More on Bill Curry...

I wrote the following in an earlier comment, and figured I would bump it out to the frontpage since a lot of people were asking about Curry earlier today:

Curry is actually a very complicated examination, truth be told, and it doesn’t fit in as nicely into an easily understandable box like some other coaches do.

From the outset, he did have a good final record. A 26-10 record in three years is by no means shabby, and for all of the grief he gets over being unable to beat Auburn (who was admittedly damn good at the time), going 6-0 combined against Tennessee (Majors) and Penn State (Paterno) is very impressive. Furthermore, he did have us 10-0 and in the thick of national championship contention going into the Iron Bowl in 1989, never an easy thing to do. In that context, in terms of pure on-field success, Curry had a pretty successful tenure at Alabama.

Furthermore, he recruited really well. The core of the 1992 national championship team was signed by Bill Curry, and aside from Saban I don’t think there is much doubt that he was best recruiter we’ve had in the post-Bryant era. Also keep in mind that he did this while Auburn and Pat Dye were at their peak, and — as we later found out via 60 Minutes, among other sources — paying players in straight cash. That’s a level of recruiting success that shouldn’t go unappreciated.

Now, with that somewhat glowing critique of Curry established, by no means was his tenure all roses. Specifically…

While Curry did have a good degree of on-field success, when he inherited the program in 1987 it was in very good shape, featuring great talent, national recognition, and then-state-of-the-art facilities. Most ’Bama fans probably forget that the 1986 team was a massive disappointment, and was one that was expected by many to make a serious run at a national championship. Put in more concrete terms, no football coach worth his salt ought to have the first excuse when, upon walking into his first team meeting, he sees Derrick Thomas, Willie Wyatt, and Keith McCants staring back at him. Bottom line, Curry had success at Alabama, but quite frankly any coach should have won under those circumstances, and if anything Curry probably should have won more than he did.

More damning, though, with Curry was evident with his teams, which really always played with a high degree of inconsistency. We’d come out and lose to Memphis, then drill Tennessee, then squeak by Mississippi State, then smoke LSU in Baton Rouge, and then get annihilated by Notre Dame (see the 1987 season). A certain degree of variation in performance levels is to be expected, to be sure, but nothing like the wild swings that were common with Curry. Furthermore, Curry’s teams often played with a tepid nature in big games and key moments. In that regard, we looked a lot more like a Shula team than a Saban team under Curry. That alone is pretty damning.

Furthermore, as we found out later in his stint with Kentucky, you really do just have to wonder how good of a coach he was in the first place. He struggled at Georgia Tech, and when you watched him at Kentucky having Tim Couch run the veer, well, how can you really defend that? Curry spent 17 years as a head coach at big-time football programs, and in the 14 years he spent in Atlanta and Lexington, he managed to get north of six wins only one time (1985). In that sense, you really do have to wonder if he was just a bad coach all along who had a degree of success at Alabama only because of the fundamental strength of the program and the cyclical success the program was having at the time of his arrival.

The biggest problem with Curry was just one of institutional fit. I’ll be frank… for the life of me I’ll never understand why he took the Alabama job. He was a Georgia Tech alum, and he always viewed the Alabama fan base and the university itself with a very open aura of disrespect. The view on his end was always crystal clear: the University of Alabama, its administration, and its fans were fundamentally inferior to Curry and his Georgia Tech background. To that end, Curry treated UA in the same manner than a probation officer would treat one of his juvenile delinquents, and the clashes were inevitable. Again, why did he ever take the job in the first place? As dumb of a decision as it may have been for the UA administration to extend an offer to him, it was an even dumber decision on his end to accept it.

And really, that is why Curry left. He was not "run off" as many rival fans like to now proclaim. He bolted for Kentucky (Kentucky!) after a contract issue developed between him and UA (no small issue, admittedly) — specifically, UA wanted to limit his ability to hire and fire assistants — but in reality he was looking to get out any way he could. If it hadn’t have been bolting for Kentucky over the power to hire and fire assistants, it would have inevitably been bolting for another school over another issue. Again, all in all, it’s hard to even fathom a more terrible fit between a coach and an institution than Curry and Alabama. It was almost like an episode of Wife Swap, college football style.

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