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How Alabama lost the 2021 National Championship
Michael O'Casey
Michael O'Casey's View from the Riverbank

The truth is slowly surfacing.  Nick Sabin, the most successful coach in college football history who has won a total of seven national championships, blew a golden opportunity to make it eight in the 2021 national championship game against my Georgia Bulldogs.  Sabin who won his first national championship in 2003 at LSU, and six more at the University of Alabama (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2020) had a chance to put one up on the late, great Bear Bryant of Alabama (who also won six titles at that undisputed national football championship institution of the South).  Now Sabin must face the uncomfortable truth that he fumbled the ball twice in the championship game.  Plainly stated, he choked. 

In a defensive struggle that resembled the Battle of Gettysburg more than a gridiron contest, Alabama dominated a mistake prone Bulldog offense during the early going when it appeared the Dogs had their shoes on backwards for the better part of 30 minutes. In the third quarter the men in red and black saw glimpses of the promise land in the distance, and in the fourth quarter they arrived.  Coach Kirby Smart had used the humiliating loss inflicted by Bama during the Southeastern Conference Championship Game to rally his troops.  At the midfield meeting with Smart after the game, Sabin said with a wry grin, “You really kicked our ass in the fourth quarter.”

But it was too late in the fourth quarter; Sabin’s golden opportunity had passed.  At halftime the Tide had a 9-6 lead.  Using the precedent established by Donald Trump during the presidential election of 2020, Sabin should have declared victory and kept his team in the dressing room.  Once again at the end of the third quarter, Alabama was leading 18-13.  Coach Sabin could have said the trend was obvious and there was no reason to play the fourth quarter. But no, he chose to follow the rules and play it out.  In the words of former President Trump, Sabin was a “chump.”

As information continues to trickle out, it’s obvious that Trump knew he might lose to Sleepy Joe Biden in 2020.  Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, warned him of the effects of the “Red Mirage” as the election approached and the President insisted that Republican voters should vote specifically on Election Day in order to create an impression of a Trump landslide as early returns came in.  Stepien warned the race would get very tight as absentees and write-in ballots were counted in the early hours of Wednesday morning and losing was a real possibility.  

But that was part of Trump’s fraud strategy (excuse) as he began predicting months before November the only way he could lose to Sleepy Joe was if the election was rigged. A week before November 3, 2020, Steve Bannon, a friend and crackpot strategist for Trump who apparently believes the U.S. Constitution is clearly outdated and should be torched, publically predicted that if he was ahead in early returns, Trump would claim victory.  Bannon, who shouldn’t be mistaken for Albert Einstein, said, “That does not mean he won; he’s just going to say he won.” With friends like Bannon, Trump has no need for enemies.  Bannon’s support might be one reason former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Michael Luttig said, “Donald Trump and his supporters are a clear and present danger to the United States Constitution.” Of course there are other reasons including Rudy Giuliani, Jeffery Clark, and Dr. John Eastman who were willing to tell Trump exactly what he wanted to hear. 

So Coach Sabin missed two golden opportunities. But that’s the way he is. He and Coach Kirby Smart play hard but  by the rules.  The last thing Sabin said to Coach Smart at midfield after the Dogs won the 2021 National Championship was “God bless you man.”  That, friends and fellow countrymen, is known as “CLASS.”  No crying, no whining, no excuses, but Coach Smart knows repeating in 2022 will be a tough row to hoe.  Sabin has said, “I never waste a failure.  It’s a chance to learn from your mistakes and get better.”  Take it to the bank; the Tide will be better in 2022. 

So I have an answer for Republicans in 2024.  Boot Trump and nominate Nick Sabin for President and Kirby Smart for Vice-President. Elect a President and V.P. who aren’t scared of competition. SEC coaches will be happy to see them move on, and support throughout the college football world will be absolutely amazing. Most importantly, we could actually send a pair of real winners to Washington for a change.