Sunday, December 13, 2009

A First for Alabama

As I mentioned yesterday, the University of Alabama football program has received just about every honor that is available in college football.

As a team, it has won seven consensus national championships — and, if Alabama beats Texas next month, the Crimson Tide will match all–time leader Notre Dame.

On an individual level, both players and coaches have been honored over the years. Bear Bryant, who coached the Crimson Tide from 1958 to 1982, won the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's coach of the year award three times — and, since the award was renamed in his honor, one of his successors, Gene Stallings, was the recipient the year he led Alabama to its first — and, so far, only — national title in the post–Bryant era.

Bryant actually did coach a Heisman Trophy winner during his career — Texas A&M halfback John David Crow, who received the award in 1957. But, in spite of the fact that the Crimson Tide won national championships and had numerous All–Americans on its rosters during Bryant's tenure, no Crimson Tide player ever won the Heisman Trophy.

Until last night.

Sophomore Mark Ingram won the closest vote in the history of the Heisman Trophy, narrowly topping Stanford's Toby Gerhart — who led the nation in rushing but played for a football team that lost four games this season.

Ironically, if Gerhart had prevailed, it would have been only the second Heisman awarded to a player from Stanford. Quarterback Jim Plunkett won the Heisman back in 1970.

But it wasn't. The Heisman now takes its place in Alabama's trophy case — perhaps to be joined by another national championship trophy and another Bear Bryant coach of the year award. But even if other Alabama athletes win the Heisman in the years ahead, Ingram was the first.

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