The Southeastern Conference is home to history and traditions like no other. From Texas A&M’s Midnight Yell at Kyle Field to the sound of thousands of ringing cowbells at Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium, every SEC football game is a one-of-a-kind experience during football season.
The Alabama Crimson Tide, of course, have their own set of game day customs. After UA crushes its opponent, the crowd breaks out the “Rammer Jammer” chant, in which it yells in unison, “Hey, (Opponent Team), we just beat the hell out of you!” No ‘Bama game is complete without hurling insults at rival schools like Auburn, LSU and Tennessee during the singing of “Dixieland Delight” at the start of fourth quarters in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
As far as NCAA football history and lore goes, Bryant-Denny Stadium has plenty of it. If you’ve never read up on it, sit down and enjoy this history lesson.
Bryant-Denny initially opened in 1929 as Denny Stadium — the replacement for the Tide’s home field of Denny Field (1915-1929). The venue, located at 920 Paul W Bryant Dr., was officially dedicated during homecoming ceremonies in a 22-7 win over the Ole Miss Rebels on October 5.
It was named after George H. Denny, the University of Alabama’s president from 1912 to 1936. He was so well-regarded in Tuscaloosa for the growth of Alabama’s athletic department that the Denny Chimes bell tower was also named in his honor.
The “Bryant” part wasn’t added until 1975. As you probably guessed, that was in honor of legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Renown for his houndstooth hat, Bryant brought six national championships to Tuscaloosa over his 25-year coaching tenure and went 72-2 in the stadium. He remains one of the winningest coaches in college football history.
Since its opening and very first game — an Alabama 55-0 win over Mississippi College on Sept. 28, 1929 — Bryant-Denny has undergone numerous facelifts to get to its current form.
As the Tuscaloosa News details, eight stadium expansions since 1936 have transformed the stadium from its original 12,000-seating capacity to its present-day capacity of 101,821. It’s currently the eighth-largest stadium in the world, seventh-largest in the United States and fourth-largest in the SEC.
Bryant-Denny’s original construction cost is difficult to gauge. The price tag was likely between $100,000 and $200,000 before any renovations took place. An archived news article from 1937 states that after the first $90,000 renovation in 1936 the stadium had costed about $230,000 in total. That’d be upwards of $3 million today.
The university has spent hundred of millions since then. Bleacher seating at each end zone was added in 1946. A press box was added in 1961. In 1988 and 1998, additional seating was added to the west side and east side, respectively.
More recently, a $65.6 million renovation to the south end zone and upper deck in 2010 added two new video boards. In 2006, a $47 million renovation added seating and a home locker room to the north end zone and a number of skyboxes. There’s more to come, too, as $75.4 million worth of expansions are set to begin after the 2019 season.
If any stadium in the country is worthy of such costly improvements, it’s Bryant-Denny.
While Alabama didn’t begin playing the entirety of its home games there until 2004 — the major crowd-drawing games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham — it’s housed a number of important contests.
The Tide won its first ever Iron Bowl in Bryant-Denny in 2008, a 36-0 drubbing of Auburn. The next year Alabama downed Tennessee, 12-10, on a last-second Terrence Cody blocked field goal.
Twelve coaches have coached the Tide at Bryant-Denny. The first was Wallace Wade, who was 6-0 all-time at the venue. The most recent is Nick Saban, who began his incredible run at Alabama in 2007 after leaving the NFL.
The Tide’s 2019 home schedule features the New Mexico State Aggies, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Ole Miss Rebels, Tennessee Volunteers, Arkansas Razorbacks, LSU Tigers and Western Carolina Catamounts.
If you catch one of those games and find yourself yelling “Roll Tide!” alongside the Million Dollar Band or are engulfed in the Walk of Champions before taking in some Alabama Crimson Tide football at Bryant-Denny Stadium, take a second to appreciate the 90-year history of one of the grandest stadiums in the country.