Alabama celebrates its fifth championship in nine yearsBy Cody Estremera | 01/21/2018 10:02pm
Winning national championships has become a tradition in Tuscaloosa, especially since 2009, when Nick Saban led the Crimson Tide to victory for the first time since 1992. After the team's fifth win in nine years, Saban said that game was one of the happiest moments of his life. He shared the moment with the Alabama fan base on Saturday.
“This team has a tremendous standard for what they want to accomplish, and what we want to play to on a consistent basis and how we want to represent this university," Saban said. "It's a level and anything less than that is not accepted, and that level has been established not just by this team but by the previous teams that we've had that have stood up here and won championships and been champions by the way they represent this university, how they compete and how they play.”
This year Alabama faced one of its toughest seasons during the Saban era. It saw 11 different players with substantial play time go down with an injury at some point during the year, starting with five in the opener. It lost to Auburn and missed the SEC Championship Game, leaving its fate to up to committee.
“The standard of togetherness that this team has, the grit to be able to compete on a consistent basis, to finish, the perseverance to overcome adversity and the challenges that this team had to face, whether it was injuries, difficult competition, tough turnaround for the national championship game,” Saban said. “Their intensity to be able to focus and play one play at a time at a very high level, to be able to finish and win, I can tell you that this team didn't meet the standard, they actually exceeded the standard because so many people contributed to what they were able to accomplish.”
The parade started in front of Denny Chimes and stretched to the Walk of Champions, where Saban, the team captains, athletic director Greg Byrne and several others spoke to the crowd of fans.
Alabama received its Sugar Bowl trophy, the American Football Coaches Association crystal ball trophy and the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy in front of the 40,000 fans in attendance.
“One of our obligations is to have formed a board of 63 active football coaches, in a cooperative manner with the CFP, to select the best college football team in the United States,” associate executive director of the AFCA Gary Darnell said. “That process seems to have gotten very comfortable with traveling to Tuscaloosa."
Saban now has five titles while at Alabama. Only three other active coaches have hoisted the championship trophy, with Ohio State's coach Urban Myer the only coach with multiple titles. This season, Alabama defeated the other two: Jimbo Fisher, who won in 2013 with Florida State, and Dabo Swinney, who won in 2016 with Clemson.
"The success by Coach Saban and his teams has not been matched, nor will they be matched any time soon," Darnell said.
Darnell continued with a note that he received from Waterford Crystal, the makers of the AFCA crystal ball trophy.
“If you run into Mr. Saban, please tell him that we have enjoyed making the six crystal balls that his teams have won,” the note said. “Tell him we appreciate his business. P.S. Tell him we are ready to start production on the seventh.”
The P.S. started an uproar in the crowd, but Saban’s expression remained unchanged.
"Honestly, I think for him the 24-hour rule was still in effect,” Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “I think he won and probably as soon as he got back the next day he was probably out recruiting. So, he's one of those guys that celebrates for that time being and the next day it's over with.”
Alabama is losing at least 30 members of its national championship team for next year. It loses its 24 seniors, the five players leaving early for the draft and linebacker Mekhi Brown, who is transferring to Tennessee State.
But the loss of talent isn’t stopping Saban from preparing for Alabama’s opener against Louisville on Sept. 1.
“To the players that are coming back, get ready for the challenges of the future and let everybody know that we're not finished,” Saban said.