TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — This week marks 40 years since legendary Alabama Head Football Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant died following a heart attack. He spent his career in Tuscaloosa from 1958 to 1982 shaping leaders on and off the field.
His name can be found all around T-Town, as a street that runs along campus and a residence hall. Tanner Caito is one of many students who appreciates the groundwork he laid for the Crimson Tide.
“He kind of set the tone for Alabama, he made what Nick Saban has done for us possible for what he did for us already,” Caito said.
Inside the Paul W. Bryant Museum, education and outreach coordinator Brian Mast said Bryant’s legacy is solidified here.
“He may be gone, but he is still very much alive,” Mast said. “What he was able to do during his time here and what they are still able to do is just amazing to think about.”
Mast said enlisting in the Navy helped train him to create leaders he wanted on and off the field – leaders of men, not just great winners on the field.
“Yes, you can be a great ball player, but the things those individuals do outside of that are what really makes the impact,” Mast said.
Bryant was a step ahead of his time. He launched a Sunday show, “The Bear Bryant Show,” to tell fans about each game.
“It was something very unique at the time,” Mast said. “You look at it today and coaches are doing that now.”
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment at the university — Bryant’s record. He had 323 wins, 85 losses and 17 ties. Mast said although many games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Bryant only lost two home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“People still look at Coach Bryant being the standard of coaching college football because of what he was able to do,” Mast said.
40 years later Bryant’s name continues to live on as people still name their children after him. Each year, Mast said as part of the Bryant namesake, everyone named after him has a reunion. He said last year, about 50 people were in attendance.
Mast said the football stadium was named after Bryant while he was a coach. During his time at the university, he served as the head football coach and athletic trainer.