In the college football bowl season, Alabama once again is looking ahead. But if Bama wanted to see the competition for teams with most bowl tradition, the Crimson Tide would have to look behind.
When Alabama takes on Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl on January 2 at the Louisiana Superdome, it will be the Crimson Tide’s record 61st bowl game. Texas will be playing in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, the 52nd bowl game for the Longhorns, who are second to Bama in bowl appearances.
The team that is runner-up to Alabama in bowl victories has moved a little closer this bowl season. USC, with BCS talent, defeated Fresno State, 45-20, in the Las Vegas Bowl. That gives Southern Cal 32 bowl victories. Alabama will be going for its 36th bowl victory.
(Both Alabama and Southern Cal have had one bowl victory vacated by NCAA penalty.)
Bama’s Sugar Bowl opponent is in the top ten both in bowls played and bowl games won. The Sooners are seventh in appearances with 48 and sixth in victories with 26.
Alabama and Oklahoma have met twice in bowl games. The most notable was at the end of the 1962 season when Coach Paul Bryant’s Crimson Tide defeated Coach Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners, 17-0, with legendary Bama linebacker Lee Roy Jordan turning in an incredible 31 tackles. (ABC, which televised the game, calculated the tackles.) President John Kennedy was in attendance and was part of the coin toss ceremony, which was conducted in the stands. Jordan won the toss and still has the commemorative coin.
The other bowl game ordinarily would not be so memorable since 1970 was a down year for both Alabama and Oklahoma. The teams tied 24-24 in what was known that year as the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl (Houston’s Bluebonnet Bowl having moved to the Astrodome, the original domed stadium). Oklahoma tied the game with a field goal with 59 seconds to play. The Tide got the onside kick, Johnny Musso ran 21 yards to the Oklahoma 19, and with five seconds to play Bama had a field goal attempt for the win. It was partially blocked and missed badly.
None of the above was significant. The tie gave Alabama a 6-5-1 record. What was notable is that it was Bama’s first exposure to the new wishbone offense. Oklahoma had installed it midway through the 1970 season. The next year Alabama went to the wishbone and dominated the nation for the next decade.
Alabama’s record in the Bluebonnet Bowl is an unusual 0-0-2. In games played before overtime was a part of college football, Alabama and Texas tied 3-3 in the 1960 game.
Alabama’s first bowl appearance was in the Jan. 1, 1926 Rose Bowl – the only bowl game at that time – as the Crimson Tide was the first Southern team invited to the Pasadena game. The Crimson Tide of Coach Wallace Wade played in six Rose Bowl games, compiling an impressive 4-1-1 record.
Alabama’s 1945 team under Coach Frank Thomas defeated Southern Cal, 34-14, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Harry Gilmer led Bama to a romp in which the Trojans scored against Tide subs after the game was long over. Alabama outgained USC 351 yards to 41 with the Trojans netting just six rushing yards.
The next year the Pac-8 announced that henceforth the Rose Bowl was a closed shop with the Pac-8 inviting the champion of the Big Ten for that game each year.
Fortunately, other bowl games had emerged and there was a Big Four that also included the Sugar, Orange, and Cotton.
It is not lost on bowl historians that Alabama’s tradition has been built in these major bowl games.
Alabama, which is playing in a bowl game for the 10th consecutive year, is playing in its record 14th Sugar Bowl game. The Tide’s eight wins is also a Sugar Bowl record as the Tide is 8-5.
Bama has played in eight Orange Bowls with a record of 4-4.
Alabama has a 3-4 record in its seven Cotton Bowl games.
And although not part of the original Big Four, Alabama is also 3-0 in BCS National Championship Games.
In other bowl games, the Tide records are:
Liberty 2-2, Sun 3-0, Independence 2-1, Gator 1-1, Bluebonnett 0-0-2, Music City 0-2, Aloha 1-0, Blockbuster 1-0, Cap;ital one/Citrus 2-0, Hall of Fame 0-1, Outback 1-0, Fiesta 0-1.
Alabama has played in 17 different bowl games in eight different states and 19 different stadiums. Several bowl games – Sugar, Orange, Liberty, Bluebonnet, Music City – have been played in different stadiums, and some stadiums have hosted more than one bowl – Miami, Tampa, and, of course, the BCS games being played in big bowl locales.
Paul Bryant is Alabama’s leader in bowl wins with a 12-10-2 record, while Nick Saban and Gene Stallings with 5-1 records are second.