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Walker
Saturday, July 13, 2024

Should UA’s stadium receive a name change to honor Saban?

​I’ve only been watching college football for a little over a decade, but it seems to me that Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of the more iconic venues in all of American sports. The steel-reinforced concrete and brick behemoth has been the home of the most dominant program in the history of collegiate sports since 1929 and boasts an impressive maximum capacity of 100,077. 

It is named for two people: Dr. George Denny and Paul William “Bear” Bryant. I believe—and I’m sure most others do, too—that a third name should be added to the facility: Nick Saban. From 2007 to 2023, Saban did what no one thought possible; he rivaled Bear Bryant in both success and popularity at Alabama. To this day, members of the Alabama fan base are split between which coach they think was greater. Saban’s stats in Tuscaloosa (six national championships—not counting the one at LSU—and a 206-29 record) speak for themselves. Saban definitely deserves to have his name attached to his former home field; the question, though, is in what way it should be done. 

There is a popular movement to rename Tuscaloosa’s football palace “Bryant-Saban Stadium.” Some people feel that it would be appropriate to take Dr. Denny’s name off of the football stadium. That’s probably only because many folks today don’t even know who Denny was. 

Dr. George Denny served as president of the university from 1912 to 1936, and again in 1941 and 1942. He has many lasting legacies at the University. Dr. Denny gave the school one of its nicknames when he declared that he wanted the U of A to be “the Capstone of education in the state of Alabama.” Denny Chimes, the iconic bell tower where football captains place their hand and footprints into the cement every April, bears his name. His biggest impact, not just on the University of Alabama, but also on all American colleges, was his unprecedented notion that a university should not consider its football program a distraction. Instead, he felt that football success would help the school’s growth. 

Alabama football definitely wouldn’t be what it is today without George Denny. In fact, without him, Bear Bryant would never have come to Tuscaloosa. That’s because Dr. Denny hired Wallace Wade as head coach in 1923. When Wade left to become head coach of Duke, he recommended that Denny hire Frank Thomas to succeed him. Denny did, and Thomas subsequently hired Hank Crisp, Sr., as an assistant. In the early 1930’s, Crisp took a trip to Fordyce, Arkansas, where he discovered the star player of the Fordyce Fighting Redbugs football team: Paul “Bear” Bryant. Crisp brought Bryant back to Tuscaloosa with him, and, as the old saying goes, the rest is history. Bryant became the head coach in 1958 and carried the program to six national championships before his retirement following the 1982 season. 

Another option—and probably a better one—would be to leave Bryant-Denny Stadium’s name intact, and instead name the field “Nick Saban Field at Bryant-Denny Stadium.” From where I sit, this would be the perfect way to honor the three men with the biggest impact on the University.

Hopefully, when the discussions of a possible renaming come up in front of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees (and I would assume they already have), Dr. George Denny, who got the ball rolling with the football program, Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, the legendary coach who was, and still is, so revered, and Nick Saban, the man who exceeded what was thought to be the limits of success for one coach, will get the recognitionthey all so richly deserve.

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