Record-breaking coach

As a football coach, Bryant gained national fame as a consistent winner by claiming 323 victories as a head coach over a 38-year career that included 25 years as head coach at the University of Alabama, where he won six national titles 1958-1982.

Bryant averaged 9.3 wins per season at and 8.5 wins per season over his entire career as a head coach. led the nation in wins during the 25-year Bryant era and was the first team in NCAA history to win 100 games in a decade with a 103-16-1 record during the 1970s. The Crimson Tide averaged 10.3 wins per season and won three national titles during Bryant’s final 12 years as head coach, losing only seven Southeastern Conference games during that span.

Bryant spent a total of 34 years at the after joining the Crimson Tide football team as a freshman in 1931. He was a member of ’s 1934 national championship team that defeated Stanford 29-13 in the Rose Bowl and remained on Coach Frank Thomas’ staff as an assistant coach 1936-39. He served two years as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, spent four years in the Navy during World War II and served as head coach at (1945), (1946-53) and Texas A&M (1954-57) before returning to as head coach in January 1958.

Bryant arrived back at when the Crimson Tide football program was at its lowest ebb in history. The team had won just four games in three years, including going 0-10 in 1955 under former Tide player J. B. Whitworth.

Bryant had proven himself as a builder of teams in his previous posts and had an overall coaching record of 91-39-8, including winning conference championships and having nationally ranked teams at both Kentucky and Texas A&M, when he answered what he called “Mama’s call” to become the Crimson Tide head coach. He posted a 25-year record of 232-46-9 at , starting with a 5-4-1 record in 1958, and finished his coaching career at 323-85-17, which included the most wins by any coach in NCAA history at the time.

Bryant-led teams won national championships in 1961, 1964 and 1965 and went undefeated in 1966 as the Crimson Tide quickly rose from the bottom to the top and remained there throughout his career. His other national titles came in 1973, 1978 and 1979 before his retirement after the 1982 season due to health problems. He died of a heart attack on January 26, 1983, less than two months after his last game, at age 69.

We’d be in a coaches’ meeting talking and Coach Bryant would stick his head in and in the middle of a sentence everybody in the room would stop talking and look at him. There was total silence. He’d walk in real slow, sit down, take out a cigarette, tap it on his fingernail and light it. And often as not, he’d smoke the whole damn cigarette without anybody saying a word. We’d just sit there and wait. He never had to say ‘Let me have your attention;’ he had it. It wasn’t that we were scared of him; we respected him. If he was going to say something, we damn sure wanted to hear it.
----- Bum Phillips, assistant coach, Texas A&M