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“Alabama coach Jim Grobe” and the coaching butterfly effect

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A jarring “what if” from a decade ago.

Clemson v Wake Forest Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

A good portion of my Faurot Years series has focused on the idea of coaching searches as the ultimate butterfly effect. In retrospect, stories seem so straight-forward, history so well-defined. But that’s almost never the case.

Really, though, instead of writing thousands of words about the 1930s-1950s, I could have just shared this link and served the same purpose. (Via the esteemed Senator Blutarsky.)

“Now What?” was the headline in the Times Daily after Rodriguez said no to the Crimson Tide. Alabama’s coaching search was coming up dry and as each day passed it appeared Alabama was going to have to settle on a coach rather than get their desired pick. Other supposed targets for the job included South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Cal’s Jeff Tedford, Navy’s Paul Johnson, and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe.

Grobe was coming off of a 2006 ACC title at Wake Forest, Johnson would soon become Georgia Tech’s head coach, and Tedford was peaking at Cal. (Neither Grobe nor Tedford would see their respective peaks last too much longer.) In theory, any of them could have succeeded with Bama’s resources. But ... wow. WOW. Imagine how different the college football universe would look if Bama had gone with Grobe or Johnson instead of the guy who would prove himself the best college football coach in the country.

The thought of Don Faurot inventing the Split-T at Kansas State or making a national title run at Ohio State in the 1950s is certainly pretty jarring. But Alabama hiring anyone on that list other than Saban would have completely changed college football’s recent history.