Throwback Thursday: Bear Bryant’s First National Champions

J. Bank

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Image courtesy of Jimmy Bank

Coach Paul W. "Bear" Bryant’s fourth Alabama team was led by quarterback Pat Trammell (SEC MVP) and tackle Billy Neighbors (Jacobs Award winner). 

With an 11-0 record (7-0 SEC), the Crimson Tide was ranked No. 1 in both polls and won the prestigious MacArthur Bowl. Alabama did not move into the top position until November 25th. With three SEC teams in the top five, Alabama proved to be a champion among champions.

1961 Alabama media guide cover
Billy Neighbors, Pat Trammell, Darwin HoltImage courtesy of Jimmy Bank

During the regular season, Alabama scored an average of over 28 points per game while the defense was also amazing college football fans. The Crimson Tide’s opponents scored 22 points. That's total, in the 10 regular season games, which included six shutouts  five straight to end the regular season.


After Alabama was recognized as national champions by the major wire services, it capped the season with a 10-3 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl. 

Fullback Mike Fracchia’s 43-yard dash keyed Crimson Tide's 79-yard touchdown drive just eight minutes into the game.  

“I thought it was a great game,” Bryant said. “I’m as proud of them as if the score had been 100-0. We came to play. Our boys rose up real well and stopped them on the big plays.” 

“Fracchia didn’t let them catch their breath with his shots up the middle and Trammell, like always, did whatever he had to do. Our boys did a good job stopping Lance Alworth. He’s a good competitor, but we just didn’t give him a chance today. If we had, it could have been a different ball game.” 

Alabama's defense halted drive on its own 10 late int he first half, and other at the 7 during the third quarter.  

“We knew when we went into the game that we were going to have trouble grinding out yardage against this team,” said Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, “but, we never thought it would be this hard. We just couldn’t get our offense going. I guess the main reason was Alabama’s great defense. Bama’s offense was just what we expected  tough and aggressive. Our boys were tight and uneasy in the first half. That didn’t help, but when you’re playing the No. 1 team in the nation, you expect that. In the second half, I thought we did a respectable job.”

The national championship was the first of six for Bryant and re-established Alabama’s prominence in college football.

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Image courtesy of Jimmy Bank
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Comments (1)
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Tyler  Martin
Tyler Martin


Need to bring back the red sport coats in the team photos.