Laced through the nearly 45-minute ceremony before an estimated crowd of 32,000 in Bryant-Denny Stadium were echoes from 2009. Alabama president Dr. Robert Witt quoted that very same coach, Nick Saban, who called that 2009 national title a beginning and not an end.
And then came this from Saban: “With players we’re returning and the players we’re recruiting, we’ll continue to have a team of champions.”
As evidenced by the rhetoric and the fact that more fans turn out for spring games than championship celebrations around here, the mentality is all about teeing up the next title run. Such is life for a school with 14.
That means it’s already time to peg the challenge ahead for Alabama’s returning players — making sure that 2012 doesn’t become 2010.
“We’re chasing No. 15,” linebacker Nico Johnson said. “Already, we’re chasing.”
Fortunately for Alabama, the 2012 team will have a lot of players around who remember what getting from 13 to 14 was like.
Veteran players like Johnson remember being ranked No. 1 for the first six weeks of 2010, only to lose three regular-season games.
“By going through what we did two years ago, when we lost to South Carolina, LSU and I can’t remember who else — Auburn,” Johnson said, “going through that and having a majority of the players who played on that team coming back, we’ll have better leadership than we had that year (2010).”
But there are reasons why winning national titles every year is much easier to expect than to do.
Other teams get better, as Alabama’s 2009 team showed by ending Tim Tebow-led Florida’s bid for a third national title in four years in the SEC Championship.
Top players move on, and the 2012 Alabama team will have something in common with the 2010 bunch. The Tide must replace a bunch of stars from a dominant defense.
And then there’s human nature, to which Saban alluded after Alabama throttled LSU in the Bowl Championship Series title game nearly two weeks ago. It’s all too human to feel satisfied.
Feeling that way no doubt played a role in Alabama’s 2010 team falling short and earning the mantra that motivated the 2011 team — “Never again.”
Is the next Alabama team ready to turn “never again” into again and again?
“Just going through that myself, being a leader next year, I’m going to try to mold into everybody else that we’ve got to stay on our stuff, week in and week out, no matter what,” Johnson said minutes after Saturday’s ceremony. “Stay level-headed.
“If we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”
There’s something to file away from Saturday’s national-title celebration, which closed the book on one championship and launched the pursuit of another.
In all the glow from 2011, the Tide can’t let 2012 become 2010.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.