Bear Bryant

100th anniversary of Bear Bryant’s birth looms over Alabama-Texas A&M showdown


When No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M face off on Saturday in College Station, it will be just the sixth time these two schools have met.

Despite this historical unfamiliarity, both teams are bound together by a common thread that goes beyond their mere status as Southeastern Conference brethren.

It stands to reason that both programs would not be in the position they are now if not for the work of one man — Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, who was born 100 years ago this week.

His first team at A&M, the 1954 squad, went 1-9 after surviving a grueling training camp at Junction, Texas. Two years later, the legendary “Junction Boys” would go undefeated and capture their first Southwest Conference championship in 15 seasons. When John David Crow won the Aggies’ first Heisman Trophy in 1957, it was in large part because Bryant vouched on his behalf.

“If he doesn’t win it, then they ought to quit giving it,” Bryant told the press.

In 1958, Bryant was tabbed by his alma mater to be its head coach and athletic director: “Momma called. And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin’,” he said of his return to Alabama.

His tenure at Alabama was remarkable.  He coached the Tide for 25 years, winning six national titles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979) and thirteen SEC championships. He was the three-time national Coach of the Year.  When he finished, he had won more games than any other Division I coach, compiling a lifetime record of 323-85-17.

The Bear passed away in January of 1983, just a few weeks after retiring from football.

What would he think of these two teams getting ready to play on Saturday? He’d probably get a kick out of Johnny Manziel’s free-wheeling style — after all, he coached one Joe Namath — though it’s doubtful he’d tolerate any of his off-the-field antics. The power-running and physical approach of the Crimson Tide on both sides of the ball would be right up his alley.

Most of all, he’d be proud of what his two teams had become — national powers playing the sport at the highest of levels.

If there’s anyone left who represents the spirit of Bryant and his connection to these two schools, it’s Crow, who coached under Bryant at Alabama after starring for the Aggies on Bryant’s last team there. When Alabama and A&M storm onto Kyle Field on Saturday, he’ll be there to watch his Heisman heir try to pull off another upset. But he won’t be devastated if the Tide wins.

“I tell everybody that A&M is my true love and that I want us to win everything that we do, but Alabama is a close second because of the ties I had with Coach Bryant, and with my son playing over there,” Crow told the College Station Eagle.

If this year’s game is as exciting as last year’s 29-24 upset by A&M in Tuscaloosa, it may signal the beginning of a rather interesting and unique rivalry.

The Bear would no doubt approve.

No suspensions for Georgia linebackers Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12:  Darrius Sims #6 of the Vanderbilt Commodores is tackled by Johnathan Abram #25, Natrez Patrick #6, and Roquan Smith #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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After having a bit of a cloud of uncertainty floating above them the past few days, Georgia linebackers Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith will not face any discipline from the university and football program. Georgia announced that decision on Monday, saying the legal manner has been resolved from an on-campus dorm search by campus police.

“After receiving an incident report last week, we determined that neither Roquan Smith nor Natrez Patrick had violated any Athletic Association rules that would require suspension,”Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said in a released statement. “This included drug testing, which was negative for both student-athletes.”

Campus police were called to Patrick’s dorm room on October 15 to investigate a potential marijuana smell. No substances were discovered and no arrests were made.

Not losing Patrick and Smith is good news for the Bulldogs, as the two are the leading tacklers on Georgia’s defense, with 42 and 39 tackles, respectively. Each player released a brief statement in addition to McGarity’s statement.

“Since November 2015, I have dedicated myself to moving forward,” Patrick said in a released statement. “I’m blessed to have done that despite hurdles I’ve had to clear. This incident was simply another hurdle and I was confident I would successfully clear it. I’ll continue to move forward and I’m anxious to play on Saturday.”

“As a student at the University of Georgia and a member of the football team, I take this opportunity very seriously,” Smith said in his statement. “I have followed the rules of the Athletic Association and I am happy this situation has been rightfully resolved. I look forward to representing my school and my team on Saturday in Jacksonville.”

Northwestern CB Matt Harris retiring due to concussions

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 15:  A general view of the stadium as the crowd of 40,681 watches the game between Michigan and Northwestern on November 15, 2003 at Ryan Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan defeated Northwestern 41-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/ Getty Images)
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Northwestern cornerback Matt Harris is retiring from football after a series of concussions have put his health at risk.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision to reach, but it is the right one for me and for my future,” Harris said in a released statement. “There are few things I love more than playing the game of football and the game has provided me with so many opportunities, including the chance to attend this University. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and learn so many lessons. Northwestern has given me so much, I look forward to taking full advantage of my chance to give back to the world around me in the future.”

Harris, a team captain in 2016, earned All-Big Ten honors in 2015 and has been named a two-time Academic All-Big Ten player during his time at Northwestern. Harris will retire having notched 161 tackles, six interceptions and three forced fumbles on the football field.

Harris is another name added to the growing list of football players making the decision to retire at such a young age. As time goes by, we learn more and more about the possible long-term effects of head injuries seen in sports, particularly in football. As a result, we are seeing players more frequently decide to step away from the sport in order to preserve their long-term health in the years to come. It is an unfortunate reality of the sport of football today, and one that continues to be addressed  at all levels.

Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy lost for the season (torn pectoral)

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Jack Cichy #48 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with fans after defeating the LSU Tigers 16-14 at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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One of Wisconsin’s top defensive players will miss the remainder of the season. Linebacker Jack Cichy, despite saying after Saturday’s win against Iowa he was determined to play this weekend against Nebraska, will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral.

Cichy led the Badgers in tackles this season with 60, 45 of which have been solo tackles. What makes the injury extra frustrating for the Badgers is the team just welcomed back Vince Biegel from an injury. Biegel and Cichy made for a very talented linebacking duo in Madison, but that will be lost for the rest of Wisconsin’s Big Ten West Division championship hunt. The Badgers lost another linebacker for the season in the first game of the season when Chris Orr went down.

South Carolina turns QB show over to freshmen

STARKVILLE, MS - SEPTEMBER 10:  Brandon Mcilwain #11 of the South Carolina Gamecocks runs the ball during a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Starkville, Mississippi.  The Bulldogs defeated the Gamecocks 27-14.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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So long for having a veteran option to rely on at South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ are moving forward giving a pair of freshmen the chance to lead the offense for the remainder of the season. Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain will continue to take first-team reps with the offense

“I just feel like right now, just from an ability standpoint, those two guys give us the best opportunity,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said during his Sunday teleconference, according to The Post and Courier. “And they’re just going to keep getting better. Both of them do things equally well, and we’ll continue to rep that way.”

Bentley made his season debut over the weekend, completing 17 of 26 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns against UMass. McIlwain has appeared in six games this season, completing 56-of-106 passes for 567 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. At 3-4, the Gamecocks can still make a run to a postseason bowl berth, but having a quarterback capable of lighting a spark on offense is essential. Bentley did that against UMAss, but games against Tennessee, Florida and Clemson in the second half of the season will prove to be more difficult.

Regardless, this means we may have seen the last of Perry Orth at quarterback for the Gamecocks. Orth will step aside as South Carolina’s leading passer with 661 passing yards and a completion percentage of 63.3 without a touchdown and two interceptions. The senior, a former walk-on, will remain influential on the sideline, however.

“Perry’s been great in terms of supporting our guys and talking to them on the sideline,” Muschamp said. “He’s been a great teammate, he’s a great young man, and he’s a guy who certainly is a valuable member of our organization, and a guy I’ve got the utmost respect for.”