Legendary Alabama Football Coach Envisioned A CFB Decades Ago
Alabama was winning National Championships long before there were the College Football Playoffs, but the man who brought six of them to the Capstone long ago envisioned the CFP being a part of the game.
Paul “Bear” Bryant coached the Tide primarily in the 1960s and 70s when the title was decided among voters in the AP and UPI polls. But he knew that eventually, this sometimes unfair system would be replaced.
Here is what he said about the playoffs in this very interesting interview with another college football legend, Keith Jackson, on ABC Sports in the early 1980s.
“Well, yes and no,” Bryant responded to Jackson’s initial question inquiring about whether or not Bryant wanted a playoff or he if happy the way things were at the time with the polls. “I’m happy with the way it is regardless of what people say about the polls. I think the playoffs will get a true champion.
“On the other hand I doubt very seriously the academic people could afford to go along with a playoff. However, I think the time will come they will have to because of financial conditions.
“I would be for the playoffs if it didn’t interfere with the bowls (pause), not that I have a vote.
“And the reason I would be for ’em, more than anything really, is we have NO college exposure in the media for three or four weeks. If we had some bowls going, why then we’ll take away a little of that gravel from the Super Bowl.”
Bryant as it turns out, was not just great coach but was a very good PR man, too.
How The Polls – And Notre Dame – Denied Bryant Two Titles
Bryant both loved and loathed the polls. He loved the season-long publicity it brought to his school (and to himself) and he loved it when things worked out and he won national titles. But he loathed them when his team were victims of them, most notably when his 1966 team went undefeated but finished not first but third behind Notre Dame which played for a tie and the team the Irish tied, Michigan State.
That would have given Bryant and Alabama three consecutive National Championships, something that has not even happened today.
A dozen years later, Bryant’s second-ranked Tide was jumped by fifth-ranked one-loss Notre Dame (that loss having come to Ole Miss, gosh almighty) in 1977. Alabama won titles in 1978 and 1979 and thus was again denied three consecutive championships because of the polls. And favorable poll voting for Notre Dame.