He was the quiet backup quarterback to Alabama’s super-sensation, flamboyant Joe Namath.

Then two things suddenly thrust Steve Sloan under center and front-and-center. Coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant suspended Namath from the team for infractions that would likely not even be considered worthy of a dishonorable mention today. Then, Namath injured his knee.

Sloan became the man of the hour in Tuscaloosa, and he rose to the occasion.

Sloan led the Tide in the final regular season game of 1964 and the Sugar Bowl victory over Ole Miss. He continued to quarterback the Tide in 1965, winning the National Title with a 39-28 victory over Nebraska.

Those were the beginnings. The end came Sunday with Sloan’s death at 79 in his longtime retirement town of Orlanda. He had been in memory care for his final three months.

Steve Sloan was a leader in all three of the f’s — faith, family and football. As a student at Alabama, he was a founding member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was also the scripture reader when evangelist Billy Graham came and preached in Tuscaloosa in 1963.

Sloan never believed in or practiced the separation of faith and football.

Sloan had been drafted in the 11th round by the Atlanta Falcons, playing 1966-67.

His coaching career also started in Tuscaloosa, as he returned to Alabama under Coach Bryant in 1968 as an assistant.

Then Coach Sloan toured the southeast with coaching stints in Florida (OC), Georgia Tech (OC), Vanderbilt (HC), Texas Tech (HC), Ole Miss (HC), Duke (HC) and Vanderbilt again (OC).  

The Alabama tie-ins resumed in 1987 when Sloan became the Athletic Director along with new Coach Bill Curry. Sloan resigned in 89. His career from this point was all on the administrative side.

His athletic director position took him to North Texas, Central Florida and UT Chattanooga.

When Sloan died Sunday, many colleges where he had served claimed him as their own:

“Former Ole Miss Coach dies…”

“Former Alabama quarterback and AD dies..”

“Vandy Coach Steve Sloan dies…”

“Steve Sloan, coach of Texas Tech football's 10-win team of 1976, dies at 79”

“Former Duke Head Coach Steve Sloan Passes Away”

“Former Bradley Central and Alabama quarterback Steve Sloan dies”  (This was his high school alma mater)

During the final years of Coach Bryant, there were rumors that Steve Sloan was Bryant’s choice to be his successor. It was not to be. Among other things, the timing was off. If the change had occurred after Sloan’s first two head coaching stints, it may have been considered. He led Vandy to a 5-6 season in his very first year head coaching year, improving to 7-3-1 in his second and last season there. Sloan’s Vandy squad landed the school’s second bowl appearance ever where they tied Texas Tech 6-6. But that Texas Tech team noticed him and hired him away, where he stayed for three seasons and a 23-12 record. Quite remarkable for a team in the same state as Texas and Texas A&M.

That was good enough to get Sloan back to the SEC and five years of head coaching at Ole Miss.

Arrangements for Sloan will be announced.  You can expect to see his fellow staffers and his players all the way from North Carolina to west Texas.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler writes about Alabama’s people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths.  He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at ZeiglerElderCare@yahoo.com.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.