I tried to think of something witty to say about this, but it has rendered me utterly speechless.
After looking at what people said about Saban in 2007, we got to thinking, “Surely everyone, even if everyone doesn’t like him, has to admit that this little dude is Mount Rushmore of College Coaching worthy at this point, right?
Despite the fact that Alabama administered a drubbing that probably gave Steve Spurrier Nebraska-colored night terrors, some people wanted to blame the referees. As we surfed across the great, frightening void that is the college football message board universe, we came across some other viable explanations…
Because Alabama can’t be THAT good legitimately, right?
Why it makes sense: Alabama’s players are, like, real big, man.
Why it makes no sense: Alabama has been to a BCS bowl after 4 of Alabama’s 6 seasons under Coach Saban. With BCS bowls comes NCAA testing, which cost Robby Green his Tide career after the 2009 BCS National Championship game. If you’re going to ‘roid, you’d best keep your ambitions limited to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Why it makes sense:
Why it doesn’t make sense: LOL WUT? I’m sure that Saban’s record at Michigan State is somehow relevant, but I can’t figure out exactly how. The fact is that Saban’s signing classes have always been within NCAA rules…and given Notre Dame’s 20-plus seniors on the field, did they really just need more players?
Why it makes sense: It doesn’t.
Why it doesn’t make sense: We got a penalty for this.
Ah, 2007. Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. Boris Yeltsin died. And on January 3rd, Nick Saban was sexually assaulted by a drunken Alabama fan wearing the best jersey that Wal-Mart has to offer.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why were were all so excited. We didn’t care about the, “Guess I’m gonna have to say it . . . ” line. We didn’t care about his 15-17 record in the NFL (which was actually a miracle and a testament to his ability, given his quarterback situation). We had seen the product that Alabama had been up against when we played Nick Saban’s LSU. It was big, fast, and made your team look puny in comparison. The 2003 LSU game, although the final score doesn’t look overly brutal (as many of Saban’s slow-bleed victories sometimes don’t) will forever go down in my mind as the truest “Hulk on Loki” moment of the Shula era.
Our opponents…well, for whatever reason (*cough* fear of this current reality *cough*), our opponents weren’t as enthralled with the hire as Alabama fans were.
Today, pre-eminent Alabama football historian kleph, the man behind the invaluable resource Remember the Rose Bowl, took to Twitter with some research about what some of those opposing fans, doubting national pundits, and other anti-Sabanites had to say in 2007.
Let this serve as a warning, friends. If it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever.
It’s a really depressing time to be a fan of just about any SEC school other than Alabama. LSU, the second most successful program since Saban took over in Tuscaloosa, has to look back at the post-2007 years and wonder why all that hardware was left on the table. Auburn is Auburning as hard as I’ve ever seen them Auburn. Florida just got Utah’d. UGA just had their best chance to win a national championship since before Herschel Walker developed an imaginary friend that lives in his pocket. And, to top it all off, it’s almost impossible to make fun of Alabama right now. Alabama’s got the consensus best-Coach-in-the-land. Alabama’s players rarely get in off-the-field trouble, and they uniformly represent themselves and their school well in media. You had the statue to make fun of, and I agree it does look Andy Griffith begging for his life in a prison closet, but even that rings a bit hollow since he continued to back up his status with more wins.
The one constant that the opponent message board rubble always fall back on, however, is Alabama “making up” national championships. ”Alabama beat Western Kentucky? They just claimed another championship.”
Alabama claims 14 championships as of this writing, and we are proud to tell you, 13 of them are perfectly defensible and legitimate. That is because that, while there is no set-in-stone method for picking One Champion To Rule Them All in college football days of yore, the system that has been unofficially adopted among college football royalty is not as convoluted or dynamic as some would have you believe.
I Choose You, Princeton
For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to do something that is arbitrary and biased…because, let’s face it, college football’s national championship “system” has always been arbitrary and biased. I’m going to pretend that college football began in 1925. This isn’t to invalidate any claims earlier than this which schools may elect to make (Princeton University, YOUR 1869 national champs) or minimize any teams before this year (hey Auburn, you should really claim 1913); this is simply a discussion about Alabama’s national championships, and since 1925 was our first, that’s when our analysis will begin.
Here’s where things actually get a lot simpler. Since we’re starting at 1925, there’s only an 11 year period where the water is so murky we can’t see the bottom. That’s because 1936 marks the beginning of the “Poll Era.” For better or worse, as we will discuss later, this solved a lot of problems (and caused some new ones).
So, how do we choose our 1925-1936 National Champions? We’re going to go by a system that both Notre Dame and Alabama agree on (when it suits each)…and I think it’s a good system. Undefeated Rose Bowl champions = national champions. This is how Notre Dame claims its 1924 national championship…it won the 1924 Rose Bowl, and then didn’t go to another bowl game until the 1969 season’s Cotton Bowl. Also, we do like to settle things on the field, don’t we? While multiple selectors chose the 1925, 1926, 1930, and 1934 Alabama teams as national champions, all of these teams also won the Rose Bowl. In addition, all 4 of these teams had as-good or better records than all other claimants to the crown. Sorry, Boudreaux, these are legitimate titles.
Go To The Polls
In 1936, we got the AP poll. Fourteen years later, we got the UPI poll, which would come to be the modern day Coaches’ Poll (we’re going to call it the UPI because that’s just 3 letters, aight?). Let’s stop right here and address a little nuance. At various times, the AP and UPI selected their champions prior to the bowl games. Sometimes this hurt Alabama, sometimes this helped Alabama. In any event, we are going to recognize the champion of each poll when that champion was chosen because that is the system at the time. It’s like this…if you are driving on a stretch of highway with a speed limit of 55, and you get pulled over for going 65, it’s not a defense to say that said highway’s speed limit was 65 ten years ago. Rules change. Once upon a time, safeties were even allowed to tackle. You’ve gotta live with the rules as they were at the time.
Moving on, our first claimed championship of the poll era was 1941…the whole point of this diatribe. We’ll move right along and come back to that, because there’s not a lot to say about the next 9 championships. I’ll break it down easy: for every other post 1941 championship Alabama claims, the Tide was selected as a champion by either the AP or the UPI or both. I don’t think there’s a school in America that DOESN’T claim such championships. 1961? AP and UPI. 1964? AP and UPI. 1965? AP and UPI. 1973? UPI. 1978? AP. 1979? AP and UPI. 1992, 2009, and 2011, AP, Coaches’ Poll, and every other legitimate selector.
So, if you’re mad at me for writing this…don’t be. If anything, it’s a confirmation that a full 13 of Alabama’s 14 claimed titles would be claimed by absolutely any school in the nation.
Why Not 1941?
We now get to the Troublesome Title of 1941. It is true that we didn’t claim this title until the 1980′s, but the same is true with our other pre-poll era titles that we have already established as legitimate. The fact that the championships were not claimed until later does not, in itself, invalidate any claim. The problem with 1941 is actually three-fold. 1) It’s a poll era team that didn’t win a poll. 2) Finishing position in the legitimate poll of that time. 3) It doesn’t jive with 2011. Hang in there with me on #3.
First, we have learned that the AP poll started in 1936. Did they pick a national champion in 1941? Yep…the AP, along with a vast majority of other contemporary selectors, chose Minnesota as the 41 national champs. Minnesota went undefeated, won the Big 10 championship, and was #1 in the AP poll 7 out of the 8 weeks the poll was taken.
Meanwhile, Alabama finished the year 20th in the AP poll. The Tide’s best win was in the Cotton Bowl versus #9 Texas A&M (Minnesota’s best win was over #5 Michigan in Ann Arbor). Then, there were the two losses. Alabama didn’t just lose to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt…the Tide didn’t score in either loss. Bama ended up finishing 3rd in the SEC that year behind MSU and Tennessee.
Now, what does 1941 have to do with 2011? The selector on which our claim is based. Alabama’s 1941 championship is claimed based on being #1 in what some people incorrectly call the “Houlgate Poll.” The Houlgate System was not a poll, but was, and is, a mathematical formula developed by Carroll “Deke” Houlgate. How does the system works? Like most proprietary football ranking formulas, we really don’t know. Although Mr. Houlgate’s system ceased official publication in 1957, his family still puts out yearly rankings based on the system to this day. Who did the system choose as the 2011 champions? Your LSU Bayou Bengals.
From our research, we can’t find any other school in the nation that claims a championship solely based on landing the #1 spot in the Houlgate system (such as Notre Dame’s 1927 team).
What Does All This Mean?
Really, showing the folly in 1941, in my opinion, first underscores that the 13 other Alabama national championships are perfectly legitimate. As for ’41, we purists are never going to get our way. We (the University, that is), claims 1941, has literally set it in stone, and that’s never going to change. I’ve made peace with it, and have decided to personally use it as a mental placeholder for other championships which may be have been earned, but not awarded.
Well, Beaumont, if you’ve made peace with it, why are you ranting about it? Just for education, my friends…because as I have said about 9 times at this point, an understanding of 1941 helps one mount a substantive challenge to rivals that claim that Alabama claiming questionable championships is the rule. Instead, 1941 shows that such a claim is the lone, lonely exception.
If you were looking for a picture of Derek Dooley holding Nick Saban’s disembodied head while riding a bear with laser eyes, right-click and save now…because it’s probably your only chance.
No college football team has reached a bowl game more times than Alabama. When it takes the field against Notre Dame, the Tide will be making its ridiculous sixtieth (60…six zero) bowl appearance. For a long while, getting to a bowl, any bowl, was a massive achievement for any college football team. When Paul Bryant won his first of six national championships in 1961, there were a scant 9 total bowl games…and I’m counting the First/Last Annual Aviation Bowl in that number because I have to. Other than that, you had the Sugar, Orange, Rose, Cotton, Gator, Bluebonnet, Liberty, and something called the Gotham Bowl which was twice as successful as the Aviation Bowl, being played twice before it was thrown into the sarlacc pit of college football history.
As times progressed, however, an amazing thing happens. Companies realized that every time you start a new bowl game, an angel gets its wings…and those wings are made of $100 bills. At present, we now have 35 bowl games, which reward…uhm…mild competence? If you’re Central Michigan, you can fail to beat any team that won over 3 games, and still go to, and win, a bowl. If you’re West Virginia, limping your way to .500 earns you the privilege of being physically manhandled by Syracuse in a blizzard on a baseball field.
As the years have progressed, Alabama has not been immune to these terrible bowl games. After all, let’s be honest…from 1982 to 2007, Bama was a lot like Brett Favre in his last year. You remember he was awesome once, and you can see flashes of it every now and then, but it just wasn’t what it once was.
Now, sitting again upon our throne, it’s a little easier to look back and…”appreciate”…some of the truly terrible bowl games that Alabama played in over the years. To date, we still haven’t had to play in the Anything.com Bowl, or any bowl named after a regional credit union, but there were still some doozies, both in lack of prestige and ultimate result.
5. 1985 Aloha Bowl, Alabama 24 – USC 3
If you just look at the team names, this doesn’t look all that bad. And, to be sure, it was nice to be in a bowl period, considering that the 1984 season had ended with the first losing record since the Ears Whitworth administration. A deeper dive, unfortunately, really makes this game hard to look at. Putting aside the fact that USC was a 5 loss team coming into this game, and that it was played in front of less than half the people that saw Alabama knock off #7 Auburn just a few weeks before, you’re still left to watch Mike Shula handing off to Gene Jelks. If only those two would have been so smitten with pig roasts and flowery shirts, they might have never returned to the mainland, leaving the rest of us fans with slightly less problems in the years to come.
4. 2001 Independence Bowl, Alabama 14 – Iowa State 13
Memories of a coach that did us wrong? Check. Terrible bowl? Check. Terrible bowl locale? Check. Terrible opponent? Check. Knowledge, in the back of your mind, that the kick was good? Check.
3. 2004 Music City Bowl, Minnesota 20 – Alabama 16
We comforted ourselves for years after this one by saying, “Well, Barber and Maroney were obviously pretty good.” That aside, I’m not sure if the image of Prothro wide open in the end zone in the game’s final seconds will ever be completely erased from memory. Oh, and then there’s that whole, “We were in the Music City Bowl” thing to deal with, as well, which isn’t ideal.
2. 2006 Independence Bowl, Oklahoma State 34 – Alabama 31
I’m just gonna leave this right here.
1. 1998 Music City Bowl, Virginia Tech 38 – Alabama 7
First, you’re the first ever SEC team to have the dishonor of playing in the Music City Bowl. Second, the weather for the game was like being in Siberia, only with more rain and less caribou. Third, you fool yourself into thinking you have a chance when it’s only 10-7 at halftime. Fourth, you then get blown completely out by pre-Vick Virginia Tech. Fifth, Mike DuBose is still your coach. I could keep going. I could even mention that national anthem. But I won’t, because after writing up this list, I need to self-medicate.
We’ve noticed that there has been a term that has been increasingly more prevalent amidst your typical Auburn propaganda lately…a term that is not new, but that has been been given new life and meaning since the Gene Chizik hire.
That term…is Auburn Man.
What is an Auburn Man? Our crack team of Boogologists has been studying the term all week, and the best we can come up with is that it is a idealized image of a person who is so committed to Auburn University that they deserve praise and acclaim…even if they have no accomplishments, skills, or talents to justify that reception.
You know…like Gene Chizik.
But we will give the Auburn folks this much…they are very good at marketing (just look at the billboards below. Knowing that “Auburn Man” would be a hit all across the Boogosphere, they quickly did what any self-respecting capitalist would do…they turned that idea into an action figure! Get your Auburn Man now…they’ll be flying off the shelves (until about the middle of October).
(Click to Enlarge)