TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- The University of Alabama Athletics Department unveiled statues of its four national championship coaches Thursday night on the newly constructed Bryant-Denny Stadium Plaza.
The Crimson Tide also dedicated the new North End Zone expansion, which increased the capacity of the stadium to 92,138 and includes 38 new skyboxes, a club area and two new two Jumbotrons.
The families of coaches Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul W. Bryant and Gene Stallings were on hand for the unveiling of the statues.
Wade was the first to bring a national title to Tuscaloosa, winning championships in 1925, 1926 and 1930.
"They unveiled the street name a couple of years ago and now the statue," Clifford Lynch, Wade's Grandson in-law said. "It really helps bring his memory back up again. It seems like it laid dormant for a while. Now the statue is kind of overwhelming."
Wade was followed by Thomas who added titles in 1934 and 1941.
"This is certainly an honor and I'm very proud of my father," Frank Thomas, Jr. said. "I'm very honored that Mal Moore, President (Robert E.) Witt and the rest of the athletic department were able to do this to honor him. My father looked so young on the statue that I almost didn't recognize him."
Bryant won six national titles during his record breaking career, guiding his team to the top in 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978 and 1979. His son, Paul Bryant, Jr. said that stadium expansion was timely as well as needed.
"It is exciting to see this project completed," Bryant, Jr. said. "But the big thing is that Coach Moore had the foresight to start on all the athletic facilities, including the stadium, at a time when things were a little bleak. The fans, alumni and supporters of the University bought in and agreed to help at a time when we needed it."
Bryant also praised the University's administration, in particular President Witt.
"Dr. Witt played a big role as well," Bryant said. "He embraced the entire project and has really had a big impact on the athletic department's financial situation. The timing of Dr. Witt's arrival has been key."
Stallings won his title by going undefeated in 1992 with a run capped by a decisive and memorable 34-13 win over Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl.
"To have this after having the equipment room named for (his son) John Mark (Stallings) is just mind-boggling," Stallings said. "Obviously, the game is about the players and I was blessed with good players and coaches. Those other guys won several National Championships and I just won one. It never entered my mind that something like this would ever happen."
Alabama kicks off its 112th football season, and first in the newly renovated stadium, Saturday at 6:07 p.m. against the University of Hawai'i. The game is sold out.