Mark Wiedmer: Is Alabama dominance good for football?

Mark Wiedmer: Is Alabama dominance good for football?

January 9th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Alabama Coach Nick Saban

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

For all those Southeastern Conference football fans concerned that Alabama truly is in the middle of a historic run of national championships, I feel your pain.

Not because I'm necessarily unhappy to see the Crimson Tide roll to their third national championship in four years. For someone who greatly admired Bear Bryant, for someone who played junior high basketball against former Tiders Jeff Rutledge and Murray Legg, to see the nation's most storied program add to its considerable legacy is somewhat comforting.

It's kind of like hearing an old Stones or Beatles tune and knowing that there's still nothing out there in today's music that can match that magic.

But much as most of the South lives and dies with college football, I grew up hanging on every sneaker squeak of college basketball. Only trouble was, for most of my youth only one school won, and it wasn't a school I liked. From 1964 through 1975, the UCLA Bruins took 10 NCAA titles in 12 years for coach John Wooden.

They won with bigs (Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton). They won with smalls (Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazzard). They won with 'tweeners (Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe).

But every March save two (Texas Western in 1966, North Carolina State in 1974), they cut down the nets, leaving all of us who didn't worship at the feet of the Wizard of Westwood (Wooden) feeling both hapless and hopeless. Everyone but the Bruins was playing for second. Plain and simple.

"I was just starting out [as an assistant] at Virginia Tech back then," former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Mack McCarthy said Tuesday. "And as a coach, I wasn't thinking in terms of UCLA keeping us from a national championship. We weren't at that level yet.

"But as a college basketball fan, I felt that way for sure. They just always won."

What's scary for the rest of college football are the signs that Alabama football under Nick Saban could become what Wooden's UCLA teams were to college basketball more than 40 years ago.

"I'm not anti-Alabama, even though I was an assistant at Auburn," McCarthy said. "But for college football, it is a little worrisome what they're doing."

More worrisome was another point McCarthy made.

"You could make a case that it's much more difficult today to do what Alabama's doing," he said. "There's more scrutiny. There's more accountability. Academic requirements are more stringent, all of which makes this run they're on all the more amazing."

And that's not all.

"In UCLA's day there were less people really trying to win a national championship," he said. "There weren't that many programs in either football or basketball realy committed to doing whatever it took to win it all. That's much different today."

A lot of folks today are hoping that the next BCS title game won't include Brent Musburger in the ESPN broadcast booth after his frat-boy comments about 2012 Miss Alabama USA Katherine Webb dating Tide quarterback AJ McCarron.

And if the 73-year-old Musburger loses his job, perhaps he should. But before everyone rips him for "objectifying" Miss Webb, when there are pictures of you donning a skimpy bikini for a beauty pageant all over the web, haven't you kind of "objectified" yourself?

But perhaps we digress, for the object of concern for college football fans should focus on the similarities between Wooden and Saban.

Each is an unmatched recruiter. Each is wedded to a system for preparation - Wooden's Pyramid of Success, Saban's Process - yet each bends his style of play to fit his changing talent.

Neither seems to bask in his own glory, quickly moving on to the next season. Neither lets the small mistakes pass. Even in a 42-14 victory over Notre Dame, Saban bemoaned the Irish's meaningless second-half touchdowns.

Preached Wooden: "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

This doesn't mean Bama is about to win 10 of 12 BCS titles. It doesn't mean the Tide will three-peat next season. They may never win another one. After all, Bear went back-to-back in 1978 and '79, but Bama didn't win it all again until 1992 under Gene Stallings.

Still, for anyone who's worried the Tide's dynasty is just beginning, I know how you feel. Playing for second gets old.

But for those ready to start following soccer or get reacquainted with their families, also consider that UCLA has won one title in the 38 years since the late Wooden retired, and that was 18 years ago. Hope springs eternal. Musburger might even grow up one day.