Pockets of overreaction from Alabama’s loss in Monday’s College Football Playoff title game make one wonder how sports dynasties are defined any more.
If Alabama’s dynasty in major college football has died, as some proclaimed after the Crimson Tide’s 35-31 loss to Clemson, then the definition of a dynasty has no basis in reality.
What dynasty’s string of championships goes unbroken?
In an era of parity wrought by salary caps and revenue sharing in pro sports and scholarship limits in college sports, how is it realistic to think a championship miss signals the end?
Sure, fan pockets outside of the South have tired of Nick Saban-era Alabama’s run of national relevance. Truth told, such pockets exist in 13 of 14 SEC locales.
We also live under an ever-broadened media umbrella. A race to the bottom is on in all phases, including opinion making. Overreaction gets heard in a glutted market place.
That’s how a loss on a last-second touchdown in a title-game clash of heavyweights suddenly morphs into a dying dynasty.
Let’s be real about dynasties. The Green Bay Packers won five NFL championships and/or Super Bowls from the 1961-67, with a skip in 1963 and 1964. The 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in six seasons, with a two-season skip in the middle. The San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls, but over 14 years.
The New York Yankees have won 27 World Series, by far the most, but lost 13. Their longest unbroken string of Series titles was five, from 1949-53.
In major college football, Alabama’s 2012 team became the first repeat champion since Nebraska of the mid-1990s. That, alone, shows the difficulty of stringing together national championships in the era of scholarship limits.
The realistic mark of a modern sports dynasty is consistency at or near the top. In that way, Saban-coached Alabama is to major college football what the Bill Belichick-coached New England Patriots are to the NFL.
Barring major injuries, the Patriots have been a contender since the 2001 version won the Super Bowl. They’ve won their division 14 of 16 years, including 2016, and made their conference championship game 10 times.
No, they didn’t win the Super Bowl every year. A David Tyree helmet catch here and sacks of Tom Brady there, and the New York Giants beat the Patriots twice in Super Bowls.
But Belichick’s teams have won four Super Bowls and played in six in 15 years. They stay at or near the top, with no indication of a looming fade.
The same holds for Saban’s Alabama teams. Since the start of the 2008 season, his second in Tuscaloosa, Saban has had his teams in national contention headed into the Iron Bowl every year but 2010, when the Crimson Tide lost three regular-season games.
Even in 2010, Alabama spent the first half of the season ranked No. 1.
Alabama was No. 1 and undefeated headed into the 2008 SEC Championship Game. Tim Tebow led a fourth-quarter comeback, or the Crimson Tide would have played for a national championship.
The 2009 team was an unbeaten national champion.
The 2011 and 2012 teams were one-loss national champions.
The 2013 team entered the Iron Bowl unbeaten and No. 1 but suffered Auburn’s “Kick Six” in the final second of a winner-take-all game that decided the SEC West Division champion.
The 2014 Alabama team entered the inaugural College Football Playoff as the top seed but lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, one of two semifinals.
Alabama was a one-loss national champion in 2015, and the 2016 team came one second short of repeating.
Way-too-early polls for 2017 have Alabama No. 1, partly because of what other top teams will lose but also as a bow to Alabama’s annual recruiting gains.
Alabama remains at or near the top of major college football, where it’s been since 2008. That’s a thriving dynasty, by any rational definition.