It’s little wonder the Crimson Nation is so excited about Nick Saban. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been a fairly painful run for us Alabama football fans lately. Of course, there was the national title in ’92, and we improbably jumped up and won the SEC in ’99. But other than that, it’s been lean times, folks. We were supposed to compete for the national title in 2000, and finished 3-8. We were poised for greatness off a 10-win season in 2002, and our coach bolted. Etc.
The accusation that makes me bristle the most is that Alabama fans live in a dream world. “It’s never going to be like it was under Bear Bryant,” some jackass will say, mistaking his Miller Lite-breath for an aura of profundity. “These days it’s unrealistic to expect to win your conference all the time and compete for the national title every year.”
Excuse me? What is it, exactly, that Florida and Florida State did in the ’90s, then? What is it, exactly, that USC, Ohio State, and at least three SEC teams are doing now? It’s not about going undefeated every single year. Alabama never did that, even at the height of Bryant’s success. What it is about is being a legitimate championship candidate every single year, and winning them often enough to stay in the discussion year in and year out.
In the grand scheme, Alabama is “supposed to be” that kind of contender. And fortunately, the memory of American college football fans is quite long indeed. Today, when anyone talks about USC, do you ever hear a mention of the (quite recent) days in which it took them three seasons to win 10 ball games? Of course not. You hear instead about the past five seasons that it’s taken them to lose only six. After all, USC’s one of the storied few juggernauts in college football. Of course they’re awesome; they’re USC. (Never mind that they well and truly sucked as recently as 1991, and finished below .500 as recently as 2000.)
As with USC (or Notre Dame, or Oklahoma, or…), so with Alabama. I don’t know how long Coach Saban is going to stay, but I bet it’s long enough to put up back-to-back 10-win seasons with an SEC championship in one or both of them, and that’s all it will take. Alabama will be back among the elite, and no one will acknowledge it was ever any different.
It’s not an unreasonable expectation.