Best and Worst Times to be an Alabama Football Fan

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From the highs of the Bear to the lows Fran and Shula

<p> Best and Worst Times to be an Alabama Football Fan</p>

When Alabama is on the top of its game, it tends to loom over the rest of the sport.

When the SEC is on top — as it’s been for several seasons — Alabama has been at the top of the mountain. When Alabama, USC and Oklahoma all finished No. 1, 2 and 3 in 1978 and ’79, guess which team claimed the top spot.

Coaches here tend to tower over the program — Wade, Bryant and Saban. And it doesn’t get any better when Auburn is firmly under the thumb of the Tide.

At the same time, the drive to be the best contributes to some of the lowest lows. Alabama spent the early part of the 2000s largely off the map, due to NCAA sanctions.

But Alabama came back with a vengeance in the last five seasons, reaching the same heights as the Tide did under the Bear.

With Alabama gearing up for potentially a third consecutive national title, this is a great time to wear a Houndstooth hat. Maybe it’s the best time to scream Roll Tide. The first half of the 2000s weren’t great for Alabama, but was it worse than the pre-Bear Bryant depths?

Here are the best and worst times to be an Alabama fan.

Other best times/worst times:
Miami
Nebraska

Notre Dame

Texas A&M


BEST TIMES TO BE AN ALABAMA FAN

1971-79
Record: 97-11
National championships: 3
Coach: Bear Bryant
Notable players: John Hannah, Ozzie Newsome, Dwight Stephenson, Johnny Musso, Bob Baumhower, Marty Lyons, Barry Krauss, Don McNeal, Leroy Cook
Bryant’s second act as a national championship coach may be more impressive than the run in the ‘60s. The run includes the 1979 team, Bryant’s final title-winning team and Alabama’s only undefeated national champ before Saban’s BCS title in 2009. A year earlier, Alabama defeated No. 1 Penn State 14-7 in the Sugar Bowl on a goal line stand for the ages when Barry Krauss stuffed the Nittany Lions’ quarterback Chuck Fusina on fourth down and inches. The 1975 season ended a bizarre stretch of bowl futility when Alabama went 0-7-1 in bowl games, going back to 1968. As Alabama won more games than any other program during the ‘70s, Bryant showed he could change with the times. He adopted the Wishbone offense and more important, began to further integrate the SEC by recruiting black football players to Alabama.

Related: Alabama ranks first in 2013 countdown

2008-present
Record: 61-7
National championships: 3
Coach: Nick Saban
Notable players: Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Terrence Cody, AJ McCarron, Greg McElroy, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones, Courtney Upshaw, Dee Milliner, Mark Barron, C.J. Mosley, Chance Warmack, Dont’a Hightower, Mike Johnson, Javier Arenas
Alabama has been restored to its rightful place in college football, on the top of the sport. With three BCS titles in four seasons, the Tide have established a dominance the sport hasn’t seen since Miami of the 1980s and ‘90s. Over the course of the last five seasons, Alabama has defeated opponents by an average of 22.5 points per game. Even in the supposed down year of 2010, Alabama went 10-3 with two of those losses coming by a field goal or less. The Crimson Tide have taken over every corner of the sport even away from Saturdays — from recruiting national titles to the NFL Draft (11 first-round picks in the last three years to being the topic du jour of opposing coaches on the summer speaking circuit. This stretch also captured the lone piece of hardware Alabama lacked — the Heisman Trophy. At a time when the SEC is on top of college football, Alabama is the team the other 13 SEC programs want to be.

Related: Poisoning of Toomer's trees leads our list of infamous pranks

1961-66
Record: 60-5-2
National championships: 3
Coach: Bear Bryant
Notable players: Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Billy Neighbors, Lee Roy Jordan, Ray Perkins
Alabama began to flex its muscles under Bryant in 1961 when the Tide won their final seven games 161-3. From Joe Namath to Ken Stabler during this era, Alabama rarely had this much star power at quarterback. Alabama won three titles during this time, but the most satisfying may have been the 1965 title. The lone loss that season was a controversial one-point defeat to Georgia, but Alabama had a chance to redeem itself when title contenders Arkansas and Michigan State lost during bowl season. Alabama upset Nebraska 39-28 in the Orange Bowl to claim a second consecutive title.

Related: Alabama has 14 selections on preseason All-SEC team

WORST TIMES TO BE AN ALABAMA FAN

1955-57
Record: 4-24-2
Coach: Jennings Whitworth
Alabama was a power under coaches Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas and Red Drew, but passing the baton to the alum Whitworth was a disaster. Whitworth went 0-10 in his first season and didn’t get much better from there. More than that, Alabama lost three times to Auburn by a combined score of 100-7. The tenure wasn’t all bad though: Alabama fired a coach nicknamed "Ears" to hire a coach nicknamed "Bear."

Related: 2013 SEC predictions

2000-06
Record: 30-40
Coaches: Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Shula
Alabama showed signs of returning to prominence during this span, including 10-win seasons under each coach: DuBose, Franchione and Shula. But any strides were countered with disappointment. Alabama spent most of this period watching the rise of LSU and Auburn, who went 6-1 against the Tide from 2000-07. Alabama also spent most of these years under NCAA sanctions, including a postseason ban in 2002 when the Tide won the SEC West on the field (10-2, 6-2). After that season, Franchione spurned Alabama for Texas A&M. Alabama tried to replace him with Washington State’s Mike Price, but his when his trip to a Florida strip club went public, he was fired before coaching a game. A period of embarrassment on and off the field ended when Shula was fired in 2006.

IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...

1991-96
Record: 63-11-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Gene Stallings
Notable players: John Copeland, Eric Curry, Antonio Langham, Kevin Jackson
Few would call this era of Alabama football “bad,” but it is easy to overlook. Florida, not Alabama, was the SEC’s team of the ‘90s after defeating the Tide three of four times in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama won the national title in 1992, its only title in a 30-year period, and finished ranked in the top five two other times. Stallings ended up in the College Football Hall of Fame, but it’s tough to crack Alabama’s coaching Mount Rushmore when Bryant and Saban take up two spots already.

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