A team is allowed only 15 spring practice dates, only four of which are primarily scrimmage days. In preparation for the Independence Bowl, Alabama had some hard work, particularly for those who got little playing time in the fall.

Alabama and Oklahoma State have little in common insofar as college football and bowl tradition. Alabama is among the leading names in college football, while the Cowboys are number two in their state.

An interesting aspect of the game is that the winner will finish the year with a winning record and the loser will have a losing record. Both are 6-6 going into the Independence Bowl game. In 2001, Bama went into the Independence Bowl against Iowa State with a 6-5 record and managed a 14-13 win to avoid falling to a non-winning season. In 2004, the Tide went into the Music City Bowl with a 6-5 record and lost to Minnesota, 20-16, to drop from a winning season to a 6-6 mark.

In addition to the extra practice time, the Independence Bowl serves another purpose for Alabama.

No team in college football history has the tradition of Alabama when it comes to bowl games.

Alabama is number one in the nation in bowl game participation. This will be number 54. Texas and Tennessee are closest to Bama, both eight fewer.

Alabama is number one in the nation in bowl victories with 30. Southern Cal is two behind.

Those marks alone make the Independence Bowl important for Alabama.

Joe Kines is the 11th man to serve as head coach for Alabama in a bowl game. Although this will be Kines' 19th bowl game, it will be his first as head coach.

Alabama has had four former players who were both players and head coaches in bowl games. They are Paul Bryant (who played on the winning Tide team in the 1935 Rose Bowl and coached Bama in 24 consecutive bowl games with a record of 12-10-2), Ray Perkins (who played in three bowls and coached in three and was a winner in all six), Mike DuBose (winless in five bowl games, three as a player and two as head coach), and Mike Shula (a winner in two bowl games as a player and 1-1 as a coach).

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