I've been doing some browsing through news archives the past few weeks, in particular with a focus on the mid-to-late 1980's and the Bill Curry era, and I tell you it is just amazing the level of insanity that you come across. Sometimes you wonder where Alabama gets this reputation for being such a potentially deranged environment, and sometimes you think much of that is an unfounded stereotype. And then you run across things where it's suddenly perfectly clear as to why many assign Alabama that reputation.
For example, most people realize now that the Curry hiring was unpopular, but I do think it probably gets lost in time with regard to just how unpopular it really was. For example, several former Alabama players spoke out publicly against the hiring -- Lee Roy Jordan chief among them -- so much so, in fact, that university president Joab Thomas wrote a public letter to all former players explaining why he hired Curry. And the outrage had a more militant strand, too, as Thomas also reported receiving death threats over the hire. Now, admittedly, Thomas did not view them to be serious threats to his life, but even so no one ever questioned the fact that he actually received them.
And, of course, the craziness only ensued from there.
Fast forward to 1988, immediately after the homecoming loss to Ole Miss and the subsequent brick incident allegation (random side note: interestingly enough, many reports from the time refer to it being a rock, not a brick, thus making the story much more plausible). After that embarrassing loss, Tim Brando reported that Curry was on his way out at Alabama, and that the three early candidates for his replacement were Howard Schnellenberger, Danny Ford, and Jackie Sherrill. The rumor mill would not go away, and finally after a month of institutional silence the UA Board of Trustees passed on a resolution declaring that they intended to honor the remainder of Curry's contract.
After the 15-10 loss to Auburn later that year in the 1988 Iron Bowl, the rumor mill went nuts again. This time it was ESPN reporting that Curry would be forced out by prominent boosters and that Alabama would hire then-Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson as his replacement. For the following week, yet again, UA remained silent, neither officially denying the rumors or giving a vote of confidence to Curry. Finally, a week later, on the day of the Alabama v. Texas A&M game -- remember, that was the "Hurricane Bowl" that Curry himself effectively had postponed thanks to the threat of Hurricane Gilbert -- interim UA president Roger Sayers said that Curry would return for 1989. And, of course, the insanity continued the next year, where once again Sayers had to re-confirm that Curry's job was indeed safe after Steve Sloan resigned as athletics director in August of 1989.
And, naturally, the insanity prevailed all the way to the final days of the Curry era. The day after beating Southern Miss to move to 10-0 on the season, with the Iron Bowl the only remaining game on the 1989 schedule, Curry issued an official press release stating that several Alabama football players had received death threats via both telephone and mail. Only one problem... Curry never mentioned a single word of any of it beforehand to then athletics director Hootie Ingram. Needless to say, when Hootie found out about the death threats when the press release made its way to his desk, he almost exploded with rage.
And that's how those stereotypes get started, folks.