PASADENA, Calif. – Nearly 30 years after he coached his final game at the University of Alabama, Paul “Bear” Bryant remains on the minds of many Crimson Tide fans. And on their heads.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of Alabama fans at Thursday’s BCS Championship Game were wearing replicas of Bryant’s trademark checkered houndstooth hat. That is a common sight back in Tuscaloosa, where the stadium boasts Bryant’s name and the Paul W. Bryant Museum is one of the primary attractions in town.
But following Alabama’s 37-21 victory over Texas, Tide fans might have a change of hat. They could soon be sporting the wide-brim, Panama-style headgear favored by current head coach Nick Saban.
That’s because Saban just produced the Crimson Tide’s first national championship season in 17 years, and only the second since Bryant retired. Alabama put the finishing touches on a perfect 14-0 record with a defensive effort that created five turnovers and forced Texas quarterback Colt McCoy to the sidelines early in the game with a shoulder injury.
So as the red-and-white confetti landed gently on the Rose Bowl’s lush grass field, and as Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain lifted the glass championship trophy triumphantly in the direction of the Tide’s delirious supporters, even the perpetually dour Saban had to flash a smile.
It was a smile that Saban’s wife, Terry, said would probably last for “about 24 hours.” Then it will be time for the process-oriented coach to go back to work.
Because of his intense drive and determination, it is doubtful that Saban will ever truly be satisfied with what he has produced at Alabama in three short years. He even looked angry after receiving the traditional championship Gatorade soaking from his players.