No college football program and presidency have ever been as connected as Alabama and President Obama.
Sure, President Gerald Ford was a standout player at Michigan, and Woodrow Wilson’s efforts at then-powerhouse Princeton helped shape the foundation of the modern game. But the Crimson Tide and our nation’s 44th president share a unique bond, unlikely to be matched any time soon.
With its visit to the White House Wednesday, the Alabama football program has now visited Pres. Obama four times. That’s more than any other team has seen, or is likely to see, any one president.
There was 2010…
And now, 2016.
Now, the sheer number of times Alabama’s been to the White House isn’t that remarkable on its own. Of its 16 claimed national championships, only five Alabama teams met with the president. Gene Stallings’ 1992 Tide were the first team to see Pres. Bill Clinton in his presidency, and were one of the first college football teams ever to descend on the White House.
While the tradition of championship-winning teams visiting presidents dates back to the Kennedy administration, the NCAA barred payment for such trips until the early 1980s. Not until Penn State’s 1986 title team met with President Ronald Reagan did any football program make the trip.
Alabama’s run during the Obama administration has just three decades of precedent against which to be measured. However, the Crimson Tide are setting a bar that two sides of history suggest won’t be matched any time soon.
On one side, dynasties the caliber of Alabama’s don’t come around often. Miami had a similar run from 1983 through 1991, winning four national championships in that time, and the 1987 Hurricanes were only the second college football title-winners to visit the White House.
This 1988 Scripps Howard wire story shares a fun anecdote on Miami fullback Melvin Bratton teaching President Reagan how to hold a football.
The Hurricanes’ dynasty spanned two presidential administrations, beginning under Reagan’s and spanning into President George H.W. Bush’s. Pure timing makes replicating Alabama’s run under Obama difficult.
Overlapping with two-term presidencies is a whole other crap-shoot. As President Obama’s last year in office wraps, so too does just the third consecutive multiple-term presidency in American history. Franklin Roosevelt-Harry Truman-Dwight Eisenhower were the last presidents to hold office for multiple terms consecutively before Clinton-George W. Bush-Obama.
Prior to that, one must go all the way back to Jefferson-Madison-Monroe. History tells us the winner of the 2016 election will be ousted in 2020, so for any burgeoning dynasty to have a connection with one presidency to that of Alabama and Obama might have to wait a while.
Indeed, for years to come, “Roll ‘Bama Roll” could apply just as well to Barack Obama as Alabama football.
That’s a bit ironic, given Pres. Obama lost the state 60-to-39 percent to John McCain in 2008, and by a margin of 61-to-38 percent to Mitt Romney in 2012.