Paul Bryant's first game as the Alabama head coach occurs at Ladd Field in Mobile and the gallant Tide falls to eventual national champion LSU 13-3. A field goal by Fred Sington, Jr. are the first points of the Bryant era and put Bama ahead 3-0 at the half. The game is also remembered for part of the stadium collapsing during the action and for the Alabama crowd standing in unison and cheering its team as it went to the locker room. It would be an omen for brighter days at the Capstone.
The Paul W. Bryant Museum
The Bryant Museum grew out of an idea of Coach Paul William Bryant. As Bryant approached the then record of 314 collegiate football victories, he wanted to honor all the players and coaches that contributed to his career. His original intent was to place the team photographs on the concourse of Coleman Coliseum. After discussions with university administrators and former Alabama football players the concept of a full-fledged museum was formed.
A committee of 55 was convened in 1983 to plan the museum. During the process it was determined that not only the players from Bryant’s era but the entire history of football at the University of Alabama should be included. The museum was included in a campus expansion plan that included a hotel, the Bryant Conference Center and a new Alumni Hall building. The site selected for the museum is directly across Bryant Drive from Coleman Coliseum and near the football complex.
Emily Moore was named the founding director in 1985 and began the museum’s collection. Material from the athletic department at the university comprised the bulk of the collection. Coaching films, photographs, trophies, media guides, programs and many more items were moved the temporary home of the museum in the university’s Gorgas Library. Public calls for artifacts and materials produced many more items for the collection. Former players and coaches supplied many personal and one-of-a kind pieces.
The museum was placed initially under the administration of the University Museums system, which includes the Alabama Museum of Natural History and Moundville Archaeological Park. Dr. Doug Jones, Executive Director of University Museums, led the building and exhibit design process. Today the museum is a unit of the university’s Academic Affairs division.
The building is an 8,000 square foot exhibit hall with an office/collection storage area of an equal size. The entire facility is climate-controlled to protect the collection holdings. Limestone, accented by granite greet the visitor in the museum’s lobby.
Jerry G and Associates of Cleveland, Ohio were selected to design the original exhibits based on their work at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Hall of Honor based on Bryant’s initial concept of honoring his players and coaches is the first exhibit the visitor views. In the center of the display is a bronze bust of Bryant sculpted by Blair Buswell. Beginning with the first team in 1892, the display chronicles the history of football at the University of Alabama. Photographs, video and memorabilia are heavily used throughout the timeline. Some of the items displayed include, a re-creation of Coach Bryant’s office and a Waterford crystal reproduction of his trademark houndstooth hat. Several original paintings depicting great moments in Crimson Tide history are also on display. Temporary exhibits are created to feature events and sports not included in the permanent displays. A few examples of past displays are Tide players in World War II, Bryant’s life before coaching at Alabama and University of Alabama athletes who participated in the Olympic games.
Opening on October 8, 1988 the museum averages 40,000 visitors annually. The fall football season is the most popular time for visitor and spring is dominated by school group visits. The summer months attract out-of -state travelers. Family groups are the main demographic. The museum’s proximity to the Sheraton Four Points hotel and the Bryant Conference Center also contribute to the visitor count.
The Museum is available for after-hours events and receptions. Special programs are conducted throughout the year. An educational program called Art with the Experts targets fourth grade students each spring. Sports artist interact with the students as they introduce them to the world of sports through art. Other programs offered include sports broadcasting workshops and merit badge related sessions for Scouts. The museum also hosts the namesakes of Coach Bryant for a tailgate style reception each year. Almost 500 namesakes are in the museum’s database.
The museum’s collection staff responds to requests for information from a wide range of audiences interested in sports history at the University of Alabama. Over one hundred video projects are completed each year using the archives for local and national media. Annually the staff answers approximately 600 requests for photographs and research from authors, former player’s families and the public. Over 100 books have been written using the resources of the museum.
The museum staff produces two television shows in cooperation with the Alabama Center for Public Television that air on the campus station, WVUA. Crimson Classics uses archive footage from the museum collection along with interviews former players, coaches and media about past Crimson Tide games. An interview show called Crimson Comments highlights noted individuals from the history of football at the Capstone. DVDs of these programs, with bonus material not seen on television, are for sale to the public.
The Bryant Museum is located at 300 Bryant Drive in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on the campus of the University of Alabama. The museum can be contacted by writing to Box 870385 Tuscaloosa, AL 35487. The toll free telephone number is 1-866-772-BEAR. On-line the museum’s web address is www.bryantmuseum.com and the e-mail contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. A membership group, the Circle of Champions, is offered.
The Bryant Museum is open daily from 9am-4pm. Hours are extended for home football game days. The museum is closed on major holidays.