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Saban, Kelly lead Bama and ND out of darkness
Question of the Day
After Stalling left in 1996, things started to get ugly at Alabama. School leaders tried again to keep their most highly prized job in the family, hiring Mike DuBose, a former defensive lineman for Bryant. That didn’t work, so Alabama swung the other direction by hiring Dennis Franchione, who skipped town after two seasons for Texas A&M, and Mike Price, who brought a whole new level of embarrassment to Alabama. Not long after he was hired away from Washington State, Price was fired after a night of drunken partying became public.
Alabama reverted back to old form, going with one of its own in former Tide quarterback Mike Shula. Like DuBose, he wasn’t up to the task. On top of everything else, the NCAA slammed Alabama, wiping all its victories from the 2005 and `06 seasons off the books.
Meanwhile, over the years, Alabama had fallen behind others in the Southeastern Conference when it came to facilities and support staff. Big-time college football is an arms race of sorts, and the Crimson Tide weren’t investing like the competition _ like LSU had while winning a national title under Saban, for example.
“The program lost its compass,” Finebaum said.
When it came time to hire another coach in 2006, Alabama courted Saban and Steve Spurrier. Spurrier wasn’t interested and Saban had an NFL season to finish. When the Tide was turned down by Rich Rodriguez, who opted instead to stay with West Virginia, it was rock bottom.
“It was the darkest moment I can ever remember in Alabama history,” Finebaum said. “Alabama fans gave up that day.
As it turned out, it was one of the best things to ever happen to Alabama.
“You’ve got to have some luck,” Stallings said.
As luck would have it, Saban was ready to get back to college football.
Alabama lured him away from the NFL with a $4 million a year contract that made him the highest-paid coach in college football _ and gave him the power and support to run the program the way he wanted, not the way it had been run before.
“Alabama finally hired someone who has not afraid to tell everybody to get out of the way,” Finebaum said.
For Notre Dame, it is a similar tale. Lou Holtz won that championship in 1988 and made the Fighting Irish a regular title contender, but by the end of his tenure, Notre Dame started to slip and the people in charge were resistant to the types of changes needed to keep up with the competition.
The Irish promoted Bob Davie to take over for Holtz. In five seasons he never won more than nine games and went 0-3 in bowls.
Davie, now the coach at New Mexico, doesn’t make excuses for his record at Notre Dame, but he does note that the school has been willing to make the type of changes in recent years that he sought back in the late 1990s.
“Their facilities have gone from being poor to cutting edge in college football,” he said. “Their salaries for coaches are competitive with everybody in the country. They are accepting early graduates (from high school).
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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