Alabama avoids dynasty talk

11:07 AM, Jan 2, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Email
  • Print
  • - A A A +

FORT LAUDERDALE - As an All-American and one of Alabama's senior leaders, Chance Warmack probably has earned the right to speak his mind, at least behind the closed doors of the locker room. Still, the offensive lineman remains more of a quiet presence, so his teammates were mildly surprised when he spoke up during a recent team meeting.

Then they were stunned by what he said.

"We have a chance," said Warmack, as recounted by junior linebacker C.J. Mosley. "If we repeat, we have a chance to be a dynasty."

In a football program that emphasizes "the Process" - relentless focus on the immediate task, coupled with unyielding evasion of external factors - the topic might be the ultimate taboo. Alabama as dynasty?

"That was certainly not a 'We-approve-this-message,' not at all," said senior center Barrett Jones.

Clearly uncomfortable with the entire idea, Jones claimed to have trouble recalling the episode.

"Oh, man," he said. "We've got a lot of team meetings. ... I wish I could tell you. I'm trying to remember some specifics. I don't even remember. I'm sorry."

Then he admitted, "When you said it, I kind of cringed."

But whether Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban or his players choose to acknowledge it, they're on the cusp of a historic accomplishment. Alabama and Notre Dame arrive in south Florida on Wednesday to resume preparations for Monday's BCS National Championship.

With a victory over Notre Dame, Alabama would win for the 49th time in 54 games and become the first college football program to win three national titles in four seasons since Nebraska in 1994-97 and would join a select group of dominant programs.

"I know I'd never thought of it that way, that we could be a dynasty," Mosley said. "That's one of the great things about playing for Alabama. We always have that chance to be great. We have that chance."

***

However you define a dynasty, such sustained excellence is exceedingly rare. In modern college football - the period since 1936, with the advent of the Associated Press poll - there haven't been many.

Minnesota won three in five seasons from 1936-41. Notre Dame won three in four seasons (1946-49). Under Paul "Bear" Bryant, Alabama won three in five seasons (1961-65), which means if nothing else, the debate would begin about this Crimson Tide's status in school history.

"There have been a lot of great Alabama teams in the past," Mosley said. "Just being up there with all of those teams would be special."

Miami won four national titles from 1983-91 and just missed a couple more. Oklahoma, which won 47 consecutive games (still the NCAA record) in 1953-57, was awarded only two national titles in that span. But counting 1950, the Sooners won three in seven seasons. USC won three national championships in 1967-74 under John McKay.

Whatever the measure, with another crystal football, Alabama's current era would fit in with any of those programs. And if it happened, the Crimson Tide's accomplishment might be even more impressive. Previous dynasties were achieved while playing fewer games (eight-, nine-, 10- and 11-game seasons vs. 13- and 14-) with more scholarships (the reduction to 85 at the FBS level was phased in during the early 1990s).

In the past four seasons, Alabama has gone 48-5

"In this day and age, with scholarship reductions and practice limitations and how competitive the SEC is, I think Alabama belongs in the conversation (of greatest dynasties)," said Damon Benning, a former Nebraska running back who was a key player during the Huskers' run of dominance in the 1990s. "They warrant serious consideration in any era of college football. What they've done is unbelievable."

Because of all of those factors, Benning still has trouble believing the Crimson Tide is in position to do it. In the BCS era (which began in 1998, the year after the Huskers' third championship) 11 different schools have won national titles. "We didn't think it was anything we would ever see again," he said.

USC just missed, winning an AP national championship in 2003, the BCS championship in 2004 and playing for another in 2005. But recent seasons have been defined by a dominant conference rather than one program. Along with Alabama, LSU and Florida have each won two BCS titles. And the Southeastern Conference's ascension - six consecutive BCS championships, and six teams in the current BCS Top 10 - makes Alabama's potential accomplishment perhaps even more meaningful.

"We're playing now for the opportunity to win seven, which is an extraordinary record," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. "The old saw is that records are made to be broken, but it's hard for me to conceive of this record ever being broken."

Not many would argue. But it's also fair to consider whether another Alabama national championship would begin to diminish the league's overall narrative. The six consecutive championships have been won by four different schools; the SEC is justifiably proud of the idea that any of several teams could hoist the crystal football, any year. And until Saban got Alabama revved into high gear, that certainly seemed to be the case.

But if the SEC's most historic power wins three of four - if that program becomes a modern-day dynasty - what does it signal?

"If you look at a time when the Alabama program was not performing, other programs won national championships," Slive said. "So it's about the league. It's really about the league. It's not about a program. The competition level is high - and our people perform and rise to the occasion."

***

It's worth noting that a year ago, Alabama prevented LSU from winning its third BCS title in nine years, or we might have been considering another program for dynastic status. And that a few weeks ago in the SEC championship game, Georgia came within 5 yards and a few seconds of becoming the sixth SEC team (along with Tennessee, which won the first BCS title) to play for the crystal football.

But Mosley tipped Aaron Murray's last pass. The ball fell into the hands of a surprised receiver who then fell short of the goal line as time expired, the very narrow difference between a devastating loss and the opportunity to carve a place in history. But the Crimson Tide moved into position to defend last year's title - and to become, well, what's the word again?

"I'm not gonna broach that now," Jones insisted.

But of course, Warmack already has. Alabama's players and coaches might not want to admit it, at least publicly - but they're well aware of the historic opportunity.

"For me and a lot of players," said Mosley, referring to Warmack's off-message moment, "that really hit home. It's something you can look back to 20 or 30 years from now and say you were a part of. If we're able to do that, it would be a big accomplishment."

Most Watched Videos