As we reach the mid-point of Iron Bowl week, I wanted to take a moment and compliment the Auburn Tigers for something I believe they are doing right. Granted, there is not much to emulate down on the plains of suburban Opelika. The program is in disarray and the fan base is disenchanted with the current product. Even the traditions are less than inspiring. On one hand, they vandalize their campus with a hygiene product after a win and, on the other, they are cats who scream a battle cry for a bird that died of exhaustion.
However, the Auburn Tigers do one thing that I wish Alabama would do. They play in-state teams from time to time. Last weekend, Auburn paid a handsome sum to Alabama A&M for a schedule-filler game and kept that money in the state. Alabama used to do that too. Bear Bryant did a lot to build the Howard (Samford) team for Bobby Bowden by sending him players that were not going to get playing time at the Capstone.
Bowden was a freshman quarterback at Alabama in 1948 before transferring to Samford. He became head coach there around the same time Bear returned to Tuscaloosa. Rather than pump money into Western Carolina and North Texas, why can we not help former Tide star Joey Jones build his program in Mobile? Why can we not spend our money helping UNA, a former powerhouse in lower division play, stay strong?
Auburn, despite being the third-best team in Alabama this season, is the only in-state team that recruits the same players as Alabama. Troy doesn’t. JSU doesn’t. UAB doesn’t. Certainly, Samford and South are not going to steal players from the Tide. Keep the money in the state and play our local lower-division boys. Like Bowden, many of those players probably had childhood dreams of suiting up and playing at Bryant Denny. Let them. In this ridiculous economy, we should keep our dollars in local pockets.
It’s Iron Bowl week. It’s Thanksgiving week. Frankly, college football doesn’t get any better than this. As we celebrate a season of thanks on Thursday, many of us will be eating turkey and looking forward to the end of another regular season on Saturday with a game that has captured our imaginations for most of our lives. Many of us did dream of being on that field and playing in this series that means so much to the state.
Alabama leads the Iron Bowl series 41-34-1 and should add to that lead this weekend. You can’t take anything for granted, even in a series where the favorite almost always wins, because Alabama has struggled through two lackluster performances in big games already this season. There is a lot at stake in this one, a trip to Atlanta and, perhaps, a trip to Miami. Even if you believe the stars are aligning for another Alabama BCS title, the men in crimson still need to line up and play on Saturday.
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