Alabama Football: Stallings to Saban
A Roller-Coaster Ride

by DONALD F. STAFFO
1st edition, 2009, 242 pages, $29.95
ISBN 978-0-89641-483-9

purchase button
Review button

Alabama Football: Stallings to Saban opens with Stallings and a capsule of Alabama's 1992 national championship season, which for a short time reminded people of what Alabama football is supposed to be. It is the only book available covering the DuBose, Franchione, Price, Shula and Saban eras and the wild roller-coaster ride that has been Crimson Tide football from 1992-2008. A synopsis of the 2009 championship season is described in Dr. Staffo's book Alabama Football: Saban Leads Crimson Tide to the 2009 National Championship.

A two-book special price for both Alabama Football books by Donald Staffo can be ordered from the Alabama Football page on our web site.

PREFACE

When Gene Stallings led the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship, followers of Alabama football thought the Tide was on the verge of another college football dynasty. Much has happened since that 1992 championship season. Unfortunately, not all of it has been good.

In this book, Donald Staffo recaps the good and the not so good of Alabama football from Stallings to Saban, with interesting insight and interviews from some of the key figures along the way. Don brings out many of the facts as to what really went on during this time period. From the '92 championship season to the NCAA investigations to the coaching carousel of Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price and Mike Shula, this book will help enlighten fans to what was transpiring behind the scenes in Tuscaloosa.

This work provides an historical perspective, is interesting, informative and easy to read. I think Alabama Football: Stallings to Saban is a good book that captures many of the moments and events that have surrounded Alabama football the past 18 years. I would recommend it to all Alabama fans.

Rodney Orr
TiderInsider.com/Tider Insider TV

INTRODUCTION

In 1992 Alabama celebrated its Football Centennial Celebration, “Century of Champions,” an appropriate name for a program that had won 11 national titles and led the nation with 23 bowl victories. Nobody told me that in 1992 the Crimson Tide would win its 12th national championship, or I would have waited another year before completing my first book on Alabama football—Bama After Bear. I wanted to get that book out in time for the 100-Year Celebration of Alabama football. So this work picks up where that left off, the 1992 season when Alabama won its first national championship since 1978, when Paul “Bear” Bryant won his sixth and last NCAA title, before retiring in 1982 and passing away in 1983.

In terms of stability, in the 25 years under Bryant, when championships were routine and NCAA penalties unheard of, the Alabama football program was the Rock of Gibraltar—as stable as it gets. In the 27 years since Bryant’s retirement, the program has been anything but. Beginning with Ray Perkins, the carousel of coaches has included Bill Curry, Gene Stallings, Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, Mike Shula and now Nick Saban. And the program has been placed on NCAA probation three times for several years for various rules violations.

“We lost the perception of what Alabama football is really all about,” stated Clem Gryska, 81, who began coaching with Bryant in 1961 and who is now administrative assistant at the Bryant Museum. “And by perception I mean everything—on-the-field, off-the-field, practice, academics, class—everything that Alabama football stood for. Now with Coach Saban, I feel like we’re on our way back up to the way Alabama football should be perceived.”

This book is historical in nature, beginning with the exhilaration that surrounded the program when Bama thrashed Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl to culminate a magical season, and documents the varying degrees of success and failure and the various football-related problems that have plagued the program on and off for almost a decade and a half prior to Saban’s arrived in Tuscaloosa.

Having a few years earlier won a national championship at LSU, Saban’s reputation preceded him to the Capstone. Saban was immediately greeted akin to a rock star, his straw hat soon seen on people of all ages, reminiscent of Bryant’s famed trademark hounds tooth fedora. Saban brought hope to a proud, tradition-rich program that desperately wanted stability and a return to the sustained level of excellence that it once enjoyed almost continuously under the legendary Bryant, college football’s all-time winningest coach (323-85-17) at the time of his retirement. Under Saban, Alabama football is considered by most to be back on track, with many feeling the program is destined to reach the heights reminiscent of its storied past.

There have certainly been peaks and valleys since 1992, or as Tommy Brooker, a member of Bryant’s national championship team in 1961, put it: “Over that period of time we’ve had a history that looks something like the stock market or an EKG reading, with its ups and downs.”

There can be no denying that following Bryant there has been considerable chaos, and at times controversy, in the Alabama football program. Steve Townsend, a former administrator in the athletic department, said, “From 1992 until Coach Saban came, the thing that stands out is the total lack of stability. We went through a bunch of coaches. That period of time was the most unstable in my memory.”

What follows is, based on extensive research and the information that was shared, an attempt to describe in an objective and balanced way some of the major events, circumstances and repercussions that were part of the scenario that unfolded specifically between the years 1992 and 2008. There were serious problems toward the end of the Stallings’ era, turmoil for most of DuBose’s tenure, embarrassment during Price’s short stay, frustration and anger in the final weeks of Franchione’s two-year stopover, and a program shackled by sanctions throughout Shula’s four-year run. On the field, Saban so far has enjoyed tremendous success, and off the field celebrity status unparalleled since Bryant.

“The most amazing thing, despite all the turmoil, pitfalls and disadvantages that Alabama has been through, is that Alabama is back in the national championship picture,” stated Kirk McNair, former sports information director at Alabama in the 1970s and long-time editor of Bama Magazine.

But what makes everything that happened—the good and the bad—particularly noteworthy is that it happened and to date continues to happen at an elite football school like Alabama. Said another way, if some of the roller-coaster occurrences surrounding the football program took place at a school with a nondescript football reputation, they would barely be noticed, but when something goes wrong at Alabama it’s national news.

And despite all the havoc, Alabama for the most part kept winning. Oh, not as much as during the glory years, but still considerably more than most other programs do during their best of times. That in itself is a tribute to Alabama football. Although former players, people who work in the program and others who intensely follow the program certainly do not agree on everything—in fact frequently strongly disagree on issues—the common bond that unites them come hell or high wat

This book is based on extensive research over an extended period of time, information gained in many intensive interviews and numerous conversations, and knowledge the writer gleamed from covering University of Alabama football for going on 25 years—that’s right, a quarter of a century. Regardless, there is no way its contents, a critical chapter in the storied saga of Alabama football, will please—or even satisfy—everybody directly or indirectly associated with the program or those who follow it. Furthermore, it must be realized that opinions vary and can be biased, and memories can be faulty and selective. The result can be people having different perceptions and recollections of events.

Those directly or indirectly involved in the turmoil, as well as fans with strong feelings on certain issues one way or the other, perhaps leaves few unbiased observers. If in the view of some participants certain topics or issues chronicled seem inaccurate from their own perspective, it probably is because they or others withheld information or chose not to express their feelings fully, while others with a different view did so and did so more assertively.

The intent of the book is not to provide answers, but to simply chronicle the noteworthy events that took place during this period of time. As between the Bryant and Stallings years, a lot has certainly happened between the Stallings and Sabin years, and that’s what this work documents and in some instances attempts to decipher and analyze.

CONTENTS

  • Chapter 1: The Gene Stallings Era
  • Chapter 2: The Mike DuBose Era
  • Chapter 3: The Dennis Franchione Era
  • Chapter 4: The Mike Price Era
  • Chapter 5: The Mike Shula Era Alabama and the NCAA
  • Chapter 6: The Nick Saban Era
  • Post-Script
  • About the Author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Donald F. Staffo is a professor and chairman of the Dept. of Health & Physical Education at Stillman College. He is in his 25th year covering University of Alabama football, the last 22 for the Associated Press and 8 for the Northport Gazette. He was a writer for Bama Magazine for 17 years, correspondent for The Tuscaloosa News for 15 years, Gannett News Service for 3 years, and had articles on Alabama published in USA Today, Alabama Alumni Magazine and numerous other magazines.

Dr. Staffo is the author of seven books, chapters in graduate school textbooks, 127 scholarly publications, a newspaper column and more than 1900 articles in a variety of local through national publications. He has made 73 professional presentations and has served on 34 state through International editorial/advisory boards, including currently on boards of the International Journal of Sports Management, International Journal of Research for HPERD-Sports, and Athletic Management. He has been an athletic director at the college and high school level. As a coach, his teams won 4 championships and never had a losing season.

He is the recipient of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Honor Award and the AAHPERD Henry Award, the 2nd and 3rd highest national awards in his profession. Other awards include the National Health & Fitness Association Henderson Award, Ohio State University Distinguished Alumni Award, first-ever Fulton-Montgomery Community College Distinguished Alumni Award, Alabama Association for HPERD Honor Award, ASAHPERD Ethnic Minority Leader Award, ASAHPERD Professional Responsibility for Delivering Excellence Award, Southern District Sparkplug Award and is the only person to receive all of Stillman’s top awards: Teacher, Scholar (twice), Advisor and Humanitarian of the Year. Also, the 2003 Alabama Press Association 1st Place Award for Best Sports Feature.

In addition to covering Alabama football and basketball for a quarter of a century, Dr. Staffo is in his 42nd year as an educator and his 30th year as a sports journalist. He earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State University, M.A. from Western Kentucky University, and B.S. from SUNY Brockport.