Mark Edwards' In My Opinion: In his own way, Perkins made mark on Iron Bowl
by Mark Edwards
Dec 24, 2013 | 2448 views |  0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ray Perkins coached at Alabama during 1983-86 and went 31-15, managing wins over Penn State, Notre Dame and rival Auburn. (AP file photo)
Ray Perkins coached at Alabama during 1983-86 and went 31-15, managing wins over Penn State, Notre Dame and rival Auburn. (AP file photo)
Those of you from a younger generation likely don’t know – or care – who Ray Perkins is. If you do know, he’s just some old football player and coach.

He coached Alabama during 1983-86 in probably the toughest time to be a Crimson Tide coach. He was following Bear Bryant. The coach who follows Nick Saban won’t have it as tough as Perkins did.

Perkins was a serviceable coach with a thick skin, and that probably was his best asset as he tried to succeed possibly the most popular man ever in college football. It didn’t help that when Perkins took over, Pat Dye – a former Bryant assistant coach at Alabama – had rival Auburn on the verge of some of the best years in its history.

Perkins and Dye dominated this state as much as Saban and Gus Malzahn do today. They didn’t win any national championships, and by today’s standards within our borders and the Southeastern Conference, that might make them barely worthy of our attention. But that statistic hardly does them justice.

In the four seasons in which Perkins and Dye competed against each other, they rejuvenated the Iron Bowl, which had lost some of its passion. They split four fantastic games 2-2, with a combined margin of victory of 11 points. Three were decided in the last minute.

All four games were played in Birmingham during a period when the tickets were split 50-50, which gave the Iron Bowl a unique atmosphere. If Perkins did nothing else, he played his part in making the series ultra-exciting again.

Perkins comes to mind today because he is retiring from coaching. Besides Alabama, he also was a head coach at Arkansas State and with the NFL’s Giants and Buccaneers. He also was offensive coordinator for New England’s 1996 team that lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl. He last coached in the NFL in 2002 as a Cleveland Browns assistant, but two years ago, he stepped out of retirement and took over Jones County Community College in Ellisville, Miss.

Now, he is heading back home at 72 years old, having won 15 games and lost five in his two seasons. His skin still seems just as thick, so it’s unlikely he cares one bit what anyone would say about going from coaching at Alabama and in the NFL to a Mississippi junior college.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.
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