Originally created 07/31/98

Winning will be DuBose's best penance



BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Mike DuBose stood before us Thursday confessing his sins of a 4-7 season. To coach at holy Alabama and not win more games than you lose requires absolution of the ordained kind.

"We must stay positive," he said. "We cannot forget the reasons why we went 4-7, though we can no longer dwell on them. We must stay committed. We can't let outside influences take over."

It's been one arduous football year since DuBose's last confessional. Having committed the greatest sin at Alabama since the hiring of Bill Curry and the coaching of Ray Perkins, it's time to ask for forgiveness.

His football team lost its homecoming game to Louisiana Tech, was nipped by Arkansas and Mississippi State, has fallen substantially behind Tennessee in talent, and if that hasn't sickened the fans enough, it lost to those daggum Auburn Tigers by one daggum point.

DuBose's first season felt like a century. For any school with 12 national championships and 10 losing seasons in 103 years, the idea of winning four games will not appease the masses.

Nor will it keep you employed long.

DuBose stood before us at the alter of this state's beloved sport with a heavy heart, confronting his sins of sorrow without much hubris.

"I admit that I assumed way too much in my first season. When I was an assistant coach, I wanted to be the best assistant coach I could be at my position. I assumed my assistants last year would carry that kind of passion with them, and that was a mistake.

"I admit that I began second-guessing my commitment to a passing offense when Vanderbilt shut us down. The mistake wasn't the offense, the mistake was not staying committed to it."

SEC football, circa 1998, cannot be won with 1958 thinking.

"I tried to please way too many people last year, people that supported my bid to become this school's head man."

It was like he forgot what it was meant to be in the trenches, to be screaming at players during three-a-days, to be watching 16 hours of film on your opponent's second-string tackle.

Instead, he was shaking hands or trying to act like Bear Bryant or Gene Stallings with his sidelines suit and tie, trying to make people happy because they had an Alabama man coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Happy people do not translate to victorious Saturdays, a lesson learned the hardest way possible.

"Sometimes we try to make football bigger than life itself, and it's not," DuBose said. "I realize the Alabama people are not happy with me. No one is ever happy when a school as great as ours does not compete for a national championship. We were not a great football team last year, but we should have been better than 4-7.

"I am extremely excited about our upcoming season because I think I have assembled a coaching staff, with Neil Callaway from UNLV now calling plays, with Charlie Stubbs now handling quarterbacks, that I feel is totally committed to returning Alabama football to be Alabama football."

But aren't you planning on doing it in a non-Alabama football kind of way?

"If we want to recruit the best skill players with the fastest speed, the 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 tackles, we must devise an offense to fit those talents," DuBose said. "We need to throw the football about 75 percent of the time. We must spread out defenses away from their nine-¾and 10-man fronts."

Alabama won't morph into a Kentucky or Florida overnight, but it will loosen its offensive decorum.

And winning, no matter how it's done, is always the best penance.

So coach DuBose, may the Bear's spirit, and a capable quarterback, be with you. Though I've got a feeling you'll be here at confessional next year.