/Bama vs Rebels, Bryant vs Vaught

Bama vs Rebels, Bryant vs Vaught

It’s not true. They did not play each other in the regular season from 1944 to 1965. They were neighbors. They were both members of the same conference. They were for a large part national football power during that period. They didn’t play. Robert Khayat, who was a player for Ole Miss in late 1950s and later became the school’s chancellor, says that they were told repeatedly that Alabama would not play them. “Later, it became clear that the Alabama players were being told it was because they refused to play us.” I believe for a long time, Bear Bryant, an Alabama coach, and John Vaught, Ole Miss’s football coach, had a gentleman’s agreement not to play each other. Also, why should we fight with each other when we have so many other teams that we can beat? Warner Alford, who was a Vaught player and later became the Ole Miss athletic director, said that there may be something to it. Alford said, “Back then you could pick your opponent, even for conference games.” Coach Bryant and Coach Vaught were great friends. They may have decided to not play each other.” In 1965, they played in a regular season game. What caused this change in heart? No one seems to know. Bryant won three consecutive championships before Archie Manning joined the picture at Ole Miss. He won two of his three titles, while Alabama lost to Bryant 33-32 his junior season in what may have been his best performance. What are his memories of the series? Manning stated, “I recall how close Coach Vaught and Coach Bryant were to me.” “Coach Vaught called him Paul and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone else call him Paul,” Manning said. After all three games, Coach Bryant came into our locker room. Coach Vaught, my sophomore year, wanted to meet me. Vaught and Bryant disagreed. Both felt that their defenses were a disaster at Legion Field that night. Bryant was among the few coaches to have a winning record against Vaught. And that was by the smallest of margins. Bryant’s record against Vaught was 7-6-1. Bryant won 5-2 at Alabama and Bryant won 2-4-1 at Kentucky. Vaught said this about Bryant in 1999 as he was working on a biography. He was a great friend and a great coach. He is missed by me. He died too quickly.” Their mutual respect was mutual. Bryant once stated of Vaught, “Johnny’s teams are always ready to play.” They were always prepared and Johnny was always a gentleman in defeat or victory. There are many similarities between them. Both were raised on farms and ranches as members of large families. Bryant was one of 13 children. Vaught was one 11-year-old. Both were young men who worked hard to support their families. Bryant rode a mule to school, Vaught rode on a horse. Both were teenagers when they first learned about football. Both were winners. *** It is notable that Ole Miss won the first meeting against Alabama 6-0 in 1894. Hugh Freeze’s Rebels have won the two previous ones. Between, Alabama is 51-7-2 against Rebels. Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Check out his columns as well as his Sports Daily blog.