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PAUL “BEAR” BRYANT’S 12-YEAR CONTRACT AT KENTUCKY

Paul Bryant

Multi-year contracts for players and coaches are nothing new to the world of sports and college football in particular. Apparently, this sort of thing has been going on for a long time. Check out the excerpt inside from the 1951 Kentucky Football Media Guide which discusses Paul "Bear" Bryant's 12-year contract to be the head coach at the University of Kentucky. The 12-year contract apparently helped keep the storied gridiron coach around a while. Bryant ultimately left UK in 1953 for Texas A&M after eight seasons in Lexington.

The Bryant Story

Coach Paul (Bear) Bryant has taught Kentucky footballers and fans how the other half lives and they love it.

For years, Kentucky spent the majority of its Saturday afternoons getting its collective gridiron teeth kicked in. Like being slugged repeatedly on the head with a sledge hammer, this was not regarded as morale building.

In 1946, Bryant gave up the reins at the University of Maryland and accepted a five-year contract at Kentucky. He explained at the time that it would take that amount of time to get the Wildcats off the floor, shake the cobwebs from their respective heads and start them moving up the national grid ladder - an assignment few young mentors would have cared to risk their futures on.

Last year was the final chapter of Bryant's "Five-Year Plan" and at the season's end the Wildcats capped a sensational climb to fame by smacking down the nation's number-one ranked team, the Oklahoma Sooners, 13 to 7, in the Sugar Bowl at New Orleans.

The 1950 Bryant edition won 11 and lost only one in annexing the first Southeastern Conference football title ever won by the school. Over the five-year period, the Cats won 40, lost 13 and tied two; appeared in three bowl games (Great Lakes Bowl, 1947; Orange Bowl, 1950; and Sugar Bowl, 1951) and won two of them.

A record of two victories and eight pastings was the best Kentucky could do in 1945, which was one year B.B. (Before Bryant). The next season, Bear rewrote the script and the Cats stunned everyone by winning seven and dropping three. The Wildcats felt something like an elephant in a bird cage with this overnight success, their best season record in football since 1912.

But they began to get used to the feeling. In 1947, Bryant's, charges copped eight and again dropped a trio of tilts. Recognition of their "dark horse" rise to national prominence came as they accepted a bid to perform in the inaugural Great Lakes Bowl game at Cleveland in December, 1947, and defeated Villanova 24 to 14. The game marked Kentucky's first post-season bowl appearance. Hit hard by graduation, Kentucky still managed to stay on the winning side of the ledger in 1948 with a mark of five victories, three setbacks and two ties which kept intact the Bryant record of never having lost more than three games in a single season.

A new surprise was in store for the football world in the next year as the 1949 club won nine and dropped only three, including a 21-13 loss to Santa Clara in the Orange Bowl at Miami, while playing what was considered at the time to be the school's most difficult schedule. Bryant's charges also finished breathing down the neck of the league leader in the conference race, second by a scant 33 percentage points.

The fourth chapter in the Bryant story at Kentucky proved a brilliant one. His team had accomplished goals which no other UK grid aggregation had managed to attain in the schoo1's 61-year football history finish second in the SEC and participate in a major postseason bowl game. Prior to the Bryant era, the Wildcats gained seventh place in the Conference standings twice to mark their best efforts in 58 SEC games over a 12-year period.

At the close of Bryants first season with UK, school officials were so pleased with his accomplishments that they tore up his original five-year pact and replaced it with a then unique, 10-year agreement. After Kentucky's Sugar Bowl victory, UK officials again voted confidence in the youthful mentor by tossing out his 10-year contract- which still had five seasons to run and replacing it with an unprecedented 12-year pact extending through the 1962 season.

Before coming to Kentucky in 1946, Bryant, an Alabama end from 1933-35, tutored Maryland to a 6-2-1 record in 1945 for that school's, best mark in years. His one season Maryland post was the first head coaching job he held.

During his days at the Capstone, Bryant was Bama's regular right end and was a member of the famed Crimson Tide Rose Bowl eleven of 1935. The 37-year-old native of Fordyce, Arkansas, became an assistant coach on Frank Thomas' staff at Alabama following his graduation in 1936. He moved to Vanderbilt in 1939 as line coach and two years later entered the Navy. He was discharged in 1945 as a lieutenant commander. Following a season as head coach at Maryland in 1945, the former Bama flankman started his career at Kentucky in 1946.

Professional and collegiate clubs alike have tried to lure the amazing Mr. Bryant into lusher fields, but he has consistently chosen to remain at the challenging task of building Kentucky football into "big-time" prominence and keeping it there. `

PAUL "BEAR" BRYANT'S RECORD AT KENTUCKY
1946 7-3-0
1947 8-3-0 Great Lakes Bowl (won)
1948 5-3-2
1949 9-3-0 Orange Bowl (lost)
1950 11-1-0 Sugar Bowl (won)

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