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The Three Year Cycle

Cecil Hurt writes about "The Three Year Cycle" in today's Tuscaloosa News. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, it's a dreadful and predictible series of three-year cycles Alabama has been locked into since 1996.

It basically goes something like this:
Year 1: Have a 10-win season
Year 2: Have a disastrous losing season
Year 3: Have a mediocre season, in the .500ish neighborhood

REPEAT

To break it down for those unfamiliar with it, here's how it has gone down.

  1. 10-3
  2. 4-7 (losses to Kentucky, Louisiana Tech)
  3. 7-5
  4. 10-3
  5. 3-8 (losses to Southern Miss, Central Florida)
  6. 7-5
  7. 10-3
  8. 4-9 (losses to Northern Illinois, Hawaii)
  9. 6-6
  10. 10-2
  11. ???
"The Cycle" points towards us having a 3, 4 or 5 win season this year and that is incredibly jarring considering how soft the schedule is. Sure, we have a tough road schedule with LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. There's also Auburn at home. Even if the team drops all five of  those, there's still seven games they should win and four or five that shouldn't even be a contest.

High coaching turnover, probation, scandal, etc. can be blamed for "The Cycle" and there's enough stability at present that everything should be in  place to break the cycle.

The past decade has arguably been the most disastrous 10 years in the program's 114 year history (this year will be year 114) and that's included four 10-win seasons and an SEC Championship in '99. Five coaches have "participated" in this cycle and I also think some of the problem can be laid at the feet of a series of university administrations that have had unrealistic hire and fire criteria since the retirement of Paul "Bear" Bryant. Mike Shula is the seventh coach to be hired since 1983. The average Alabama coach has only lasted 3.4 seasons since Bryant (Stallings lasted seven seasons) and that's no recipe for success.

Even if history does the unthinkable and repeats itself in 2006, I think the program will be better served in the long run to not get panicky or freak out and fire Shula. Considering the circumstances he came in under, I think he needs at least five years at the helm for us to show the college football world that we aren't in perpetual freak out mode.

That being said, I don't think we'll put up a 10-win season in '06, but there's no reason this team can't win 8 or 9.