After a little time has passed and we are able to look at the past NCAA Championship game in more analytical eyes instead of emotional….Nope, can’t do it. That was amazing! Alabama put in a true freshman quarterback and overcame a two score deficit to beat the Georgia Bulldogs for their fifth national championship since 2009. In less than a decade, the Crimson Tide, led by a coach in Nick Saban who came to the program after a subpar stint as the head coach for the Miami Dolphins, have become the new standard in collegiate athletics. And as long as Saban remains the guiding hand of the university, it seems as though Bama will be near or on top of the mountain for another ten years.
That being said, we have to look at Alabama in terms of their time in the college football system. For the majority of the history of Division I football, the National Champions were decided at the end of the season by a team of writers. Then came the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) in the late 1990s, and their format, which relied on computers to format the bowl games and the National Championship matchup. Essentially, the teams play the regular season and instead of having a playoff based off the regular season rankings to determine the champions, the games were decided beforehand. The Crimson Tide won their first three titles in this system before it was scrapped for the four team playoff system in 2014.
The change in the system has made comparing dynasties more difficult. It is uncommon in the other major North American professional and collegiate sporting leagues. The postseason may expand, (for example, the introduction of the wild card in the NFL and MLB and the growth in the number of teams in the NCAA basketball tournaments) but it was not until four years ago that any actual postseason was established that forced the best teams to play multiple games to win the championship.
What would the most recent college football dynasties look like under the CFP (College Football Playoffs) system?
In the last three decades, the most accomplished dynasty in collegiate football is the Miami Hurricanes of the 1980s and early 1990s. Between the years of 1983-1992, the team won four National Championships with a roster of some of the greatest players of their generations. Michael Irvin, Jerome Brown, Bernie Kosar and many other players came through Coral Gables to create a new football powerhouse in the sport.
What has to be one of the most impressive attributes about the Miami team is the fact they did so without a single common player or coach to the team. Dynasties in professional sports tend to have a single player or coach who becomes the figurehead of the team (Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson’s Chicago Bulls, John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins, Michael Parker and the UNCG men’s soccer team in the 1980s) but the Hurricanes were coached by three different head coaches during their golden age. First by Howard Schnellenberger from 1979-1983, leaving the team after winning their first championship in 1983. Then Jimmy Johnson from 1984-88, where he also won a championship in 1987. The final two trophies were then won by Dennis Erickson, who coached the team to the title in 1989 and 1991.
Though their four championships are one less than the Crimson Tide, who won their fifth earlier this month, in four separate years, the Canes were ranked within the top four spots. In today’s modern college football alignment, the top four teams compete with each other in the playoffs. So Miami could have gotten four separate cracks at the trophy had they played today. Remember, Alabama essentially backed their way into the postseason after losing their final game against Auburn and Georgia beating Auburn the next week in the SEC Championship, allowing Bama to hop over them.
Whether a great college team is better or not is something that will be discussed in barbershops for years to come. Miami or Alabama? Pete Carroll’s USC or Tom Osborne’s Nebraska? What cannot be debated is the accomplishment Alabama has shown over the last decade, and the fact that with a talented freshman quarterback, they are probably going to be competing again next year and the years after that.