American college football coach, who broke the record for most college football coaching victories (323). He was the head coach at the University of Maryland (1945), University of Kentucky (1946-53), Texas A&M University (1954-57), and University of Alabama (1958-82), where he achieved his greatest fame.
Born Paul William Bryant in Kingsland, Arkansas, he earned his nickname by wrestling a bear in a theater. An all-state football player in high school, he played college football as an end for the University of Alabama and became an assistant coach there after graduation in 1935. He secured his first head-coaching job at Maryland after World War II (1939-45) and acquired a reputation as a demanding coach and strict disciplinarian. In 1946 he moved to Kentucky, taking the team to four bowl games and winning the university's only Southeast Conference title. At Texas A&M, Bryant won the Southwest Conference championship in 1956.
Returning to Alabama in 1958, he revitalized the football program and in 1961 had the nation's top-ranked college football team. His 1964, 1965, 1973, and 1978 teams were also ranked number one in one or more polls, but his 1979 team was the only one to be ranked first unanimously in the postseason polls. In 1981 he broke University of Chicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg's record of 314 coaching victories. Under Bryant, Alabama had 25 winning seasons and was selected for bowl games 24 times.
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