So Much Winning Magnifies Losses

The focus here is almost always on the positives of Alabama athletics. There has never been reason for a misconception that 'BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com are anything but positive about the Crimson Tide. A recent project, though, asked for our input on the most disappointing losses in Alabama football history.



Alabama has played football since 1892 and has suffered 310 losses on the field. Probably each of those setbacks were "most disappointing" to someone. It probably devastated Alabama fans when the 1937 Crimson Tide lost to California, 13-0, in the 1938 Rose Bowl.

A case can be made that eight losses are particularly painful. Those are the seven on-the-field victories and one tie that a detestable NCAA Infractions Committee turned into losses.

Perhaps one reason every loss provides a hurt is because Alabama generally is not accustomed to losing. The Crimson Tide's remarkable record includes 821 victories (a winning percentage of over 71 per cent), 13 National Championships, national records of 57 bowl appearances and 32 bowl victories, 17 undefeated and untied seasons.

A reasonable standard of disappointment for Alabama—which has as its standard the National Championship—is how a loss affects Bama's aspirations.

To that end, we made the December 31, 1973, Sugar Bowl – Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23 – "most disappointing." Alabama had already won the UPI National Championship, which was based on regular season play only, but the Sugar Bowl was recognized as one of all-time biggest games because of stature of Alabama/Bear Bryant and Notre Dame/Ara Parseghian and was the true National Championship game.

Others in the top five:

2. 1962 in Atlanta – Georgia Tech 7, Alabama 6 (Alabama had been undefeated and National Champion in 1961 and the 1962 team went 10-1. Bama did not give up more than seven points to any opponent and outscored opponents 289-39 in 1962)

3. January 1, 1965, Orange Bowl – Texas 21, Alabama 17 (The loss didn't affect the National Championship because it was awarded based on regular season games only. But Joe Namath's heroic comeback effort was not rewarded as he a controversial official's decision, Namath was ruled to have come up inches short on a fourth-and-goal quarterback sneak)

4. 1972 in Birmingham – Auburn 17, Alabama 16 (Alabama was clearly the superior team and would defeat Auburn nine times in 10 years, but on this day Auburn blocked two Alabama punts in the fourth quarter and returned both for touchdowns to win, costing Alabama a second consecutive undefeated regular season)

5. January 1, 1975, Orange Bowl – Notre Dame 13, Alabama 11 (A second consecutive heart-breaking bowl loss to Notre Dame, this one costing Bama the UPI National Championship. Although Oklahoma was going to win the AP National Championship, the Sooners were on probation and ineligible for the UPI poll, which was voted by coaches)

Not to belabor the disappointments, but there were other possibilities. They include:

1994 SEC Championship Game – Florida 24, Alabama 23 (Only loss in 12-1 season)

1977 in Lincoln – Nebraska 31, Alabama 24 (Alabama finished 11-1 and finished second in closest vote ever for National Championship; Alabama threw five interceptions in 1977, all of them in the loss to Nebraska)

1983 in State College – Penn State 34, Alabama 28 (A touchdown pass from Walter Lewis to tight end Preston Gothard in the end zone was ruled incomplete; that TD and an extrta point kick would have given Bama victory and the greatest comeback in Crimson Tide history)

1965 in Athens – Georgia 18, Alabama 17 (Georgia scored on flea-flicker in final moments, although the receiver who caught the ball was clearly down when he made the lateral that went for the score)

1982 in Tuscaloosa – Southern Miss 39, Alabama 28 (Paul Bryant lost his final game as Alabama coach in Bryant-Denny Stadium, only the second Alabama loss in Tuscaloosa in his 25 year career)

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