Bama Question: Bowl Or Home For Holidays

An intelligent Alabama fan was already thinking ahead following the Crimson Tide's woeful performance in losing a sixth straight game to Auburn Saturday night. He thought it would be best if Bama did not go to a bowl game this season.

It may be a moot point. There is the possibility that Alabama will not be invited to a bowl game this year. More likely, though, some bowl selection committee is going to want the Crimson Tide.

Alabama's first and last bowl games under Coach Paul Bryant were Liberty Bowl outings, the first at the end of the 1959 season in Philadelphia, the last his final game, concluding the 1982 season in Memphis. Many expect Coach Nick Saban's first Alabama team to return to Memphis.

That will all be finalized after the BCS games are announced next Monday.

Back to the point made by my friend, that Alabama should just say "No" to bowls this year.

Last year, he pointed out, Alabama took a 6-6 team to a bowl game and ended up with a losing record when Bama lost to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl. To take another 6-6 team bowling risks another losing season, the first back-to-back losing seasons since 1956 and 1957, which led to Bryant's return to Bama.

Others have said that the coaches need to spend the time recruiting, not coaching in a meaningless bowl game.

It's hard to consider any bowl meaningless if you are Alabama.

The BCS process has made all but one bowl game meaningless, if one is talking about the national championship. Thus, the championship of the Outback Bowl or the Capital One Bowl is not any different than the championship of the Independence Bowl.

A little more is on the line for Alabama, which has a slim lead in its all-time national record of bowl victories. The Tide has 30 bowl wins, runner-up Southern Cal 29. Of course, going to a bowl game doesn't necessarily mean Bama could add to that total. But not going guarantees that the Tide can't get to 31.

Alabama's all-time national record of 54 bowl game appearances is safe for a few years, at least. The runners-up are eight bowl games behind Bama.

What about the "time away from recruiting" argument? I don't think it washes. This staff has shown that it can recruit even during the middle of football season. Having a bowl game does at least a couple of things to help recruiting. One, it keeps the Crimson Tide name in the newspapers and on television and the Internet during preparation and play. Two, when a team is preparing for a bowl game, it is an opportunity for prospects who have finished their seasons to come and see how Alabama conducts practice.

There's no way to know how Coach Saban would use the practice time. There are at least two general plans. One is to work strictly in preparation for the upcoming game. That would be particularly true if the national championship is on the line. The other is to give extra practice time to those players who have had little or no time in the Alabama system. That's the so-called "extra spring practice" theory.

Some coaches use the extra time with particularly physical work. Some coaches use the bowl game as a reward for the players and don't ratchet up the sessions.

Which begs the question: Does this Alabama team deserve a reward? Alabama was bowl-eligible after beating Tennessee on October 20 and has done nothing since but lose...four times.

If Bama is invited, it will be the decision of athletics officials, presumably Saban making the final determination as to whether Alabama goes bowling. In his post-game remarks after the loss to Auburn, he said, "I would love for our players to have the opportunity to go play in a bowl game."

That seems to be the correct choice. This team has gone through tough times, some of it the making of the players and some not. A case can be made on the reward basis.

But the extra practice time and extra exposure to prospects time seems to be the bigger issue.

And going to a bowl game will extend at least one all-time national record. Those are hard to come by.

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