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Alabama Wins, Stallings Resigns

SEC: Coach announces he'll quit at end of season after Crimson Tide beats Auburn, 24-23.

November 24, 1996|From Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama Coach Gene Stallings announced his resignation Saturday night after a 24-23 victory over Auburn in a Southeastern Conference game.

It was one of the most exciting games during Stallings' seven years at Alabama, as Dennis Riddle scored on a seven-yard pass play with 26 seconds left to give the Crimson Tide the victory.

The victory clinched the SEC Western Division for Alabama, 9-2 overall and 7-2 in the SEC, and relegated Auburn (7-4, 4-4) to a lesser bowl game.

Stallings, who led the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship, said he will stay with the team through the end of the season. The Crimson Tide has two games remaining, the Southeastern Conference title game against Eastern Division winner and No. 1-ranked Florida Dec. 7 and then a bowl game.

"I talked to the players and the coaches and told them there comes a time for everyone to pass the torch," said Stallings, who has a 69-15-1 record at Alabama. "You guys don't understand the pressure of how a loss affects someone."

Alabama drove 84 yards for the game-winning touchdown against archrival Auburn, but the 60-year-old Stallings said the excitement of the win did not change his mind about leaving.

Stallings paid tribute to former athletic director Hootie Ingram, who hired him in 1990 "when I had just gotten fired and didn't have a lot of people looking at me."

But Ingram left following an investigation into the Alabama program that resulted in the team's first-ever stay on probation. Stallings first mentioned he might quit last year, as Alabama was wrapping up its appeal to the NCAA.

"I hated the probation," Stallings said. "I tried to run the very best program I knew how. I tried to teach players a work ethic, how to respond and how to perform under pressure."

Stallings said he decided last week that it was time to leave.

Before making his announcement, Stallings watched his team take a 17-0 lead after 10 minutes only to see it evaporate by halftime. But quarterback Freddie Kitchens, who had to overcome three interceptions, led the Tide on its game-winning drive.

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