My Good Advice To Coach Bryant

Going to the barber shop early Thursday morning had me thinking about World Cup soccer and Coach Paul Bryant. "Huh?" you say. Here's the explanation.

I was thinking about Coach Bryant because when I worked at Alabama in sports information we did things like get haircuts and go to the bank on Fridays during football season. Every other day was too busy. And if you didn't have your work done by Friday, the theory went, it was too late.

But my barber—and he is a barber, not a stylist, and therefore reasonably priced—does his errands on Fridays, too, I guess, because he's closed on Fridays. So I had to go Thursday for my haircut.

On the drive over, I was listening to a National Public Radio report on the World Cup soccer event, which is winding down in South Africa. I haven't exactly been glued to the tube with interest, but I'm aware of it.

Very late in Coach Bryant's career, and after I had left his (and The University's) employ to start 'BAMA Magazine, I was visiting in his office when I decided to give him the benefit of my athletics management wisdom. In addition to being the Crimson Tide football coach, he was athletics director.

I had had a recent conversation with former Crimson Tide and Dallas Cowboys star Lee Roy Jordan, who was living in Dallas. He was bemoaning the growth of soccer because he saw it supplanting football. Every vacant lot in Dallas, he said, was being turned into a soccer field and the boys were playing soccer instead of football.

I knew that youth soccer was also exploding in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere in Alabama.

I pointed out to Coach Bryant that one reason for the great success of Alabama football was that Dr. George Denny (who shares the name of Bama's football stadium with Coach Bryant) had seen the benefit of having a strong team. He had hired good coaches and built good facilities and Bama football and The University reaped the rewards that continue to this day.

My advice was that Coach Bryant get Alabama ahead in the soccer game. Hire the best coach in the world. Build a good facility. And when the boom comes, Alabama will already be a powerhouse.

Pretty exciting stuff.

Coach Bryant, who had listened attentively, didn't have to consider the proposal very long. "I think I'll let the next guy do that," he said after about a second of contemplation.

That seems to have been a good decision. Soccer continues to be big at the youth level and Alabama has had a women's soccer team for many years, but there does not appear to be a clamor for it to be a men's sport at Alabama.

The next guy (Ray Perkins) didn't do it, and neither did succeeding athletics directors Steve Sloan, Hootie Ingram, Bob Bockrath, or (so far) Mal Moore. I am out of the advice business and we don't have to worry about the SEC regulating vuvuzela horns like Mississippi State cowbells.

There were two of us getting haircuts in the same small shop this morning. The other was Paul Bryant, Jr. We chatted for a few minutes, but I didn't mention soccer. I'm a quick study.

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