Getting together again
Alabamans are getting used to seeing their teams visiting the White House
It's as if the state of Alabama didn't want to win another national championship the way it tried to oust its good luck charm during the last election. Politics aside, President Barack Obama has delivered four national championships to the state in his four years since taking office -- three to the Crimson Tide and one to the Auburn Tigers. He reintroduced "Roll Tide!" to the American lexicon. There was even a "War Eagle!" shoutout on the South Lawn.
What more did the folks from the Heart of Dixie want when they voted overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney last November? Over 1.2 million Alabamans thought it was time for change, again. Fewer than 800,000 voters believed Obama was doing just fine. Had carrying the crystal football gotten that tiresome? Or were they just trying to tempt the football gods? You don't change seats with your team in the lead and you don't vote out presidents when you're winning national championships hand over fist.
Obama has had the Crimson Tide to Washington more times than a full Congress has been in session. At this point, Nick Saban could give a guided tour of the West Wing. What prospect wouldn't commit to Alabama after being called directly from the Oval Office? There's nothing in the NCAA rulebook to prohibit such an executive order.
The way Alabama has stockpiled talent, you'd think the rest of college football would call for an armistice treaty. The Crimson Tide's proliferation of national championships doesn't seem to have an end in sight.
NCAA president Mark Emmert, tear down this wall.
Deregulate recruiting, move back kickoffs, eliminate helmet-to-helmet hitting; it's like trying to stop a moving tank with a crossing guard. The momentum is simply too much to overcome.
Obama told Saban last year that he was "making a habit" out of visiting the White House when Obama was presented with a No. 14 jersey signifying the Crimson Tide's 14th national championship, won in a shutout over LSU. The two heads of state will visit again Monday to celebrate title No. 15, which was won in an equally dominating fashion as Alabama pummeled Notre Dame 42-14 less than two weeks before the president's second inauguration.
With a senior quarterback under center, a talented group of receivers and a stingy defense that returns most of its starters, the opportunity for a third straight title is within reach. Alabama probably will begin the season ranked No. 1, and it won't have to travel to Baton Rouge to defend its title this go around. We could very well be talking about Obama hanging a No. 16 jersey in the residence by this time next year. He could be just shy of 20 by the time he's out of office.
In fact, it might take a new president altogether to end the Tide's run. After back-to-back No. 1 recruiting classes, the flow of talent to Tuscaloosa is ensured from now until 2017.
Saban, for his part, hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. The Tide's autocrat is as enthusiastic as ever at 61 years old. He still enjoys taking a hands-on approach to practice, working directly with the defense on a daily basis, throwing footballs down the sideline and racing end to end to keep the tempo up. There isn't a detail of his program he isn't intimately involved in.
But will he be as ready and eager to face the same challenges at age 65?
"I don't know if I see an end to [Saban's run]," said Bobby Bowden. The retired former Florida State coach noted how Saban has been able to overcome player and staff turnover while maintaining a championship-winning chemistry. " It's a task, and I'm being honest with you, if I was an Alabama man I'd rather have it in his hands than anybody else I can think of."
As long as Saban is coach and Obama is president, Alabama appears to be in good shape. In the meantime, challengers might wait their turn.
Republicans have their sights set on taking back the White House in the 2016 election. Maybe it's time the rest of college football get on board and wait out the end of Alabama's term as well.
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