Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Denzel Washington Named Alabama Football Coach

On Monday, Mike Shula was fired as the head football coach at the University of Alabama. Shula went 26-23 during his four years, including an 0-4 mark versus hated Iron Bowl rival Auburn. University officials did not take long to find their next man. Reports from Tuscaloosa are indicating that Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington will take over as Bama football coach.

Washington could not be reached for comment, but details on a press conference are reportedly forthcoming. In the meantime, many college football observers are stunned that such a storied program would be put into the hands of an actor. However, Denzel was so convincing as coach Herman Boone in Remember The Titans, athletic director Mal Moore had no doubt that he could inspire victories at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Moore is certain that Washington can lead the Crimson Tide, since he already played the lead in Crimson Tide. The athletic department apparently wanted to land him as soon as possible, since his experience in The Hurricane also made him a front-runner for the vacant Miami job.

Denzel does add many assets to the Bama program. The team’s offense often struggled under Shula, but Washington’s recent box office performance proves that he knows how to put up big numbers. Also, while the school surprisingly has never had a Heisman Trophy winner, the new coach brings two Oscars to Tuscaloosa. The largest impact of all should be seen in recruiting. With the handsome movie star on the sideline, all the mothers of high school football players in the state will beg their sons to go to Bama.

Tide fans treasure the illustrious history of the program, and Denzel can tap into that proud tradition. Having portrayed an angel in The Preacher’s Wife, he can ascend into heaven whenever he wants advice from Bear Bryant. He also has a link with one of the most famous players ever to don an Alabama uniform, since he teamed up with Forrest Gump in Philadelphia.

Most importantly to Bama fans, Washington’s Oscar-winning performances prepared him for showdowns with the team’s most bitter rival. Denzel was first honored for Glory, which depicted the intense combat of the Civil War. To football fans in Alabama, the film captured the spirit of the Iron Bowl. In winning for Training Day, Washington got the nod over nominees such as Tom Wilkinson from In the Bedroom. If he can beat one Tom when the stakes are high, Tide fans are confident that he can take down Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.

The hiring also addresses a controversy that arose when Shula got the job. Many observers felt that Alabama missed a historic opportunity in not hiring alumnus Sylvester Croom, who later became the SEC’s first African-American head coach at Mississippi State. Now there is a clear sign that things have changed in the state of George Wallace, since Bear Bryant’s position will be occupied by the guy who played Malcolm X.

However, Denzel’s hiring is not completely without controversy. Some school officials are fearful that he will overextend his authority and abuse his players during training camp. They point out that a past Training Day with Washington resulted in rampant drug use and violent gunplay. However, athletic department officials downplayed such concerns. Moore remarked, “If there’s a day we think about, it’s not Training Day. It’s the Third Saturday in October.”

In the meantime, Denzel will surely soak up some football insight in St. Louis, where son John David Washington is a member of the Rams’ practice squad. This time, he’s not just preparing for a role. He’s preparing for “Roll Tide!”