Roy Exum: Alabama's Greatest Dynasty

Thursday, January 3, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As the football teams from Alabama and Notre Dame arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, and the frothy hype of Monday’s College National Championship game begins, there appeared a wonderful story in yesterday’s editions of USA Today about college football dynasties. The trouble is, the most glaring factor was somehow omitted.

A dynasty – by some crazy definition – is now a team that wins three national championships within five years. If Alabama, a 10-point favorite over the Irish, wins the Bowl Championship Series title in what is being called the Discover Bowl in Miami on Jan. 7, then the Crimson Tide will become the fifth team in history to win three national titles within a five-year span.

Actually, Alabama could become the first major college team to win three in four years if ‘Bama wins next week and, if the football gods also smile upon them next season, could win four-in-five. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I need to tell you about one team that should have won four.

Since the polls were created and we began keeping records of such, Notre Dame’s teams from 1946-47 and 1949 first won three titles with a 36-0-2 record. Then the great Alabama teams of the early ‘60s came along and the Tide was 60-5-1 from 1961-66, winning titles in 1961, 1964 and 1965. Miami won three championships in 1987, 1989, and 1991, going 56-4 during that stretch, and Nebraska became the last three-time winner with the Great Tom Osborne teams in 1994, 1995 and 1997, winning 60 and losing 3!

But here’s the rub (and I’ll never forget it): In 1996, Alabama came into fall practice sporting those national championship rings from the year before, but all the preseason hype disappeared when No. 2 Michigan State whipped NC State the week before Alabama opened the season. UCLA also opened strong and Alabama – while playing valiantly -- was thrust into an unlikely game of hopelessly playing catch-up all year.

In mid-October, Notre Dame got into the mix with a 32-0 shutout over North Carolina the same day Alabama won an 11-10 nail-biter against UT. Then Notre Dame plummeted both No. 10 Oklahoma and a hapless Navy while Michigan State, Alabama, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Nebraska and Florida also went into that November undefeated.

The next two weeks saw Notre Dame strengthen its hold on No. 1, beating Pitt and Duke by a combined 104-0. Michigan State was also impressive but UCLA got beat while the worst scenario befell Alabama. The Tide, third-ranked, beat LSU 21-0 and then slammed the door on South Carolina, 24-0, but all the nation’s press gravitated to “The Game of the Century” - No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State in East Lansing. That game ended in a sickening 10-10 tie in what was the very first year of college football on TV in living color.

Back then there were two wire service polls and an enraged South watched the Associated Press deem Notre Dame No. 1 while the United Press International named Michigan State No. 1. Neither would budge for the rest of the year, despite Alabama whipping Southern Miss and routing Auburn (31-0).

Neither Notre Dame nor Michigan State went to bowl games that year but No. 3 Alabama capped a perfect 11-0 season with a crushing 34-7 win over Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl at old Tulane Stadium. I was there but Alabama finished third in both polls behind the two teams that tied.

Get this, the Tide, led by Kenny Stabler and Ray Perkins, gave up just 37 points all year. Combine the unbeaten 1966 team with the national championship teams of 1961, 1964 and 1965 and Alabama had a 60-5-1 record during that time. No college team has ever equaled it. That is very much a dynasty and by every modern-day account, the 1966 team was robbed of the national title.

Now let me give you the clincher: In the late ‘60s the South struggled mightily with racial turmoil. Its focal point was the state of Alabama, where “Bull” Connor set loose dogs in Birmingham, they marched in Selma and white supremists bombed a house where Dr. Martin Luther King was thought to be staying in Montgomery. The stark truth is that as a nation watched in pity and horror, Bear Bryant’s greatest Alabama team couldn’t have bought a first-place vote with all the money on Wall Street.

Football dynasties … yeah, Nick Saban may be on the brink but the Crimson Tide in the early ‘60s, back when they played toe-to-toe with Tennessee and Auburn every year, was absolutely awesome and yesterday, as I saw where only four teams have ever won three national titles within five years, I knew there was one that should have won four -- if only our ugly prejudices and a vile thing called racism hadn’t gotten in the way.

royexum@aol.com



Stories That Choke Me Up

I've struggled over the years to come to grips with my personality flaws. Ask anybody who knows me, I have more than several. The one in particular that we will address today, ladies and gentlemens, is my propensity to tear up way too quickly. I'm the guy who chokes up every time that pitiful rain soaked teddy bear crawls over to the curb and dies in that tracking device commercial. ... (click for more)

The National Zombie League

NFL players are similar to zombies. They are playing football carelessly, they are not thinking about what consequences they may have to face. NFL players are taking so many colossal hits, that when a player get injured, fans are almost like “it’s, alright it’s normal.” Injuries are becoming directly related with football. However, there are still players that believe that the NFL ... (click for more)

Home In Alton Park Damaged By Fire Friday Morning

No injuries were reported in connection with a house fire in Alton Park Friday morning. The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm around  8:30 a.m.  and responded to 4020 Highland Ave. with five fire companies. When the first firefighters arrived on the scene, one of the residents of the house was concerned this his wife might still be inside. The firefighters ... (click for more)

Pedestrian Struck And Severely Injured In East Ridge Thursday Night

The East Ridge Police Department is investigating a motor vehicle collision involving a pedestrian being struck  at 5300 Ringgold Road on Thursday around  10 p.m. Officers arrived and found that East Ridge resident Dale Henderson had been struck by a vehicle and was suffering from severe injuries. It appears he attempted to cross Ringgold Road in front ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Brainerd Rallies To Top Tyner, 55-51

The setting was perfect for a great high school basketball game Friday night at Tyner. The gym was packed long before the boys game started, it was freezing cold outside and burning up inside and two big-time rivals in District 6-AA were battling for first-place bragging rights. That honor goes to the Brainerd Panthers as they pulled through in the second half and headed back ... (click for more)

Prep Wrestling: Host Blue Tornado Leads McCallie Invitational

On the  strength of placing six wrestlers in Saturday morning’s semifinals the host Blue Tornado is in first place in the McCallie Wrestling Invitational with 110.5 points followed by Woodland in second with 99.5 points and Soddy Daisy (93) in third in the 35 team field North Hall (82) is fourth and Sonoraville (81.5) is fifth) Trackwrestling.com – brackets and all ... (click for more)