Daily Dose of Crimson Tide: The Bryant Museum

Christopher Walsh

 Ask anyone to who has walked its corridors, the Paul W. Bryant Museum isn’t just some fan shrine located in the heart of the University of Alabama campus. It’s a bona fide real museum.

It features scores of important artifacts, pertinent to local, state and national history, even if it does concentrate on a sport. You name it, and it’s probably in there.

There’s the Trophy Room, which would be the envy of any other college football program. It has a special video production narrated by Keith Jackson, which chronicles Bryant’s life and career. There’s even a replica of the coach’s office, which features many original items, and includes the extremely low couch that made anyone sitting on it look up at Bryant sitting at his desk – as if he wasn’t intimidating enough.

Most of that is common knowledge. What’s even better is visiting the back rooms, which are full of trophies, paintings, photographs, press clippings, books and so forth, which helps make it one of the country’s best research facilities regarding college football.

So is having a chance to sit down and talk with someone like museum director Ken Gaddy.

“He set a standard of excellence here in that some say is too high but in my opinion that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Gaddy said. “If you don’t play football or any other sport to win, you’re not much of a competitor. Yet, team spirit and character are extremely important in athletics but in the end cut through all the clichés and we all play the game to win.”

It means many different things to many different people. Some swing through before every home game as part of their pre-game ritual, or make a habit of visiting once per season as the museum is just down the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium. Others like to have their photo taken in Bryant’s golf cart, or are registered as a namesake – named in some way after the coach.

Just before he died, Bryant himself suggested the creation of a museum to honor the former players and assistant coaches who contributed to all the championship teams and his record-setting career. It took just seven years to become reality. A planning committee studied the idea, and eventually the museum opened its doors to the public on October 8, 1988.

It has a mission statement.

“To collect, preserve and exhibit items, and to disseminate information relating to the sports history of the University of Alabama.”

It has goals.

“The Paul W. Bryant Museum is dedicated to:

“Educating and inspiring a universal audience about the significant contributions and accomplishments of University of Alabama collegiate athletes.

“Fostering a sense of history, tradition and excellence; allowing visitors to place past events in clear perspective.

“Serving as a leading resource to other sports museums, The University of Alabama, its alumni, fans, supporters and other organizations by preserving and interpreting the history of collegiate sports.”

And it has exhibits.

For example, the California Rose to Southern Sugar exhibit focuses on the Crimson Tide’s rich history of college football postseason bowl games. Considering through 2006 the team had played in a record 53 bowl games, with another record 30 victories, there was a lot of material for LaPaglia Studio in Washington, D.C., and Design Display of Birmingham, to work with.

“We have included the scores of every bowl game, every MVP and some of the lighter moments from the games such as when the 1995 Citrus Bowl was delayed by a stray dog on the field,” Gaddy said. 

Some of this post originated from "100 Things Crimson tide Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," published by Triumph Books