Saturday could be the greatest day in the life of Bobby Lamb. Lamb is the head coach of the Mercer Bears, the football opponent for Alsbama at 11 a.m. CST Saturday. Most – actually, all — expect it to be not a good day for Coach Lamb, though. But just suppose there is an Appalachian State-Michigan moment.
Coach Lamb comes into the Alabama game with a 99-64 record. How memorable would be No. 100 for him?
On the other hand, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban is expected to walk out of Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday with his 221st college victory against his 61 losses and 1 tie. At Alabama he is 129-19 going into Saturday’s game against Mercer.
There were several milestone victories in the Paul Bryant Era at Alabama (1958-82), where he had a record of 232-46-9. When he completed his 25-year career at The Capstone, he had also completed a 37-year head coaching career with stints at Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas A&M.
Prior to the start of the 1971 season, Bryant had 199 career coaching wins. Preparations were made by several news outlets to commemorate his 200th win, which most expected to come in Bama’s second game of the season against Southern Miss. That’s because Bama was opening the season in Los Angeles against fifth-ranked Southern Cal, a team that had beaten the Crimson Tide, 42-21, to open the 1970 season in Birmingham.
But on Sept. 10 – the day before Bryant’s birthday – in the Los Angeles Coliseum, Alabama unveiled the wishbone offense and surprised the Trojans with a 17-10 win.
About a decade later, Bryant made the decision (in great part for recruiting considerations, since opponents were using his age against him) to go for the all-time record of 314 career wins, held by Amos Alonzo Stagg.
“If someone’s going to have the record, it might as well be me,” Bryant said.
He got No. 300 against Kentucky (45-0) on Oct. 4, 1980. On Nov. 14, 1981, against fifth-ranked Penn State and Joe Paterno in State College, Pa., No. 6 Alabama took a 31-16 to give Bryant his 314th head coaching victory, tying Stagg’s record.
Alabama’s next game was Nov. 28 against Auburn in Birmingham. Auburn billed the game as Bryant’s “first try to break the record.” It took only one try. Alabama took a 28-17 victory and Bryant had reached that heretofore thought untouchable 315 mark.
A year later, Bryant would conclude his extraordinary career with the all-time record of 323-85-17. (Joe Paterno at Penn State and Bobby Bowden at Florida State later eclipsed the Bryant record.)
If Mercer Coach Bobby Lamb could have that historic victory Saturday, there’s a chance he could get on the hot list for one of several openings likely in the Southeastern Conference this year.
To date, there are two openings in the league. After winning back-to-back SEC Eastern Division championships in his first two years at Florida, Jim McElwain was shown the door by the Gators a couple of weeks ago. This week, Tennessee said they had seen enough of Butch Jones, and he was on the unemployed roll.
Arkansas has fired Athletics Director Jeff Long, which makes things even more tenuous for Brett Bielema, who seemed to be hanging by a thing thread in any event.
Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M is considered to be on the endangered list.
We don’t know what Ole Miss is going to do. Hugh Freeze was fired just before the start of the season because of his choices in girl friends. Matt Luke has done a decent job as the interim. He probably wasn’t any more known than Bobby Lamb before the start of the season, which gives both of them hope.
Missouri has come on strong with four straight wins (and Vanderbilt and Arkansas remaining), and most believe Barry Odom has shown them enough to get another year.
With the possible exception of Vanderbilt, everyone else seems safe.
That doesn’t mean, though, that a coach or two in the league might not leave of his own volition. Most cite first Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen as a possibility for Tennessee (which holds out hope for TV analyst John Gruden) or Florida (where he once was offensive coordinator, but for some reason the Gators don’t seem interested in Mullen). Less likely now that Auburn has disposed of rival Georgia and has visions of a national championship (even with two losses so far) is that Gus Malzahn will bid farewell to the Tigers to take over the Razorbacks program in his home state of Arkansas.
If it wasn’t for the fact that Nick Saban has had so much to do with the dissatisfaction with coaches at other SEC schools, we wouldn’t pay much attention.
Of more interest here is that Saban has a chance to outdistance Bryant both in victories at Alabama and overall.
Saban needs 103 victories to equal Bryant’s 232 wins at Alabama and his 323 wins overall.
Including anywhere from 3-5 more opportunities this year, when Alabama is 10-0, Saban has averaged 12.2 wins per season. At that rate, he could surpass those milestones in 2025.
One can only imagine resulting coaching turnover in the Southeastern Conference.