UA Athletics are ‘built by Saban’

Chad Haynie

Champions aren’t born; they’re built. You might have noticed this year’s Crimson Tide athletics slogan, “Built by Bama,” that pops up at the end of the football introduction video. The question that is left though is, “Who built Bama?”

Alabama football fans will naturally point to the past and bring up the names from the olden days like Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas and, of course, Paul “Bear” Bryant. If we were talking only about football, they’d be right. At least partially.

Bama is more than just football though. It has become in recent years one of the premiere names in all of collegiate athletics. In the 2011-2012 academic year, The University of Alabama won national championships in four NCAA Division I sports, which is more than any other school in the country. It was the first time the school had ever won more than one national title in a given year.

It is hard to believe the jump that the entire athletic department at Alabama, not just football, has made since January 2007. On New Year’s Day in 2007, the state of Alabama athletics was in shambles. Even though the year prior had been a successful one at the University with a 10-win football season and SEC championships in baseball and softball, the Tide had dropped to a new low.

Remember when Rich Rodriguez used Alabama as a negotiating tactic at West Virginia? That was the new low for Alabama athletics. It was an embarrassment for what was once a school that prided itself on its gridiron glory. That all changed in less than a month.

Nick Saban was named Alabama’s new head football coach on Jan. 3, 2007, and since that day, the entire athletic department at Alabama began an uphill climb that it is still taking place. Saban was a proven winner, and no one doubted that Alabama football would be successful in the years to come. What people didn’t expect was the rise in all of Alabama’s programs.

The principals and values that Saban laid out for his football program impacted the entire athletic department. The acceptance of mediocrity was gone and replaced with a drive for excellence.

“We’re working to be a champion,” Saban said at his introductory press conference. “We want to be a champion in everything that we do. Every choice, every decision, everything that we do every day, we want to be a champion.”

That message was delivered loud and clear.

Crimson Tide gymnastics was the only program at Alabama other than football to win a national championship, until last year that is. Sarah Patterson, who is the only coach left at Alabama hired by then athletic director Paul “Bear” Bryant, has built one of the most successful gymnastics programs in the nation.

Even the gymnasts have stepped their game up. The past four years have been the most successful in the program’s championship history with two conference crowns and back-to-back national titles since 2009.

Softball had been no stranger to the Women’s College World Series, but in the past three years has won back-to-back-to-back Southeastern Conference titles and two SEC Tournament crowns. On Saturday, Patrick Murphy’s squad will receive their national championship rings at halftime of the Florida Atlantic game. The Tide was the first team from the SEC to ever win the Women’s College World Series.

The success spread to the links as well as Mic Potter’s women’s golf team, who brought home the national championship trophy last spring.

From 1892 to 2008, Alabama won 16 national championships. In the past three years that number has grown to 22.

Process over outcome. That is the Saban way. Not even Mal Moore, while he was bringing Saban to Tuscaloosa from Miami, could have envisioned the outcome that the Crimson Tide has had in the past three years. This year’s slogan might be “Built by Bama,” but Bama is built by Saban.