Alabama basketball is no longer second fiddle to Alabama football in the year 2023 according to Touchdown Alabama Mag’s Stephen M. Smith — who penned an article with the headline ‘Alabama football taking a backseat to Alabama basketball — sort of.’
“Alabama underperformed in a season with the reigning Heisman winner and best defensive player (Will Anderson Jr.) in college football,” Smith prefaced before saying, “Coach Oats is making a statement that men’s basketball plays second fiddle to no one, including Alabama football.”
According to Smith, Nate Oats’ Crimson Tide have become the story in an athletic year that already saw Nick Saban’s squad miss the College Football Playoff for just the second time since the sport’s new postseason format debuted in 2014.
“In a year where Nick Saban and the football program do not capture an SEC Championship, make the College Football Playoff, or win a national championship, the basketball program becomes the story,” Smith wrote. “Oats elevated the basketball program to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in his fourth season.”
Alabama Basketball and Football Both Had Legendary Coaches
Smith broke down the history of both programs, noting that the football program had been the flagship program at the University of Alabama since the early 20th century.
“Football served as king for Alabama Athletics since Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, and Eugene “Gene” Stallings were coaches,” he wrote.
Smith recalled the winningest time period in Alabama basketball’s history from 1980-1992 under Winfrey Sanderson. “Winfrey “Wimp” Sanderson carried the torch for men’s basketball from 1980-92, winning five SEC Tournament titles and six Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament,” he wrote.
Still, the success the Crimson Tide are experiencing under Oats right now is unprecedented. “Mark Gottfried, Anthony Grant, and Avery Johnson had success coaching the Tide, but Oats has brought it to a new level this season.”
Alabama was the overall No. 1 seed in the March Madness tournament for the first time in school history during the 2022-23 season.
Basketball Would Be ‘Temporary Talking Point’ With Title
Smith’s final several paragraphs made it clear that Tuscaloosa will still be a football town even if Alabama basketball won the 2023 March Madness tournament.
“If the basketball team wins an NCAA title, it will be a temporary talking point,” Smith wrote. “When football season returns, the attention will go to can Saban win his eighth national championship and seventh with the Crimson Tide?”
What puts the football program ahead for Smith is the sustainability of the program as a perennial top team under Saban since he took over ahead of the 2007 season.
“Football will remain the talking point as Saban has proven with more consistency to have the program winning national titles,” he wrote.
Alabama football has won 18 championships throughout its history, with a third of those coming within the last decade and a half under Saban. The furthest Alabama basketball has made it in March Madness is the Sweet 16. The Crimson Tide have made eight Sweet 16 appearances and 23 appearances in the Round of 64 overall.