Mark Wiedmer: Is Alabama reliving its own '70s Show?

Mark Wiedmer: Is Alabama reliving its own '70s Show?

July 20th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Alabama tight end Michael Williams speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Thursday, July 19, 2012.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

HOOVER, Ala. - One week.

That's how long the Alabama football team celebrated last year's national championship before turning its attention to this season and a chance to claim its first back-to-back titles since 1978 and '79.

"We'd been back on campus about a week when the [midyear] freshmen came in," tight end Michael Williams said Thursday morning at the Southeastern Conference's annual football media days.

"From then on it was back to work. Lifting weights, running, doing whatever it takes to make sure we don't let 2010 happen again."

For most schools, what happened to Bama in 2010 would set off its own celebration.

Coming off their first national crown in 17 years, the Crimson Tide went 10-3, led eventual national champ Auburn 24-0 before succumbing to the magic of Cam Newton and obliterated No. 7 Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.

Yet Williams said of that season: "Losing three games at Alabama is embarrassing. Complacency is not an option at Alabama. The coaches told us it could happen, but I guess we didn't listen. We talk about it all the time this year. There will be no complacency on this team."

Funny how history repeats. Especially in the SEC. Four years ago the feeling from fan bases throughout the league was that the football dynasty that is Alabama and its basketball counterpart at Kentucky were at an end.

After all, the Tide hadn't won it all since 1992 and had shared at least a cup of coffee with three coaches (remember Mike Price?) between the retirement of Gene Stallings and the hiring of Nick Saban.

Kentucky basketball was similarly stagnant, having claimed its last national title and Final Four berth in 1998. The Big Blue Nation had run off Tubby Smith, was suffering through Billy Gillispie and was yet to gamble on the highly successful but controversial John Calipari.

Now both programs are celebrating national championships, both are being projected to compete for more hardware in the upcoming school year and the word "dynasty" barely does either program justice, given that UK now has eight NCAA titles by five coaches and the Tide can claim14 national championships by five coaches.

In the case of Bama football, that's five coaches winning 14 titles in eight decades, from 1925 through this past season. If that's not a dynasty, what is?

Not that the latest Tide coach to have a statue erected for his national championships spends much time on the past.

Said Saban on Thursday: "Having success in a football program can have two effects. You can demand more success or you can get a little complacent ... really think more about what you did than what you're going to do."

Both Williams and offensive center Barrett Jones are adamant that complacency derailed the 2010 season, which began with Bama on top of the polls.

Recalled Jones: "Coach Saban said 'No complacency' and we talked about it, but for some reason we just didn't buy into it. It's not going to sneak up on us this year. We don't want to ever feel that way again."

Added Williams: "We saw what can happen if you don't bring your best every day. Maybe it was because we hadn't had that kind of success for awhile, but we're constantly talking to the younger players about not having that happen again."

Good as this current Bama run is - an astounding 48-6 with two national titles over the past four years - it won't last forever.

For starters, the league's too good, especially in the West, where LSU and Arkansas will field top 10 teams, Auburn welcomes back 18 starters (including special teams) and new member Texas A&M will have the element of surprise.

Beyond that, Saban turns 61 on Halloween. That may not be retirement age, but this is the first time he's ever coached so much as a sixth season at the same school. Though he isn't hinting at how long he intends to stick around the Capstone, it's doubtful he'll go more than four or five more seasons past this one.

Yet despite losing 13 starters, Saint Nick (or Nick Satan if you dislike the Tide) doesn't seem to be conceding anything this autumn.

In discussing why he defines success as "consistency in performance," Saban named off some of the great sports dynasties of all-time: Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, the Yankees, tennis star Roger Federer.

"The most important thing we've learned is that you stay on top of the little things," he said. "Things don't happen by accident. You have to make it happen, and you have to make it happen by what you do every day."

During the nine years from 1971 to '79, Bear Bryant went 97-11 at Alabama, won or tied for eight SEC titles and claimed two national championships. He lost as many as three games in a season one time during that stretch. He lost one or none a preposterous seven times.

Bama became so big in pop culture back then that the jazz/rock giant Steely Dan penned the following words: "They've got a name for the winners in the world; I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide; call me Deacon Blues."

Yet with two national titles already wrapped up over the past four seasons, Saban has Bama on a run to finish as impressively, if not better, than the Tide's 1970s show.

"We've had a really good offseason with our team," Saban said.

Since that really good offseason began only one week after Tide title No. 14, Bama seems at least as likely to repeat its championship season of 2011 as its complacent one of 2010.

And should this Tide team repeat, the rest of the SEC, if not all of college football, could be singing Deacon Blues for years to come.