WASHINGTON – The University of Alabama is located in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Since Nick Saban took over the football program in 2007, the White House has become like a second home to the Crimson Tide.
Saban and his team were welcomed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday to celebrate the program’s 16th national championship. Alabama finished the season 14-1 with a 45-40 win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff’s National Championship game.
The Crimson Tide returned to the White House for the first time since 2012, after they won the second of back-to-back championships and the third in four years. The president began the ceremony by pointing out the Tide’s absence.
“Coach, what took you so long?” Obama asked Saban. “It’s been three whole years since I last saw you.”
The president’s joke highlighted the success the program has become accustomed to in recent years. This was the Alabama’s fourth visit in the last seven years. During Obama’s presidency, only the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team has made more visits.
“Clearly, I brought you some good luck,” Obama said. “In fact, you can call me O’Bama.”
Alabama’s dominance of college football during the Obama administration is a historically impressive. During that time Saban and Alabama have an official record of 100-18.
Only one other program can boast winning four championships in seven years. Notre Dame did it between 1943 and 1949.
“Back then, folks were still wearing leather helmets,” Obama said. “I don’t feel like anybody in a leather helmet would do to well trying to tackle Derrick Henry. Of course, even with modern helmets they didn’t do too well.”
Henry, a running back, played a major role in the Crimson Tide’s success. Henry’s 2,219 rushing yards were the fifth most in the history of college football for a single season. He also scored 28 touchdowns, including three in the championship game victory over Clemson. Henry became the second player in Alabama’s history to win the Heisman Trophy.
The president spent time praising Henry’s achievements on the field and off. Obama recalled meeting the Heisman Trophy winner last month as he led the closing prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Obama praised the effect Saban has had on the community by highlighting the more than $6 million he and his wife raised through their kids foundation.
Saban took the podium to thank the president and praise his team once more.
“I think the thing that was greatest about this team was they won as one. There was tremendous togetherness, respect, trust for each other,” Saban said. “This is a really special group. This is one of the last times it will be together. But it’s certainly one of the most special times that we’ve had.”
As his time in office dwindles, Obama recognized the remarkable achievements of the Alabama Crimson Tide once again, wishing them continued success and more visits to the White House, even if he won’t be there to welcome them.
“Everybody recognizes excellence when they see it, and nobody has had more sustained excellence as a football program at the collegiate level than the Alabama Crimson Tide,” Obama said. “I’d like to say I’ll see you next year, but we’ve got this thing called term limits. You can keep on going.”
Reach reporter Luis Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-408-1493. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
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