Alabama didn't invent college football.
The Crimson Tide did, however, ignite the current craze of insanely large spring-game crowds with the 92,138 spectators who packed Bryant-Denny Stadium 10 years ago to watch Nick Saban's first April contest. Alabama enters Saturday's A-Day game having averaged 80,974 fans in the Saban era for its spring extravaganza.
"We set the standard here for how spring games get evaluated because we had so many people," Saban said Thursday night in a news conference. "I've talked so many times about our first A-Day game here, which is about to be 11 games ago. The people who were there helped us set the tone for something special."
Something special has included five Southeastern Conference championships, four national titles and 18 first-round NFL draft picks, but Alabama's spring-game spirit now has company.
Alabama set a spring-game record with 92,310 fans in 2011, but Ohio State now holds the standard after 100,189 attended last year's game. The SEC record now belongs to Georgia, which had 93,000 pack Sanford Stadium last April.
"Now everybody tries to promote their spring game to get as big a crowd as they can get," Saban said, "as if that's going to be something that is going to help catapult their program forward. Like everything else that we do, we want to do it better."
The past three A-Day crowds of 73,516 in 2014, 65,175 in 2015 and 76,212 last year are the three smallest of the Saban era. Saturday will be the first A-Day spectacle for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and the first for early enrollee quarterbacks Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa.
"We hope we have a great crowd," Saban said. "I think our fans need to know that the support of A-Day has been a tremendous asset in helping us build the program here. It's been a positive for recruits, and it's a special thing for our players to see so many people have so much interest in what they're doing."
Sophomore Josh Jacobs and early enrollees Najee Harris and Brian Robinson will shoulder the load at tailback Saturday. Because of injuries, juniors Bo Scarbrough (leg) and Damien Harris (foot) and freshman B.J. Emmons (foot) are being held out.
Saban said Scarbrough "took almost every rep" in Thursday's practice but that he isn't even considering him playing. Scarbrough broke his leg against Clemson during January's national championship contest.
"We haven't banged him around a lot, and there is no sense in doing that," Saban said.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.