The Paul W. "Bear" Bryant Museum
At the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, there's a museum that football fans actually want to go to--the Paul W. "Bear" Bryant Museum honoring the man with the most wins of any college football coach.
Paul W. Bryant was born in 1913 in Arkansas, into a family of twelve children. Never one to back down, Paul got his nickname "bear" at the age of thirteen, after he wrestled a tame bear in a theater. He began playing football in high school, and got a football scholarship from the University of Alabama. He played on the Alabama Crimson Tide team that won a national championship in 1934.
Bryant graduated in 1936 and took assistant coaching jobs, including one at Alabama. When World War II broke out, he joined the Navy. He served honorably, coached a naval football team, and was discharged as a lieutenant commander.
Bryant wanted to be a head coach, and turned down assistant coach offers. He took a job as head coach at the University of Maryland. He then coached at the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M. But when he was offered the head coaching job at Alabama in 1958, he accepted, saying, "Momma called."
Portrait of Paul Bryant
In his 25 years at Alabama, the Crimson Tide won six national championships and thirteen conference championships. Bryant coached future NFL stars Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler. And in 1981 he became the coach with the most wins in college football history, 323.
He was famous not only for his outstanding record, but also for his hound's-tooth-check hat, which he wore constantly.
Bryant was not able to recruit black players because for many years the University of Alabama resisted allowing black players on the team. But in 1970 the Crimson Tide was soundly defeated by the University of Southern California and its formidable black fullback Sam Cunningham. Alabama realized it was foolishly denying itself a large part of the talent pool. After that, Bryant was allowed to recruit who he wanted.
Paul Bryant's desk
Bryant retired in 1982, and sadly, died of a heart attack just a few weeks later. Bryant-Denny Stadium, where the Crimson Tide play, is named for him. The stadium is on the Alabama campus, only a short distance from the museum.
The Paul W. Bryant Museum opened in 1988. Today you can visit it daily from 9 to 4. Members and children under 6 can get in for free. The cost for adults is $2, for senior citizens (age 60 and up) $1, and for children (ages 6-17) $1. You can also schedule group tours. Here's the museum's contact information:
Toll-free 1-866-772-BEAR (2327) or 205-348-4668
You can get more information on the museum's website at bryantmuseum.ua.edu/.
If you happen to be in Alabama, and you have a football fan in the car, he'll probably convince you to drive to the Paul W. "Bear" Bryant Museum!
Pictures by Kathleen Murphy