It was January 3, 2007. It was the day that Nicholas Lou Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa as Alabama's new head coach.
And it was the day that a new generation of Tide football began.
The late "Bear" Bryant coached Alabama from 1958-1982. During that time, he led the Tide to a 232-46-9 record. He won at least a share of 13 SEC titles and a record six national crowns. That was one heck of an era.
In the 24 years that followed, Alabama had five losing seasons spread among six different coaches. The Tide was placed on probation multiple times, and had to vacate 33 wins over four different seasons.
They won just one national title and three conference championships. Uncertainty, inconsistency and seemingly endless turmoil dominated what was another era of Alabama football.
It was my era, the era of my youth.
Then, at a time when many of the top football coaches in America wanted nothing to do with taking on the challenges that faced the Alabama football program, Nick Saban did.
Maybe he saw something. Maybe he saw the potential that had so often been lying dormant in T-Town for over two decades.
Maybe it was just a way to get back into the college game or maybe it was just about the money.
The whys and hows don't really matter, though. Saban has cemented himself in the history and tradition that is Alabama football, and is already writing his own chapter just six years after his arrival.
This, my friends, is a new era.
We thought the bad days were behind us when Antonio Langham and Jay Barker helped Gene Stallings deliver the Tide it's first post-Bryant national title in 1992. A year later, Alabama vacated nine wins due to NCAA violations.
As good as the Stallings years were, one title does not make a generation. The probation sealed that deal.
Saban went just 7-6 in his first year with the Tide. Since the 2007 season, though, he has won and he has won big. He has won three crystal footballs in the past four seasons.
In just six years of the Saban era, Alabama has accumulated a 68-13 overall record. This is one more win than the previous three coaches (DuBose, Franchione and Shula) combined to win in a decade.
From 1997-2006, the Tide went just 2-4 in bowl games and a 35-34 loss to Michigan in the Orange Bowl was the only one worth bragging about. Saban has led his team to four BCS bowls in the last five years, winning three of them—for BCS national titles.
According to Rivals.com, Alabama recruiting classes earned an average ranking of 26th in the five years before Saban arrived (49th overall in 2003). Every recruiting class under Saban has finished in the top ten, and he has brought in the nation's best class four times.
Saban is winning from every angle, in every department, every facet of the game.
It is the dedicated fans who are better for it, too. This month's recruiting class was made up of kids who likely do not remember Alabama football before Saban. Most of them were preteens when Shula coached his last game, after all.
No, six years is not typically enough to justify a true era. It's not enough time, anyway. Add in the 61-7 record over the last five seasons and the three national titles, though, and you have yourself an indisputable era.
Saban and the Tide are in position to become the most decorated and honored dynasty in the modern era of college football. Alabama will likely enter next season as, once again, the odds-on favorite to win it all. Keep in mind that winning three consecutive undisputed national titles has never been done before.
Once again this off season, there were rumors that Saban might be interested in returning to the NFL, and, once again, the great one insisted that his home was Tuscaloosa.
Much to the dismay of his rivals, it appears that Saban is here for good. Assuming this holds true, it is safe to say that Alabama football does not plan on stepping down from the top of the mountain any time soon.
It is as these amazingly fruitful years continue to stack up that the Nick Saban era of Alabama football will slowly become the standard, perhaps even eclipsing the Bryant era as the best in Tide history.
For a new generations of Tide fans, the younger generation, I can only hope that you appreciate it and immerse yourself in the glory because, as you may know, all things eventually come to an end.
Not now. Eventually.
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