Remembering Legendary Alabama Football Coach Paul Bear Bryant 40 Years Later

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) – This week marks the 40th anniversary of the death of legendary Alabama football head coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant from a heart attack. He spent his career at Tuscaloosa from 1958 to 1982 molding leaders on and off the field.

Its name can be found all around T-Town, such as a street that runs along campus and a residence hall. Tanner Caito is one of the many students who appreciate the groundwork he laid for the Crimson Tide.

“He kind of set the tone for Alabama, he made possible what Nick Saban did for us for what he’s already done for us,” 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’s 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 him develop the leaders he wanted on and off the field — leaders of men, not just big winners in the field.

“Yes, you can be a great ball player, but the things these people do outside of that are what really make an impact,” Mast said.

Bryant was ahead of his time. He launched a Sunday show, “The Bear Bryant Show”, to update fans on every game.

“It was something very unique at the time,” Mast said. “You watch it today and the coaches do it now.”

Perhaps his greatest achievement in college – Bryant’s record. He had 323 wins, 85 losses and 17 draws. Mast said that although many games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Bryant only lost two home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“People still consider Coach Bryant the standard in college football coaching because of what he was able to do,” Mast said.

40 years later, Bryant’s name lives on as people still name their children after him. Every year, Mast said as part of Bryant’s namesake, everyone named after him has a meeting. He said that last year about 50 people attended.

Mast said the football stadium was named after Bryant while he was a coach. While in college, he served as a football head coach and athletic trainer.


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