Brad Edwards on his new Alabama football book and 25 years at ESPN

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For the first time in a quarter of a century, Brad Edwards is not on ESPN’s college football team.

The Alabama graduate was fired in January as the world leader made staff cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s been months since he continued to do what he does best – delving into the stats to help tell college football stories.

Edwards’ new book, “Dynasty By the Numbers: Why Alabama Now Owns the Greatest Decade-Plus Run in College Football History” was published earlier this year by Fairway Enterprises. Edwards will sign copies of the book at the Paul W. Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, ahead of Alabama’s opener against Mercer in 2021.

“The reason I wrote this book was that I wanted people to see how much better Alabama has been than everyone else in sport over the past 12 or 13 years,” said Edwards. “I knew there was a pretty big gap there, but in doing it, I discovered how unique and rare some of the things they’ve done are, and even sometimes unprecedented.

“Then the totality of it all shows pretty clearly that this is, this is something that no other program has been able to hold for that long. … I hope the book allows more Alabama fans to appreciate what they watched and are still watching, because that’s not supposed to happen. By all the precedents in college football history, this should have ended a long time ago.

In many ways, “Dynasty By the Numbers” lasted 25 years. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Edwards was hired by ESPN in 1996, just over a year after graduating from the University of Alabama.

Edwards had worked in the Alabama Sports Information Department, helping provide statistical notes to TV and radio broadcasters and other media covering Crimson Tide football games. He befriended Jay Rothman, college football producer of ESPN (and later Monday Night Football), and while working part-time after graduation, he was offered a researcher position for the ESPN college football production team.

“(Rothman) loved my grades and for some reason found them more useful than the grades he received from most of the other schools he covered,” Edwards said. “… I came home from waiting tables one evening and there was a flashing light on my answering machine and I pressed it. And there’s a post from Jay that says “if you’re interested in working at ESPN, we’ve just decided to create a job that I think would be perfect for you.” And that was it. They wanted someone to be in charge of their news for the game broadcasts and for the college football studio broadcasts. And in a very different time than we have today, I went there. I never filled out a job application.

His second big breakthrough came in 1998, with the creation of the Bowl Championship Series. The formula for choosing who attended the National College Football Championship game was not only maligned but also mysterious, and Edwards quickly learned he had a better understanding of BCS than many of his on-camera colleagues.

Fairly quickly, Edwards began writing explanatory columns for ESPN.com, earning him a guest on nationwide radio and television programs to help break down and even predict the weekly BCS rankings. This in turn led to television and radio appearances on various ESPN college football programs, as well as a longtime gig as the co-host of “College GameDay on ESPN Radio,” the counterpart of the very popular TV version.

“The people closest to me (at ESPN) acknowledged that I understood how (BCS) worked a lot better than pretty much everyone who was talking about it on the air or writing about it somewhere,” Edwards said. “I had a really, really good understanding of what the numbers meant and what was going to happen if this team won or this team lost.

“… There was a stretch out there where there were a lot of season’s endings. And so I was in great demand. I kind of developed a brand or identity as an analyst or BCS expert or whatever people wanted to call it. It gave me a lot. “

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy following their victory over Ohio State in an NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship game on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 , in Miami Gardens, Florida, Alabama. (AP Photo / Chris O’Meara)PA

Edwards’ emergence at ESPN matched Alabama’s rebirth as a college football powerhouse under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide have won six National Championships and over 90 percent of their total games over the past 12 years, and during that time, have never lost to an unranked team or even to a ranked team in outside the national Top 20.

Edwards had seen and studied the history of the sport enough to begin to realize that what Saban and the Crimson Tide have accomplished since 2009 is not only impressive, but never seen before by the oldest followers of college football.

“Obviously, being someone who’s very engaged with numbers throughout all of my years at ESPN, and also in more recent seasons after BCS ended, just telling stories with numbers through items at On the air, I was very, very aware of not only the achievements on the Alabama field, in terms of winning and losing in the championships, but some of the things they had accomplished were rare or unprecedented. in college football history or at least in modern college football history, “Edwards said.” So that was kind of the basis of it all, is that knowing that there was, he there was a lot to work on before I even really thought about making a book. “

So what statistics best illustrate Alabama’s recent dominance in the sport? Here’s one: The Crimson Tide have been favored in 82 straight games since 2015, the longest streak in college football history – ahead of just their own 72-game streak from 2009 to 2015 (Florida State 54 games as a favorite. from 1997-2001 is a distant third).

And here’s another one.

Including last Saturday’s season opener against Miami, Alabama hasn’t lagged since the third quarter of the game against Georgia in 2020, spanning 41 quarters. The Crimson Tide finished last season without lagging in their last 37 quarters, seven more than any other national champion in the past 50 years (1972 USC is second, with 30) and 17 more than the team third (1989 Miami, with 20).

And keep in mind that Alabama did this while playing a regular season schedule made up entirely of SEC opponents, as well as two College Football Playoff games against top 4-ranked teams nationally. .

“When I first noticed this number, I was aware that it was difficult to do,” said Edwards. “There couldn’t be so many teams that had done it. I haven’t had to go back so many years to find the last time a team did at some point in the season, but I couldn’t find any team that did it for as many consecutive quarters to end the season. And I thought the end of the season was important because if you’re such a good team you’re going to have to beat at least one very good opponent at the very end in order to finish. And obviously, the playoff format being what it is, it’s really three now, because you have a conference championship game followed by a national championship game in the semi-finals.

“But if you go back in history for a lot of these teams, the bowl game might have been the only end-of-season game against a very good opponent. And looking back, I’m past the mid-90s – that’s when the internet, at least for public use, came into being – and nothing. I was able to keep researching and finding enough information to go back and go back. And what I found out is that if you’re not over 60, then you weren’t alive the last time a team did that.

“Dynasty By the Numbers,” which is printed in a large coffee table book style, is loaded with similar statistics, as well as vividly colored photographs and the types of charts and graphs with which anyone who has followed the work of Edwards over the years will be familiar. It is published under permission of the Alabama Sports Department and is available for sale at only three outlets – the Bryant Museum, the University Supply Store stores on the Alabama campus, and on the Alabama website. ‘Edwards, BamaDynastyBook.com.

Edwards also produced a number of YouTube videos to help promote the book, titled “Just the Facts”. Following his book signing on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, he will also appear on Monday lunchtime at Baumhower’s Victory Grille in Mobile, as well as for evening speaking engagements in Mobile (September 13), Montgomery (September 20), Gulf Shores (September 27). , Jackson, Miss. (September 28), Monroeville (September 30) and Birmingham (November 10), with additional appearances to be determined.

“There is so much stuff out there,” Edwards said. “And it was really just a matter of – once I decided to write the book after I was 25 at ESPN – making sure I sort of covered all the bases. Had I thought of everything, every area where there might be something worth saying? And then at that point, could I maybe even find some other things that hadn’t even crossed my mind? So that’s basically how it started, which is from the moment I got the idea to do it, I knew there was already a lot of stuff there. -low. I thought there was more. And of course there was.

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