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Alabama Crimson Tide Football and "Bear" Bryant

If you're a fan of college football, you have no doubt heard of the "Bear" - the now-legendary Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, who spent a full twenty-five years patrolling the sidelines of every Alabama game. Some would say that coaching at Alabama would be one of the easiest tasks in the sport, given the program's status as an elite power in the NCAAS. With a total of 13 NCAA titles, a host of conference titles, and more bowl appearances than you can shake a stick at, Alabama football has seemingly always been about winning. Paul Bryant was an important part of that history, as he was responsible for leading the teams that acquired six of those titles while also breaking the Alabama color barrier. Perhaps more than any other coach in Alabama history, the Bear left his own distinct impression on the program.

Arrival of the Bear

When the Bear was hired to coach the Alabama team, the program had just experienced what was for them a period of mediocrity. Four losing seasons in a row had made 'Bama fans and alumni restless, and the Bear's hiring - he left a position at Texas A&M - was thought to be a breath of fresh air. The losing halted immediately, as Bryant's first season resulted in the team winning one more game than they lost. His style of leadership seemed to have the players on the team immediately thinking "victory" and the new attitude played out in winning style whenever they took the field. Three seasons later, the true fruits of the Bryant scheme began to appear on the Alabama tree as the team won the national championship, announcing to the world that Alabama football was back with a vengeance! That was the beginning of one of the most dominant periods in team history, as the Crimson Tide would go on to win a total of 60 games during a six year span in the early 1960s, losing only five times in that same period. That run of victories netted a total of six bowl games, four SEC championships, and three national crowns.

The Crimson Tide Seventies

During the following decade, the Alabama Crimson Tide would win all but two of that decades SEC titles, while garnering three more national championships. During a 1971 game between the Crimson Tide and the USC Trojans, Bear made what would later turn out to have been one of the more historic decisions in Alabama football history. Bryant decided to start the very first black player, John Mitchell. Not only did Bryant's team win that game, his decision to allow the first African American Alabama player to serve in a starting role on the team changed 'Bama football forever.

The end of Bryant's career came after more than two decades as Alabama's coach, and was - fittingly, some would say - a victory for his Tide in the Liberty Bowl game of 1982. Bryant left the sport with a total of 323 wins, which was at the time the most ever recorded by a college coach. His 25 total seasons with the Tide still represent the gold standard for college football coaching, and many are the coaches who have since claimed the Bear as their inspiration. Bryant passed away in 1983, a mere month after coaching his final game.

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