FORT LAUDERDALE - As an All-American and one
of Alabama's senior leaders, Chance Warmack probably has earned the
right to speak his mind, at least behind the closed doors of the locker
room. Still, the offensive lineman remains more of a quiet presence, so
his teammates were mildly surprised when he spoke up during a recent
Then they were stunned by what he said.
have a chance," said Warmack, as recounted by junior linebacker C.J.
Mosley. "If we repeat, we have a chance to be a dynasty."
football program that emphasizes "the Process" - relentless focus on the
immediate task, coupled with unyielding evasion of external factors -
the topic might be the ultimate taboo. Alabama as dynasty?
"That was certainly not a 'We-approve-this-message,' not at all," said senior center Barrett Jones.
Clearly uncomfortable with the entire idea, Jones claimed to have trouble recalling the episode.
man," he said. "We've got a lot of team meetings. ... I wish I could tell
you. I'm trying to remember some specifics. I don't even remember. I'm
Then he admitted, "When you said it, I kind of cringed."
whether Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban or his players choose to
acknowledge it, they're on the cusp of a historic accomplishment.
Alabama and Notre Dame arrive in south Florida on Wednesday to resume
preparations for Monday's BCS National Championship.
victory over Notre Dame, Alabama would win for the 49th time in 54 games
and become the first college football program to win three national
titles in four seasons since Nebraska in 1994-97 and would join a select
group of dominant programs.
"I know I'd never thought of it that
way, that we could be a dynasty," Mosley said. "That's one of the great
things about playing for Alabama. We always have that chance to be
great. We have that chance."
However you define a
dynasty, such sustained excellence is exceedingly rare. In modern
college football - the period since 1936, with the advent of the
Associated Press poll - there haven't been many.
three in five seasons from 1936-41. Notre Dame won three in four seasons
(1946-49). Under Paul "Bear" Bryant, Alabama won three in five seasons
(1961-65), which means if nothing else, the debate would begin about
this Crimson Tide's status in school history.
"There have been a
lot of great Alabama teams in the past," Mosley said. "Just being up
there with all of those teams would be special."
four national titles from 1983-91 and just missed a couple more.
Oklahoma, which won 47 consecutive games (still the NCAA record) in
1953-57, was awarded only two national titles in that span. But counting
1950, the Sooners won three in seven seasons. USC won three national
championships in 1967-74 under John McKay.
Whatever the measure,
with another crystal football, Alabama's current era would fit in with
any of those programs. And if it happened, the Crimson Tide's
accomplishment might be even more impressive. Previous dynasties were
achieved while playing fewer games (eight-, nine-, 10- and 11-game
seasons vs. 13- and 14-) with more scholarships (the reduction to 85 at
the FBS level was phased in during the early 1990s).
In the past four seasons, Alabama has gone 48-5
this day and age, with scholarship reductions and practice limitations
and how competitive the SEC is, I think Alabama belongs in the
conversation (of greatest dynasties)," said Damon Benning, a former
Nebraska running back who was a key player during the Huskers' run of
dominance in the 1990s. "They warrant serious consideration in any era
of college football. What they've done is unbelievable."
of all of those factors, Benning still has trouble believing the Crimson
Tide is in position to do it. In the BCS era (which began in 1998, the
year after the Huskers' third championship) 11 different schools have
won national titles. "We didn't think it was anything we would ever see
again," he said.
USC just missed, winning an AP national
championship in 2003, the BCS championship in 2004 and playing for
another in 2005. But recent seasons have been defined by a dominant
conference rather than one program. Along with Alabama, LSU and Florida
have each won two BCS titles. And the Southeastern Conference's
ascension - six consecutive BCS championships, and six teams in the
current BCS Top 10 - makes Alabama's potential accomplishment perhaps
even more meaningful.
"We're playing now for the opportunity to
win seven, which is an extraordinary record," SEC commissioner Mike
Slive said. "The old saw is that records are made to be broken, but it's
hard for me to conceive of this record ever being broken."
many would argue. But it's also fair to consider whether another Alabama
national championship would begin to diminish the league's overall
narrative. The six consecutive championships have been won by four
different schools; the SEC is justifiably proud of the idea that any of
several teams could hoist the crystal football, any year. And until
Saban got Alabama revved into high gear, that certainly seemed to be the
But if the SEC's most historic power wins three of four - if that program becomes a modern-day dynasty - what does it signal?
you look at a time when the Alabama program was not performing, other
programs won national championships," Slive said. "So it's about the
league. It's really about the league. It's not about a program. The
competition level is high - and our people perform and rise to the
It's worth noting that a year ago, Alabama
prevented LSU from winning its third BCS title in nine years, or we
might have been considering another program for dynastic status. And
that a few weeks ago in the SEC championship game, Georgia came within 5
yards and a few seconds of becoming the sixth SEC team (along with
Tennessee, which won the first BCS title) to play for the crystal
But Mosley tipped Aaron Murray's last pass. The ball
fell into the hands of a surprised receiver who then fell short of the
goal line as time expired, the very narrow difference between a
devastating loss and the opportunity to carve a place in history. But
the Crimson Tide moved into position to defend last year's title - and
to become, well, what's the word again?
"I'm not gonna broach that now," Jones insisted.
of course, Warmack already has. Alabama's players and coaches might not
want to admit it, at least publicly - but they're well aware of the
"For me and a lot of players," said Mosley,
referring to Warmack's off-message moment, "that really hit home. It's
something you can look back to 20 or 30 years from now and say you were a
part of. If we're able to do that, it would be a big accomplishment."