By Hunter Ford
Who is the best ever Alabama football coach? Who is the best ever Auburn coach?
Alabamaâ€™s answer is a no-brainer. Bear Bryant. Two legendary coaches, Wallace Wade and Frank Thomas preceded Bryant. Since Bryant retired, only one other coach, Gene Stallings, has come close to winning on the field and winning over the hearts of Crimson Tide fans the way Bryant did.
In Auburnâ€™s case, the Tigers can claim John Heisman and Shug Jordan as legendary figures.
Heisman coached in the 19th century, from 1895-99. He posted records of 2-1, 3-1, 2-0-1 and 3-1-1 so his career is hard to compare with modern coaches.
Jordan coached the only national championship team ever fielded by the Tigers. Over a 25-year period, Jordanâ€™s record was pretty mediocre on the whole and the presence of Bryant at Alabama overshadowed the majority of Jordanâ€™s career.
Jordan had three losing seasons and three .500 seasons. His best teams were in 1957 (10-0 and national champions) 1958 (9-0-1) 1970 (9-2) 1971 (9-2) 1972 (10-1) and 1974 (10-2).
Since Jordan retired in 1975 Auburn has had only 4 different football coaches (not counting Bill Oliver who was an interim in 1998). In contrast, Alabama has had eight football coaches since 1983 and Stallings is the only one to coach the Tide for more than four seasons.
Just for fun, hereâ€™s my personal list of the best coaches at Alabama since Bryant and the best at Auburn since Jordan.
1. Gene Stallings. Stallings won the national championship in 1992, and was 5-2 against Auburn. From 1991 through 1994 The Tide posted 11-1, 13-0, 9-3-1 and 12-1 records, marking the best four years of the post-Bryant era. Stallings averaged 10 wins over a seven year span.
2. Ray Perkins. Perkins was a polarizing figure, but he recruited well and won some big games. Perkins teams were 3-0 in bowl games, wining against SMU, USC and Washington. He coached two memorable wins over Auburn, he beat Ohio State and he is the only Alabama coach to beat Notre Dame.
3. Dennis Franchione. Another controversial figure because of the way he left Alabama. But Fran took a program in lousy condition and whipped it into shape quickly. His 2001 team is the last Alabama team to beat Auburn. He won 10 games in 2002 and his Tide would have represented the SEC West in the SEC title game if not for probation.
4. Bill Curry. Curry lost to Memphis and dropped a homecoming game to a mediocre Ole Miss team. Still Curry was undefeated against Penn State and Tennessee and had a 10-0 run in 1989, before losing the first game the Tide ever played in Auburn.
5. Mike Dubose. Dubose coached the 1999 SEC champions, but a case could be made that a better coach would have won a national championship with that team.
6. Nick Saban. Iâ€™m not giving Saban credit for what he did at LSU. A 7-6 season in his first year at Alabama puts him in the bottom of this list, but chances are he will be at the top by 2009.
7. Mike Shula. Shula lost 9 games in 2003. He couldnâ€™t beat Auburn. His poor record as a coach overshadows the fond memories of his quarterbacking days.
8. Mike Price. Never coached a game. What else can you say? Itâ€™s rolling baby!
1. Tommy Tuberville. I talked with two actual Auburn fans about this. One said he would rank Pat Dye the best, and another said he would chose Jordan. Just goes to show how crazy Auburn fans are. Nobody has ever dominated Alabama like Tuberville has. This list is for post-Jordan coaches, but even Jordan canâ€™t claim six consecutive wins over Alabama. For Tide fans, Tuberville is like a bad rash that wonâ€™t go away. Youâ€™ve got to give him credit.
2. Pat Dye. Auburn was the best team in the SEC during the 1980s. And Dye brought some pride back to the Tigers after nine years of Alabama beating them into submission. When asked how long it would take to beat Alabama, Dye replied â€œSixty minutes!â€
3. Terry Bowden. Bowdenâ€™s demise came swiftly and strangely after an amazing start. Bowden won his first 20 games at Auburn and was 20-0-1 going into his second Iron Bowl. He lost that game, and had two 8-4 seasons and a 10-3 season before the wheels came off in 1998. He was 1-5 when he resigned and hasnâ€™t coached since. In a strange twist of fate Bill Oliver coached the Tigers for the final five games of 1998.
4. Doug Barfield. Nice guy, I hear, but couldnâ€™t handle The Bear. Barfield was 0-5 against Alabama. His 1979 team was a respectable 8-3 but was on probation. In 1980, his Tigers went 0-6 in the SEC prompting the hire of Dye.
Send comments to Hunter Ford at email@example.com.