By Neal McCready
Some Alabama fans are really funny. I mean, Eddie Murphy-at-his-peak hilarious.
In the wake of Mississippi State's win over Alabama, many Crimson Tide fans came out of the woodwork demanding immediate change.
So bring on Nick Saban. Bring on Rich Rodriguez. You can interview Bobby Petrino, too. Maybe Rutgers' Greg Schiano would make a good coordinator, a coach-in-waiting if Jimmy Johnson isn't willing to commit more than, say, five years to bringing Alabama football back to where it belongs. I mean, really, who wouldn't want to come stalk the same sidelines that the Bear once patrolled? Who wouldn't want to coach in the shadow of greatness? After all, if you're going to fantasize, take it the distance.
The problem, however, for the dreaming Tide nation is that when it wakes up to the real world, Mike Shula's still the coach and the hard truth is he just might be the best Alabama can realistically hope for. The line of prospective coaches just dying to come to Tuscaloosa isn't as long as Tide fans think.
Before every home game, there's that voice. I still can't understand what he says, but it's something about "class," and "we got class," or "win with class." Then the elephant roars and another voice says, "This is Alabama football."
No, that was Alabama football. Those days are long gone and until the powers that be at the Capstone recognize that, all the Tide is going to be able to embrace is history. The people who Alabama football is selling to -- the current high school recruits -- were born in 1988 or 1989. They were 3 years old when Gene Stallings led Alabama to an upset over Miami in the Sugar Bowl and the national championship. Their experience with Alabama football mostly has been controversy, scandal, NCAA sanctions, losing seasons and mediocrity. The ardent Alabama fans among that group remember Shaun Alexander and Chris Samuel leading Alabama to the 1999 SEC title, but they were 11 or 12 then. Since that national championship night in New Orleans, a lot of water has flowed under the proverbial bridge.
Here's reality: Alabama has been passed. Ask the kids. They're the only ones who really matter. They'll tell you Florida is cool. So is LSU. Ask them about winning tradition and they'll tell you about Auburn, Tennessee and maybe Georgia. South Carolina has Steve Spurrier. Arkansas kids are staying home. Ole Miss has built a great indoor practice facility. Kentucky has fabulous facilities. Mississippi State probably isn't far behind. Jimmy Johns would probably never admit it even if someone could extricate his foot from his mouth, but had the Brookhaven, Miss., native stayed home and gone to Mississippi State or Ole Miss, he'd be a hero in his home state and a starter on the field. Oh yeah, he would have won a football game Saturday. Instead, he went to Alabama, where he's now a highly publicized backup playing behind an underachieving senior.
So why would Saban leave sunny Miami for Alabama? Petrino might be preparing for the national championship game in early January. Why would he give that up to take on a rebuilding project that goes well beyond the football field? Rodriguez might leave his native West Virginia one day, but Alabama's a lateral move at best.
But if Alabama is intent on making that sort of splash, here's two pieces of advice: Ante up and get your eyes out of the rear-view mirror because the men the delusional Tide fans talk about are forward thinkers with healthy egos. In other words, if you expect them to come to Tuscaloosa and walk in a shadow, you'd better hope for nothing but sunny days because guys like Saban, Petrino, Rodriguez and the others aren't going to walk in a shadow that isn't their own.