Alabama Football: Two programs alike and different at the same time

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Alabama football and Kentucky football programs don’t compare, just as Crimson Tide basketball and Wildcats basketball do not.

Alabama football not only drives the University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa, it boosts almost the entire state of Alabama. Kentucky basketball does the same in Lexington and the state of Kentucky,

The two programs are blue-blood elites. At $8 million-plus, John Calipari is college basketball’s highest-paid coach. Nick Saban at $9.3 million earns the highest salary among college football coaches. Some will argue today’s millions going to coaches is insane, but Calipari and Saban are bargains for their schools.

Kentucky Wildcats’ history included eight college basketball National Championships. Alabama football has more than twice as many, with Nick Saban providing five of the Tide’s 17 national titles.

The schools are also tied together through personal histories. Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant still is Kentucky’s greatest football coach. After a particularly good year as the Wildcats’ head coach, Bryant was rewarded with a watch as a bonus. That same season, as the Wildcats’ head basketball coach, Adolph Rupp was given a luxury car. Bryant left Lexington because ‘playing second fiddle’ to anyone was impossible for him.

Former Alabama basketball head coach, C.M. Newton played at Kentucky and toward the end of his career was Kentucky’s Athletic Director. Alabama basketball coaches are always content in the shadow of college football’s greatest football program. Mark Stoops and all the Kentucky head coaches between him and Bryant have the same situation in Lexington.

Bill Curry found the shade in Lexington more hospitable than the glaring microscope of Tuscaloosa. The Wildcats were glad to have him as head coach. Many Alabama football fans were glad to see Curry leave.

Alabama basketball has fared better in competition between the schools than Kentucky football. The basketball Crimson Tide, in 116 games against the Cats, has a winning percentage of 25.9. In a 40-game history of football games, the Wildcats have won only  6.2 percent of the games.

That football record will be worse for Kentucky after Saturday. The Cats have no chance against the Crimson Tide. Alabama basketball fans are looking forward to Nate Oats’ team taking on the Cats twice in the 2020-21 season. Calipari will have another strong team. Alabama basketball is expected to be improved. The last Tide roundball victory over Kentucky was Jan. 2019 in Tuscaloosa.

Kentucky’s biggest football challenge is holding on to Mark Stoops. Kentucky does not want to lose him, as his contract reflects. Stoops has done a superb job with less talent than most other SEC schools. There has been speculation Stoops could be lured by Iowa if Kirk Ferentz steps down. Mark might find coaching his alma mater attractive. He also might take his brother, Alabama football analyst, Mike Stoops with him.

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Fervent fan support is an area where Alabama football and Kentucky basketball are basically equal. Like Crimson Tide fans, the Big Blue Nation will travel anywhere to see the Cats.