Tide success indisputable

Only the illiterate would fail to grasp that Alabama is clearly number one in Southeastern Conference football. <br><br>One needs only to read the record book.

National Championships: Alabama nine (not counting three earned before the SEC formed), no other school more than two

Most victories: Alabama, 750 (despite NCAA-mandated forfeits of eight victories)

Best winning percentage: Alabama, 71.7% (despite eight wins and one tie turned into nine losses by NCAA)

Most bowl games: Alabama (51, best in nation)

Most bowl victories: Alabama (29, best in nation)

SEC Championships: Alabama 21 (next best 13)

Undefeated and untied teams: Alabama 11, next best 6

All-Time SEC Standings: Alabama first

Intraconference Record: Alabama has a winning record against every SEC opponent

Winning Streaks: Alabama two longest (28), four of six longest

Consecutive SEC Victories: Alabama (27)

Best record against non-conference teams: Alabama

In fact, there is not one football team SEC record not held by Alabama.

And though somewhat subjective, few would argue that the greatest football coach of all time was also at Alabama.

In the 1960s and 1970s Alabama dominated not only the SEC but also the nation as the Crimson Tide teams of Paul "Bear" Bryant forged an incredible record.

But there have been many other outstanding coaches in the SEC. A reasonable contention is that college football is a coaches' game. In other words, the teams with the best coaches do the best. There are other factors. The best coach in the world can only do so much at Vanderbilt, where academic requirements are above standard and athletics facilities sub-standard. But at a few schools -- Alabama, Tennessee, Florida among them in the SEC --, having the best coach will usually result in the best record.

And that's good news for Alabama, which now appears to have the best coach in the SEC, one of the best in the nation in Dennis Franchione. And while there is a mitigating factor in the number of championships that can be won for the next couple of years (an unprecedented NCAA penalty that has nothing to do with Franchione), things look very bright for the Crimson Tide.

While Alabama followers are aware of the great success of the Crimson Tide under Bryant, there have been other periods when a team dominated in the SEC because of superior coaching. Speaking of which, the most obvious and most recent example is the Steve Spurrier era at Florida. At a school which had had minimal success at best before Spurrier arrived in 1990 (the Gators still rank only fourth in all-time SEC standings), in his 12 years Spurrier won 122 games, including having an 82-12 SEC record and winning six SEC titles. Florida had never won an SEC Championship before Spurrier and doesn't appear likely to add another anytime soon.

Tennessee is the team that has been closest to Alabama in almost every area of football excellence. And the Vols, like all teams, have been able to dominate when they had the best coach in the league, as they did at one time under General Robert Neyland. Although a great part of Neyland's career at Tennessee was pre-SEC (the conference was formed in 1933), Neyland was coach of five of the Vols' 13 SEC championships and one of the two national championships earned by Tennessee teams.

Even SEC teams that aren't likely to be nationally dominant, such as Auburn, Arkansas, and Mississippi, have done their best when they had coaches who were considered at or among the best in the league. For Arkansas, that is when they were in the Southwest Conference and Frank Broyles was the head coach. Auburn had its best period under Pat Dye in the 1980s, Ole Miss its best in the 1950s and 1960s under Johnny Vaught. And Vaught was fortunate in that in his 25 years Alabama and Mississippi played only seven times, Bama winning five.

A couple of other teams with national championships, LSU and Georgia, did it more with far superior athletes (Billy Cannon at LSU, Herschel Walker at Georgia) than with coaching.

While the Bryant era is the best known in Crimson Tide history, other Alabama coaches have had great success. Gene Stallings won a national championship. Frank Thomas is in the College Football Hall of Fame as he was 115-24-7 and won four SEC titles in his 15 seasons (13 after the formation of the SEC). And Thomas's predecessor, another Hall of Fame member, Wallace Wade had a record of 61-13-3.

There's little doubt that when the best coach is at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has dominated. And it looks as though Bama will have the SEC's best coach -- Dennis Franchione -- for many years to come. Twice a finalist for the -- ahem -- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award as national coach of the year, it seems to be just a matter of time before Franchione is leading Bama into national championship contention.

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