Crimson Tide Once Proud, Now Forgettable?

When the hours ticked away on the almost annual occasion of The Day the BCS Went to Hell and Back (alias December 2), I decided to peruse some Big Ten and SEC message boards, to see what kind of lobbying was going on with Florida fans, Michigan fans, and the fans of the two conferences.

The results of the not-so-scientific experiment were exactly as you would think: SEC fans stating, "We've seen that game. Ohio State won." The Big Ten fans would confidently say, "Who cares if the two best teams in the country are in the same conference and played each other?"

Every once in a while, an opposing conference fan would join the fray.

They might as well have been suggesting Green Party policies at a county Republican Party convention.

The content of the two factions was not surprising in the least bit. What was surprising was a line I saw on an SEC board, between the chatter, in a poster's signature.

"Alabama Basketball: Outperforming Alabama Football Since 2003."

It's not like that statement is some ludicrous statement at all. In fact, it would be far more ludicrous to suggest the reverse to be true. It's just that it doesn't look right. At all.

Imagine the following words in 25 years: "North Carolina Football: Outperforming North Carolina Basketball Since 2028."

You can't. It just doesn't make sense.

And let's just say that you still believe Alabama is an elite college football program just going through a little lull. If a lull is 10 seasons, I'll be willing to give you that.

Since 1996, when coach Gene Stallings retired, Alabama is 67-55. The Tide's two main rivals, Auburn and Tennessee, have gone 83-40 and 94-31 in the same time span. Alabama is also 3-7 against their arch-rival Tigers and 2-8 when facing the Volunteers in the same time span.

Tide fans will point to the three 10-win seasons post-Stallings as evidence that their program can still compete at a high level in the SEC.

However, if the three seasons are taken away from the last 10 years, you are left with a less than pedestrian 37-47 record. The elite teams in any conference simply don't fare that poorly in less-than-hallmark years. And elite teams surely don't have three non-winning seasons in four years, as 'Bama has done.

But yet, Alabama is still, undoubtedly, one of the most tradition-rich programs in the country. Even Auburn and Tennessee fans would have to reluctantly admit that fact, and that the whole sport of college football, much less the SEC, is better with Alabama in prominence.

Meanwhile, the tradition that Alabama possesses is not resonating with the players who could turn the Crimson Tide back into a national powerhouse.

According to, Alabama has the No. 22 recruiting class in the nation for 2007. That's not bad considering that most power-conference recruits have already verbally committed. What is bad for their recruiting is that seven SEC programs have incoming classes that rank in the top 15, five in the top 10, and three in the top five.

In addition, every day that goes by with Alabama having not named a coach to replace Mike Shula makes it more likely that some of their 14 recruits will back out of their verbal commitments and go elsewhere.

It goes without saying that the Tide need to hire someone to lead the most successful SEC program in history sooner rather than later. But Alabama also needs a coach that can turn around the school's fortunes immediately, make losing the seasons forgettable history, get the big recruits, and then consistently win a number of games in the SEC every year.

The biggest factor for a potential Alabama coach is that he has to be able to not allow the immense pressure that comes with coaching in Tuscaloosa to get to him.

One coach who could do that is the Miami Dolphins' Nick Saban, who turned around programs at Michigan State and LSU, who each were in similar positions that Alabama is currently when Saban took over. Saban has been linked with Alabama for weeks now, but has said previously, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

Speculation is still rife, however, that Alabama is basically prepared to write a blank check for Saban, possibly offering more that the $5 million per year Saban currently receives from the Dolphins.

The presumed frontrunner, should Saban stay true to his word, is likely Wake Forest's Jim Grobe. The Deamon Deacons coach could likely make a solid group out of the players currently at 'Bama, as he led a group of unheralded players to a 10-2 record and an Orange Bowl berth. However, he's never even touched a job with quite the amount of expectations and pressure that Alabama puts on a coach.

Another coach who is a possibility for the job is Navy's Paul Johnson. Johnson has won national championships at the Division I-AA level, and has taken Navy to four straight bowl games, something that is not too easy to do with a service academy in this day and age of college football, and with an old-school triple-option offense, something that may be even harder.

No matter whom the coach may become at the university known as The Capstone in the state of Alabama, there is still the potential, money, and the incredible fan support for the program to return to a top college football program.

After all, it just doesn't look right for Alabama football to be bad. At all.

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