, Alabama (PressExposure) May 06, 2009 -- The Alabama football program is well known for their success, most notably having the most national championships of any team in college football history. However, many of their championships came during the Paul "Bear" Bryant era and the team had struggled after Bryant retired in 1982. There seemed to be no coach that would be able to fill the shoes of the coaching legend and many have come through since his departure and it always seems as if the pressure is just too much for one man to handle.
The replacement immediately following Bryant was former Alabama player and New York Giants head coach Ray Perkins. Perkins was rather disappointing in his four year tenure with the program. He led Alabama to its first losing season in 28 years; however the one bright spot was leading Alabama to its first victory over Notre Dame. Other than that, it was a very disappointing return to Tuscaloosa for Perkins.
After Perkins left to return to the NFL, he was succeeded by Coach Bill Curry, who led the program to three straight winning seasons while at the helm of the program, however he was unable to beat in state rival Auburn during any of his three seasons there. The program looks at the Auburn game as a measuring stick for all coaches that come to Alabama. Curry resigned after his third season, blaming unreal expectations for the program.
After Curry left to coach the Kentucky Wildcats, Alabama went out and hired another coach that was one of Bryant's former players, Gene Stallings. Stallings is arguably the most successful coach since Bryant retired in 1982. He struggled early in his career, leading the team to a disappointing 7-5 record in his first season, however he would improve tremendously in the following years to come. In his second season, he led the team to an 11-1 record and kept them in national title contention for the entire season. The next year, he would lead the team to an undefeated season and a national title, which would be the first and only Alabama national championship since Bryant retired. Alabama was consistently one of the better teams in the SEC during the Stallings years and were in contention for national titles in 1993 and 1994. Stallings retired in 1996 having returned the team to dominance they enjoyed under Bryant.
After Stallings retired, the team failed to come close to achieving the same success they had under Stallings. The first coach to succeed Stallings was defensive coordinator Mike Dubose. Dubose led the team to an SEC Championship in 1999, however the next season the team played very poorly even though they were a preseason favorite for the national championship, they ended the season 3-8 and Dubose was fired. He was replaced by Coach Dennis Franchione. Franchione led the team to a 17-8 record, however after his second season; he left Alabama and took a head coaching job at Texas A&M. This had shown how far Alabama had fallen, what used to be considered a dream job was now one that was easy to leave.
The team followed up hiring Mike Shula to be the head coach and he was very unsuccessful while head coach. His first season, he went 4-9 and followed up in his second season with a 6-6 record. The following season, Shula enjoyed his best season by going 10-2 and returning some of the swagger back to the Alabama program, however, he was unable to build on the success and led the team to a 6-7 record the next season and Shula was let go.
After Shula was let go, the team started a nationwide search and vowed to bring in a coach who could lead the team back to the glory years. In January 2007, their search was over and they found highly touted college football coach Nick Saban to take over. This excited the Alabama fan base and Saban has not disappointed bringing in top recruiting classes every year since he arrived in Alabama and also had the team ranked Number 1 for six weeks during the 2008 season, the future looks very bright for the Alabama program.