“Fight, fight on, fight on, men.
Remember the Rose Bowl, we’ll win then!”
Since 1946, these words from "Yea, Alabama," the fight song of the Alabama Crimson Tide, seemed archaic and had little meaning. That's because, for decades, the University of Alabama could not play in the Rose Bowl. And neither could any other SEC team. Or any team outside of two conferences.
That's because the Rose Bowl's governing association signed a contract with two conferences to place the two conference champions in the Rose Bowl — the PAC-10 Champion versus the Big 10 Champion. No outside team could play in the Rose Bowl, no matter how good their record is. The "granddaddy of them all" became the granddaddy of only two conferences.
For years, we would watch Southern Cal, UCLA, Stanford or another western team face off against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or another northern team.
It had not always been that way. Before the conference contractual hookup, Alabama had played in its first Rose Bowl in 1926. Alabama won the 1926 Rose Bowl 20-19 over the Washington Huskies. So the words to "Yea, Alabama" came to include winning the Rose Bowl.
That initial appearance by the Tide was followed by their Rose Bowl appearances in 1927, 1931, 1935, 1938 and 1946. That ended Alabama's Rose Bowl era with a 4-1-1 record to that point.
After the two-conference tie-in, Alabama was simply ineligible for the Rose Bowl. The words to the fight song remembering the Rose Bowl remained with only a historical significance.
When the new era of national championship games came in, that changed. Now, the Rose Bowl has become a semi-final game in the College Football Playoffs once every three years. So, in 2018, Georgia won the Rose Bowl to advance to the National Championship Game. The Bulldogs lost that championship to Alabama 26-23 in overtime in the famous "Second and 26" pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Devonta Smith.
It was Rose Bowl time again as the semi-final CFP game three years later. Alabama made the Rose Bowl in the 2021 CFP semi-final, defeating Notre Dame 31-14.
Three more years later, in 2024, it is the Rose Bowl's time again as the semi-final CFP game, and it's Alabama again, this time facing No. 1 Michigan.
So it seems that Alabama may have started a new tradition – going to the Rose Bowl every three years, each time it is open to outside teams when it hosts the CFP semi-final.
The Rose Bowl hosts the CFP semi-final every three years, and every three years, Alabama to Pasadena—a good tradition.
And it's not just the team and staff that go to Pasadena. It's the cheerleaders, the students, the Million Dollar Band and the many tens of thousands of fans. Alabama travels well.
"Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then."
And this is not the first time that the words to the Alabama fight song have regained their meaning in the modern era. The song also says:
"Go teach the Bulldogs, to behave."
Yea, Alabama! Drown ’em Tide!
Every ‘Bama man’s behind you,
Hit your stride.
Go teach the Bulldogs to behave,
Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave.
And if a man starts to weaken,
That’s a shame!
For Bama’s pluck and grit have
Writ her name in Crimson flame.
Fight on, fight on, fight on men!
Remember the Rose Bowl, we’ll win then.
So roll on to victory,
Hit your stride,
You’re Dixie’s football pride,
Crimson Tide, Roll Tide, Roll Tide!!
The author, Jim Zeigler, is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. He was President of the Student Government Association at the University of Alabama and played in the Million Dollar Band.You can reach him for comments at [email protected].
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