And the Best Alabama Sports Illustrated Cover of All-Time is ...
Alas, it was a good run.
You could say that of Kenyan Drake's kickoff return against Clemson, as the "Promised Land" was the only non-seeded entry to crash the Final Four.
Or of Trent Richardson's "Opening Statements," which was the first to knock off a No. 1 seed.
And a lot of younger readers were introduced to "Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn" from 1971, which advanced to regional final.
For the past couple of months, BamaCentral asked its readers to help decide which was the best Alabama Sports Illustrated cover of all-time, and we want to say thank you for doing just that.
But before revealing our champion, note that our Top 25 list from the tournament, based on how you voted, will publish Tuesday. It will include the story excerpts that have appeared throughout the tournament.
Also, here's a brief explanation on how the brackets were set up, as seedings were never divulged to avoid influencing the voting.
The covers (and there were enough that a field of 68 was possible) were split into four areas: Recent Alabama, vintage Crimson Tide, players in the NFL and everything else. We ranked the top four in each and then staggered them throughout the regions.
For example, the top-seeded team in the "recent Alabama" region stayed put, but the second seed slid to the next region down, with the third seed going to the next one, and the fourth seed in the last regional. This proceeded until the top four seedings in each regional were filled.
The regions were then named after the person or subject in the No. 1 spot: Nick Saban, Bear Bryant, Joe Namath and All Things Bama, with the tornado cover the top seed.
With the regions established, a pod system was used for all of the other slots to spread commonalities out as much as possible. For example, Hall of Fame players were in one pod (what would normally be like the No. 6 seed), so each went to a different region.
There were two things voters were very consistent about.
1) Covers of former Alabama players in the NFL didn't do well.
The Namath covers with the Jets made quick exits, and Kenny Stabler didn't last long either. It didn't matter of the cover was considered iconic and among the most popular and recognizable in Sports Illustrated history.
2) Voters loved the national championship covers.
They closed out the Final Four, as none of the No. 1 seeds won their region.
We might have had a different semifinal, though, if it wasn't for a late adjustment.
There were two, actually. The first was not to include the famous angry Latrell Sprewell cover after the P.J. Carlesimo incident from Dec. 15, 1997. Instead, the SI for Kids cover with Mark Ingram Jr. was included.
Minkah Fitzpatrick might have been a better choice, but we were trying to minimize the number of cutout covers, where there's no real background, like this:
The other change was to switch "The Bear" with "Bama Stops Penn State" in the seedings. Moving the goal-line stand to the top in the Bear Bryant Division ended up putting it in direct path of the cover that won the tournament.
The brackets were as followed. The bolded teams advanced out of the region:
Nick Saban Region
Namath Eyes Super Bowl vs. Terry Davis; winner vs. 2 Stallings/Lassic (1992 title)
Kenny Stabler vs. 2011 commemorative edition (Trent Richardson); winner vs. 3 Julio Jones
Rule Tide (Notre Dame) vs. Latrell Sprewell; winner vs. 4 I’ll Tell You About Football (Bryant)
Shaun Alexander vs. Can Anyone Roll the Tide? (Christian Jones); winner vs. 1 Raising Alabama (Nick Saban)
Joe Namath Region
Namath: Jet Propelled vs. Pride of the Tide (Ingram); winner vs. 2 The Bear
Coach Bart Starr vs. Namath acting; winner vs. 3 Too Much Bama (LSU title game)
Glen Coffee (Clemson) vs. Sweet Alabama (basketball); winner vs. 4 Derrick Henry (playoff preview)
Richard Todd vs. Opening Statements (Richardson); winner vs. 1 Broadway Joe
Bear Bryant Region
Jittery Jets (Namath) vs. Bama’s Back (Brodie Croyle); winner vs. 2 Dynasty
Ozzie Newsome vs. SEC 2009 preview (Saban); winner vs. 3 AJ McCarron
Fresh Heir (Tua Tagovailoa) vs. Fantasy issue: Eddie Lacy; winner vs. 4 Stabler in the Super Bowl
Where Have You Gone Joe Namath? vs. Ram Jam Bama (Josh Chapman); winner vs. 1 Goal-line stand vs. Penn State
All Things Bama
Namath: Super Joe vs. Who’s really No. 1?/Bama is Best for now; winner vs. 2 John Hannah
Quarterback Bart Starr vs. 2014 playoff preview (Blake Sims); winner vs. 3 Johnny Musso
Promised Land (Kenyan Drake) vs. SI for Kids (Ingram); winner vs. 4 Tua Tagovailoa
Lee Roy Jordan vs. Sweet Win (Colin Peek); winner vs. 1 Tornado
With that, here's the champion:
Dynasty: Can Anyone Stop Alabama?
Story headline: Staying Power
Subhead: With an earnest coach, a wealth of returning talent, unparalleled recruiting and its chief rival in flux, national champion Alabama is just starting to roll
Excerpt (by Austin Murphy): For the second time in six years the stern-looking coach stood on a stage surrounded by overjoyed athletes, holding a crystal football over his head. As Nick Saban dutifully went down the list of dignitaries he needed to thank, the expression on his face could best be described as a kind of semigrimace. At the pinnacle of his sport after leading Alabama to its first national title in 17 years—a 37-21 victory over a wounded Texas team in the BCS championship game last Thursday night at the Rose Bowl—Saban reminded us that those best equipped to win championships are often the least equipped to celebrate them.
"I guarantee you," said a smiling Terry Saban, as she watched her spouse of 38 years, "he's already thinking about next week."
Did the couple have plans? "He said he'll give me two days," Terry said, "and then he has to meet with some of the players about going out for the [NFL] draft."
Two days? "Two days," she repeated. "And I'll take it."