When Bill Curry arrived at The Capstone in 1987, many people scratched their heads in confusion. By most measures – and certainly by Alabama standards – he had not been successful at Georgia Tech, where he compiled a record of 31–43–4. For older alumni in particular, hiring a coach from Tech was taboo because the school was once a bitter, and sometimes violent, rival.
In three seasons at Alabama, Curry compiled a 26-10 record and won a share of the SEC title in 1989 — the first since the Bryant era. Alabama turned out to be the only successful segment of Curry’s coaching career. However, Curry left Alabama for a better contract and less pressure at Kentucky. His 26-52 tenure with the Wildcats never yielded another winning season. He retired in 1996 and moved into broadcasting. Curry later emerged from retirement to build the first team for Georgia State, where he went 6-5 in his first season, and returned to Tuscaloosa for a game against his former employer.
Curry was known for his fundamental understanding of the game of football. His success on the field never matched his potential, however, and many fans remember some of the bad decisions more than his good reputation. When he arrived at Alabama, he moved RB Gene Jelks to the defense. Although the move made sense, many fans believed Jelks was destined to be a star running back. Jelks, unfairly, blamed Curry for his short pro tenure and later battle with drug addiction. Short of cash after his playing days, Jelks accused Perkins-era Tide coaches of offering payments to him while in school. An NCAA investigation found no evidence against Alabama and, in fact, revealed that he had been paid by an Auburn booster to make the accusations. At Kentucky, Curry moved one of college football’s most highly touted passers, Tim Couch, into a wishbone offense.
Curry was know for his folksy stories such as being the last man picked in the NFL draft, but many fans remember the way he left Alabama. Who leaves Alabama for Kentucky? People also remember that he never beat Auburn – not in three tries with the Tide and not in 12 times in his career. Instead, fans should use another word common to the Curry era – “focus.” Curry was a good man who was not a fit at Alabama. He left because he knew he was not a good fit, despite having the best season of his career. He gave Tide fans a gift in laying down the foundation of the Stallings era. Best of luck to Coach Curry in his final season at Georgia State. May they send him out as a winner.
Follow William on Twitter.