In 2006, Alabama Crimson Tide football was at a crossroads. What had once been the hallowed ground on which Bear Bryant trod, was a killing field where opposing teams could score with near impunity.
A series of bad decisions by those in power had put the Tide football program in the hands of a series of increasingly unworthy hands. It was time for a change.
In the face of opposition by some UA power brokers who wanted a safe hire, director of athletics Mal Moore made a bold gamble, pursuing an NFL coach that could potentially change the landscape of SEC football.
With the future of Alabama football in the balance, Moore courted and landed Nick Saban; the rest is, literally, college football history.
Alabama basketball is at a similar crossroads.
After a second half implosion against Missouri this past weekend, Alabama sits at 8-9 on the season and hosts 15-2 Florida on Thursday. To say an Alabama win would be an upset is to state the blindingly obvious.
Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant rode a wave of positive press in his first season at Alabama. He’s well-liked, and represents Alabama with class and dignity. Further, he preaches solid defense, and slows down games so they don’t become shootouts. None of that is in dispute.
However, Grant is 27-46 versus RPI top 100 teams in his four-plus seasons. He is 6-31 against the top 50. He has coached the Tide to 18 straight losses against the top 50.
Alabama’s offense is, in a word, stagnant. The Tide rank 223rd overall in points per game, and 125th in field goal percentage. Alabama slows it down on defense because they have to; there’s no chance they will win a scoring contest.
Alabama’s recruiting has not been as good as expected, and player development is a concern. Outside of Trevor Releford, does Alabama have anything close to a scoring threat?
Another missing piece seems to be halftime adjustments. If what Alabama does in the first half isn’t working, the solution seems to be more of the same.
Anthony Grant is being paid nearly $2 million for the product he puts on the court. Five years in, that product is in a state of regression. Fans are staying home in droves, and the excitement that Tide football, softball and gymnastics have brought to the Capstone is nowhere to be found in Coleman Coliseum on game nights.
Current athletic director Bill Battle will soon have a decision to make, based on his goals for the Crimson Tide basketball program. Perhaps fielding a team is enough; Alabama is football-first, and no school can excel in both football and basketball at the same time, right?
Pipe down, Gator fans.
Some are calling for Anthony Grant to be fired, while others insist that one more year is just the cure. It’s very much like the divide among Alabama fans when Mike Shula strode the sidelines. Shula was a good man in a bad situation, so the refrain went, and all he needed was more time.
Shula ran out of time when the Alabama fan base, and Mal Moore, ran out of patience. It remains to be seen how patient Bill Battle and the Tide basketball fans are, but one thing is becoming increasingly clear:
Alabama basketball is at a crossroads.