July 29, 2008 11:05 AM
Posted by ESPN.com’s Chris Low
Maybe it’s the fact that Alabama once dominated this league like nobody has since or before.
Maybe it’s the fact that Paul W. “Bear” Bryant is the most iconic figure in all of college football history.
Maybe it’s the fact that Alabama has been caught cheating each of the last two decades, serving three years of NCAA probation in the mid 1990s and five years of NCAA probation from 2002-’07.
Maybe it’s that obnoxious elephant roar at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Maybe it’s Bryant’s gravelly voice still being piped in over the loudspeaker at Bryant-Denny Stadium before every game.
Maybe it’s the fact that Alabama is … well, Alabama.
Love the Tide or loathe the Tide, how many college football programs stoke the passions of so many in one state the way Alabama does — not just every Saturday — but 365 days a year?
Just an extracurricular activity? Yeah, right.
At Alabama, it’s a way of life. If you don’t believe so, Tide fans will gladly tell you. They talk about past glory as if it happened just yesterday.
Never mind that they’ve won just one SEC championship in the last 15 years.
Yep, there’s a myriad of reasons for the rest of the SEC to hate Alabama. But right there at the top is this belief among many in the Tide Nation that they’re an elite program even if their record over the last decade or so says otherwise.
The operative word here is “was” an elite program. After all, Alabama is on its eighth head coach since Bryant retired in 1982. Since 1997, Alabama has lost five or more games in a season eight times.
For those keeping count at home, that’s eight five-loss seasons or more in the last 11 years. And in the last five seasons, the Crimson Tide have lost 30 football games.
Elite? Mediocre sounds more like it.
With Nick Saban and his $4 million price tag aboard, Alabama fans are convinced that better days are ahead. Saban’s track record suggests they’re right.
He’s already won one national championship while coaching in the SEC when he was at LSU.
But even Saban will tell you that this is a more daunting rebuilding task than what he faced at LSU. Saban, too, has implored fans to quit talking about winning championships and what’s been done in the past at the Capstone.
He’s right, because talk is cheap.
Saban said last week at the SEC media days that the Crimson Tide needed to earn their respect.
And just because Bryant won six national championships at Alabama — the last one coming nearly 30 years ago — nobody ever said the Tide would get a lifetime exemption into college football’s most exclusive club.
Just don’t tell the crimson-coated masses that.