I realize the question I’m about to ask may be hazardous to my health. But here it goes:
Could Paul “Bear” Bryant be the coach he was in the sixties and seventies if he were alive and operating in today’s world of college football?
Recently this question was posed by a friend. The point he was making was that what Coach Nick Saban is doing at Alabama right now is special. Not a flash in the pan, he has built a program that is in the hunt year in and year out…as opposed to one questionable hit then falling off the face of the earth.
Indeed, the game has changed in the last fifty years. It was here I once suggested that Bo Jackson would be a good but not dominant running back if he played today, citing that defenders today are so much larger at every position, most having unreal lateral speed that wasn’t there in the 80’s.
The game has changed for players, but the same is true for coaches. Pressure is generated by instant information flowing freely thanks to the internet. Chat rooms and forums give fans and opposers an immediate voice, shining light on a program’s sins that used to be kept in the dark. The NCAA’s rule manual is thicker than a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas (remember those?). And a little thing called ESPN came along that changed fan hunger for sports information.
But this was the man among the first to integrate in the south after a beating at the hands of USC. He’s at least the co-inventor of what we know as the wishbone offense. He’s the architect of toughness made famous by the boys of at Junction, and the creator of the mind games that still are the stuff of compelling stories told today.
So I’m asking you. What would the Bear’s career look like if he walked the sidelines today? Would the pressures created by shoddy reporting in our state and the information age itself have an effect, or would this legendary icon find yet another way to rise to the top despite the circumstances?