Athletic teams at The University of Alabama are known as the Crimson Tide. The school fields teams in 11 varsity sports in the NCAA's Division I and is also a member of the competitive Southeastern Conference (Western Division). The school's athletic teams compete at the highest level, often contending for conference and NCAA titles. Alabama Crimson Tide football maintains athletic competitions with Auburn University and University of Tennessee. The annual Alabama-Auburn football game is nicknamed the Iron Bowl, considered by many the most intense game in all of college football; and second in rivalries only to the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry in baseball (ESPN The Magazine, and Sports Illustrated).
The Alabama Tennessee game throughout the decades has many times seen the two best teams in the SEC rough against one another. The game has traditionally been played on the third Saturday of each October, and thus the rivalry title, the "Third Saturday in October." While the rivalry with Tennessee is centered around football for the most part, there is no shortage of acrimony here, especially given the recent history between UT Coach Phil Fulmer and his relationship to the Alabama Crimson Tide's most recent NCAA probation. There are also rivalries with Mississippi State University, and the University of Georgia.
Following the death of Bear Bryant, Alabama Crimson Tide has had its high points and its low points. Since the retirement of Bryant, the Alabama Crimson Tides football has had eight different head coaches: Ray Perkins, Bill Curry, Gene Stallings, Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula and most recently (hired as of January 3, 2007) Nick Saban. Alabama Crimson Tide won its last national championship in 1992 against the University of Miami Hurricanes during the Stallings tenure.
Following Gene Stallings's retirement in 1996, defensive coordinator Mike Dubose was named head coach. He proved to be an excellent recruiter of defensive linemen. He benefited tremendously from the leadership of Shaun Alexander and Chris Samuels, winning the SEC championship in 1999. Expectations quickly rose for the Alabama Crimson Tide, which started the season as high as No. 3 in some polls. Alabama Crimson Tide quickly lowered, ending up 3-8 in a season best exemplified by a last-second loss to Central Florida. Dubose was fired and replaced by an up-and-coming coach from TCU, Dennis Franchione. On January 3, 2007, the university hired Miami Dolphins (and former LSU) head coach Nick Saban to replace Shula.
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