Nick Saban Ties Record But The Bear Came Close To Winning More Titles
I’m fed up with media and college football “experts” who are questioning and even criticizing Paul “Bear” Bryant’s six national championships.
They either were not around during that time or – in a classic failure of basic journalism – simply have not done their research.
And that includes you, Paul Finebaum. (He made light of the fact that Bama won the UPI poll before losing to Notre Dame by a point in a classic Sugar Bowl game. Hey, that’s the way things were done at the time. Finebaum should know that, too.)
Bryant’s titles have come up because Nick Saban just tied the Bear. And in this BCS-to-playoff era, it’s easier for people to say definitely that a team won a title than it was in the so-called poll area when writers and coaches voted in polls that determined the national champion.
Some media have question’s Bryant’s 1964 title, saying sarcastically the Tide lost the Orange Bowl to Texas. With Joe Namath as quarterback. Yes Bama lost that game. Namath was injured, came off the beach and led a dramatic comeback. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a sneak but officials huddled for a while and called him down half an inch short of the goal line.
“I know he made it,” guard Gaylon McCullough said afterward, “because he was laying right on top of me and I was in the end zone.”
But the game was meaningless. Bama had already been crowned National Champions because at the time, the bowl games were a mere bonus to the season and the title was awarded before the bowl games. Bama started slowly that game because the championship trophy was already in Tuscaloosa. There might have been a different outcome had the title been riding on that game. But it didn’t matter.
Here’s Bryant’s six titles: 1961 (uncontested, and in only this third year at Alabama), 1964, 1965 (uncontested after two bowl game upsets put the Tide in position to take the title if it won its bowl game against Nebraska, which is did 39-28), 1973, 1978 (in which the more highly regarded AP awarded the Tide the title after Bama beat #1 Penn State; USC won the UPI poll only after the Purdue coach voted Bama a ridiculous 6th) and 1978 (undefeated and uncontested).
And what about the titles Bryant should have won? Such as 1950 at Kentucky when he had, arguably, the best team in the country; the only loss was 7-0 to General Neyland’s Tennessee Vols in a rainstorm. He also came within an eyelash of winning one at Texas A&M in 1957 until the team unexpectedly lost two late-season games when rumors of Bryant answering the famous “mama’s call” to Alabama began circulating around College Station.
He was robbed of two at Alabama, first in 1966 when the Tide was undefeated (including the bowl game), the title instead going to Notre Dame after playing to a 10-10 tie against Michigan State. Notre Dame, it must be noted, did not go to bowl games at the time.
In 1977, Bryant’s Alabama team was #2 in the nation, destroyed Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and watched helplessly as Notre Dame leaped from #5 to #1 after the Irish beat a fumbling top-ranked Texas and Earl Campbell in the Cotton Bowl.
So instead of criticizing two of Bryant’s titles, look at how close he came to winning eight, nine and even 10.