On this day in sports history
BY COLIN “BIG C” MACGUIRE
The Greenville Standard
Today I will discuss Alabama’s 1961 national championship Team. It was the first championship under Coach Bryant.
Senior team manager Gary White was a freshman in 1957. Alabama finished 2-7-1 and lost to Auburn 40-0.
Coach Ears Whitworth was fired. On Dec. 3, Texas A&M Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was introduced as the head coach.
The 1958 spring practice was brutal. Alabama in 1958 went 5-4-1, then went 7-2-2 in 1959. In 1960, they went 8-1-2. Good recruiting paid off.
The first signing class under Bryant was entering their senior year. At their first meeting, Coach Bryant mentioned to them they were gonna win the national championship.
The class set that as their goal. Alabama opened the season ranked #3. They opened the season at Georgia on Sept. 23 and won 32-6.
They dropped to fourth despite impressive win. On Sept. 30, they played Tulane in Mobile and won a yawner 9-0.
The stayed at #4 and then traveled to Vanderbilt on Oct. 7 and won 35-6. They moved to #3 and on Oct. 14 beat North Carolina State 26-7. The quarterback for N.C. State was Roman Gabriel.
The dropped to #5 and on the third Saturday in October, the 21st, they played Tennessee at Legion Field in Birmingham. Tennessee kicked a 53-yard field goal to go up 3-0. Then Alabama scored 34 straight points to win 34-3. They led 20-3 at the half and the game was on regional TV.
On Oct. 28, Alabama was ranked #4 and traveled to face Houston. Alabama won 17-0. On Nov. 4, Alabama was #4 and they played State at Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa and won 24-0. Alabama moved to #2 and then trounced Richmond on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 66-0.
On Nov. 18, Alabama was still at #2 and played Georgian Tech at Legion Field in Birmingham. They held to 90 yards.
After the game, #1 Texas was upset by TCU (3-5-2), 6-0. This opened the door for Alabama.
On Dec. 2, Alabama was ranked #1 and faced Auburn at Legion Field in Birmingham.
Alabama scored seven points in the first quarter, then 17 in the second quarter to lead 24-0 at the half. They scored 10 in the second half along with a goal line stand to win 34-0.
On Dec. 5, The Associated Press and United Press named Alabama, National Champions.
The seniors believed what Coach Bryant said and it happened. Alabama had one more game, the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. vs Arkansas.
Alabama jumped out to a 10-0 lead, then Arkansas kicked a field goal in the third quarter. Alabama gave up points for the first time in 25 quarters. Alabama held on for a 10-3 win. Finishing at 11-0, the Tide led the nation in scoring, rushing, passing, and total defense.
Gary White started when Alabama was in the outhouse and was there when they made it to the penthouse.