College Football in Alabama

College football in Alabama is by far and away the most popular sport in the State, and residents fully understand this.

In fact, if you do live here, at some point you will be asked the question that everyone is asked, who do you like, Alabama or Auburn.

This match-up is known as the “Iron Bowl”, and it is considered one the most intense rivalries in all of college football.

Intercollegiate athletics first appeared in the state in the late 19th century, and football very quickly became the most popular sport.

However, college football in Alabama was not always like it is today, for one very simple and sinister reason, segregation.

During this time period and up until the mid-1960’s, competitive sports as well as higher education in general were rigidly segregated.

Alabama FootballAlabama Football

The History of Segregation in College Football in Alabama

Until the mid-1960’s the universities in the state, started to play against schools in the north, and the school’s officials refused to play any teams that allowed African American players to compete.

The new sport of football exploded in popularity during the last two decades of the 19th century.

It presented young men a powerful emotional appeal to prove their manhood, and within a decade, it surpassed baseball in popularity.

Both the University of Auburn as well as the University of Alabama formed their respective schools first intercollegiate football teams in the year 1892.

The segregation slightly, even at these schools, in all forms until the year 1959.

In that year, the University of Alabama’s head couch, Paul “Bear” Bryant, and the university officials agreed to play in the Liberty bowl.

Their opponent, Penn State University, had one African American player on its roster.

However, after this game, both Auburn and Alabama continued to avoid these games, and only played all-white southern schools.

This stance started to affect both teams nationally, and threatened their national rankings, especially for any national championship aspirations.

In the year 1970, Alabama played Southern California, USC, which had 20 black players, and they lost by a lop-sided score, 42-21.

In 1969, Alabama’s black student association filed a lawsuit, charging the University with racial discrimination in athletics.

However, the year before this in 1968, the coaching staffs at both schools started to scout talented black high school prospects.

James Owens was offered a scholarship at Auburn, and played on the varsity team from 1970-1972, and the following year Alabama signed Wilber Jackson.

Then in the fall of 1971, Alabama added three more African Americas, including the future star, Sylvester Croom.

In the year 2003, Mr. Croom became the first black head football coach in the SEC, when he was hired by Mississippi State.

After all of this and the Civil Rights Movement, segregation in college football in Alabama ended.

College Football in Alabama

Auburn FootballAuburn Football

College football in Alabama is dominated by Alabama and Auburn in Division 1, but there is also Troy University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, or UAB.

University of Alabama

First on the list of college football in Alabama is the University of Alabama, and it is first alphabetically, and for no other reason.

It fielded its first team in 1892 and has become one of the most storied programs in the history of the sport.

It claims 18 National Championships, and well as a record 32 Southeastern Conference championships.

From 1958 to 1982 the team was led by the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, who won six national championships.

However, it had never had a Heisman trophy winner until 2009, when Mark Igram won its first Heisman, and then Derrick Henry won the second in 2015,

Then they had back-to back winners in 2020 and 2021, with DeVonta Smith and Bryce Young.

Nick Saban was hired as the coach in 2007, and since then he has won seven national Championships.

One was at LSU, and the rest of been at Alabama.

In the year 2013, Mr. Saban was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

The Iron BowelThe Iron Bowel

University of Auburn

The University of Auburn was charted in 1856, as East Alabama Male College, and in 1872 it became the State’s first land-grant university.

In 1960 its name was changed to Auburn University, to acknowledge the academic programs and large curriculum.

The University began competing in intercollegiate football in 1892, and joined the SEC in 1932, as one of the inaugural members.

Auburn has had 12 undefeated seasons and 16 conference championships.

They have produced three Heisman Trophy winners with Pat Sullivan, a quarterback in 1971, and running back Bo Jackson in 1985.

Then in 2010, quarterback Cam Newton also won the Heisman.

Five teams from Auburn have been awarded a National Championship, in 1913, 1957, 1983, 1993, and 2010.

The 1957 and 2010 championships were consensus National Championships.

They play their home games at Jorden-Hare Stadium, and it becomes Alabama’s fifth largest city on game days, with a capacity of 87,400.

They play the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl and is perhaps the biggest rivalry in all of college football.

The Iron BowlThe Iron Bowl

Troy University

Next on the list of college football in Alabama is Troy University, which has had a football program since 1946.

They joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2004, and they have won 21 conference championships, and 6 have been in the Sun Belt Conference.

There main competitors are South Alabama, UAB, Middle Tennessee, and Jacksonville State.

Thye play their home games in Veterans Memorial Stadium, in Troy Alabama.

UAB

The final team on the list of college football in Alabama in Division I, is the University of Alabama at Birmingham, or UAB.

UAB is a late arrival to football, as they did not start playing until 1989, as a football club.

Then in 1991, they began to play in Division III, and in 1993-1995 they played as a Division I-AA Independent.

In 1996 they made the jump to Division I, and they played their home games at Legion Filed in Birmingham.

Then, suddenly, in 2014 the program was terminated, before returning in 2017.

UAB joined Conference USA in 1999, and has won 2 conference championships, the first in 2018, and the second in 2020.

They now play in a new stadium, Protective Stadium, since the year 2021, which has a capacity of 47,000.

Its main rivals are Southern Miss, Troy, and Memphis.

College football in Alabama is alive and well, and the 2022 season and upcoming seasons should be very, very exciting for the fans.

http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1668

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