BY COLIN “BIG C” MACGUIRE
The Greenville Standard
In 1978 Coach Bryant told a recruit, he would set the record as the all-time winningest coach, while the player was at Alabama.
If that recruit signed with Alabama, then Coach Bryant’s comment came true. Alabama in 1980 finished at 10-2 and No. 6 in both polls. The talk going into the 1981 season was what game the record was gonna be broken. Coach Bryant was nine wins away. 315 was the magic number.
Coach Bryant’s record was 306-79-16 entering the season.
If Alabama won the first nine games, the record would be set against Mississippi State on Oct. 31.
The goal was to get to the national championship; the SEC would take care of itself.
The 1981 season started on Sept. 5 at LSU on national TV. The game was moved from Nov. 7 for that reason. LSU won 24-7.
On Sept. 12, Georgia Tech visited Birmingham’s Legion Field and lost 24-21, and there were eight games to go.
On Sept. 19, Alabama played Kentucky in Lexington and won 19-10. They got behind in the fourth quarter but pulled it out. Now there were seven games to go.
On Sept. 26, Alabama traveled to Vanderbilt to play in Nashville. The Tide won 28-7 by scoring two defensive touchdowns and a safety. Now there were six games to go.
On Oct. 13, Ole Miss visited Tuscaloosa and was blown out, 38-7. Newspaper articles fired up team as there were five games to go.
On Oct. 10, Southern Miss came to Birmingham and the game ended in a 13-13 tie. It felt like a loss. Alabama fumbled snap on SM one-yard line and blew a chance of winning game. Still five to go.
On Oct. 17, Alabama played Tennessee in Birmingham. It was the third Saturday in October and they won 38-19. At one point in the game, the score was 38-7. And now it was four to go.
On Oct. 10-24, Rutgers visited Tuscaloosa for Homecoming. Alabama won handily, 31-7. The game was tape delay on ESPN. Now, there were three wins to go.
On Oct. 31, Mississippi State visited Tuscaloosa. Alabama won 13-10. It was a hard hitting affair. They still won despite losing seven fumbles. It was payback for the 1980 loss. Now there were two games to go.
Nov. 7 was an open date. On Nov. 14, Alabama played Penn State at Happy Valley. They won 31-16, with an eight play goal line stand. Coach Bryant tipped his hat to the defense. That win tied all-time record at the time of 314 by coach Amos Alonso Stagg.
There was one win to go to break the record.
On Oct. 11, Alabama face Auburn at Legion Field in Birmingham. The Tide won 28-17. Two fumbled punts helped Auburn to take a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter but at touchdown pass and a touchdown run propelled Alabama to the win.
Coach Bryant became the winningest coach in college football history. He received a phone call from President Reagan.
The win helped Alabama to tie as Co-Champions of the SEC. This was Coach Bryant’s last championship team. Coach Bryant won 6 National Championships, one Southwest Conference Championship, and 14 Southeastern Conference Championships.