Turns out they don't wake Paul Bryant for little firefights, either. The big deal now is to break the record of 314 college football victories by beating Auburn at Birmingham Saturday. So as our president, the Gipper, sleeps through the little stuff over Libya, the Bear also gets his Z's when his boys are out past his bedtime.
The Tuscaloosa police arrested Alabama's all-conference right tackle about 1:45 in the morning Thanksgiving Day. They charged Bob Cayavec with drunk driving. They found an air pistol in his car, along with a tire wrench. The first Bryant heard of it was at a coaches' meeting about 8 that day.
The coach immediately kicked Cayavec off his team. He also chased Gary Bramblett, who was with Cayavec when the cops answered a call "about an alleged incident . . . someone with a gun," to quote Lt. Horace Hodges of the Tuscaloosa police department. Bramblett was a second-string guard.
Now, you ask, how does Bryant square these dismissals with the shotgun episode? Three weeks ago, Alabama's first-string fullback, Ken Simon, was arrested after firing a shotgun in the neighborhood of others. Bryant kept Simon, saying he violated no team rules. That is, the fullback wasn't drinking and wasn't out late.
"Two days before a big game, two guys doing something like that," Bryant said of Cayavec and Bramblett. "If winning don't mean anything more than that, hell, I don't want them around. I'd rather lose."
The words were hard and cold. Smoke curled from a cigarette in Bryant's hand. He struck a pose of stern judgment, falling silent, the smoke sliding past his unblinking eyes. It was, one imagined, the kind of look that scares the grits out of an Alabama football player.
Bryant was still steamed at noon today, 28 hours after he interrupted a film meeting to see Cayavec and Bramblett in his office.
"They came in and sat right there," he said, pointing to a sofa so low a visitor sees only Bryant's head and shoulders over his desk.
"I told them, 'Get outta here, and I hope I never see you again,' " Bryant said. "No, wait. I didn't say 'hope I never see you again.' I just told them to be out of the dorm right now or I'll have the police there to help you get out."
Bryant has no set policy for dealing with such transgressions. He takes each case as it comes. The rule of thumb is: does this hurt the team?
"If they don't care about their teammates any more than to do this, I don't want them around. Maybe kicking them off will help somebody. Maybe it will save them from something."
Bryant said one of the players' fathers intended to stop by today.
"I'll talk to him, but I ain't got nothing to say that he wants to hear."
Neither Cayavec nor Bramblett could be found for comment today, so I asked an old Alabama football player how he thought the two linemen were feeling.
"Mighty poorly," Joe Namath said, speaking from personal experience.
Bryant kicked Namath off the Alabama team in the quarterback's junior year, 1963. Alabama was about to play Miami in a television game before meeting Mississippi in the Sugar Bowl. "Two giant games," Namath said today while here to film a television special on his old coach.
Even 18 years later, now an actor who walks with a stiff-kneed gimp up the ramp leading outdoors from the Alabama locker room, Joe Namath won't say what he did to get on Bryant's wrong side.
"Training violation" is all he admits to.
Old-timers here can't remember any blonds by that name.
Anyway, Namath said Alabama has won all these football games with Bryant -- 223 victories with 41 losses and nine ties -- not out of any win-it-for-Coach emotion. "We won for ourselves, for our teammates, and that's the way he always wanted it. We simply had respect for him."
Bryant earned respect, Namath said, with his genius and his manner. You can read bilge about Bryant being this century's Civil War hero, leading Alabama's poor, ignorant rednecks to neoequality with their Northern superiors (to characterize Tuscaloosa's understanding of last week's Sports Illustrated cover story on Bryant; Bryant said, "I have no reaction, other than it wasn't complimentary to the South, to the university or to Alabama.")
It's simpler than that, Namath said.
People follow an honest man, and Bryant is that man.
After Namath's training violation, Bryant called him to a guest room in the players' dormitory. Namath remembers vividly.
"I felt awful, but Coach looked worse than I did. Whenever it was said what I had done, he grabbed his head and fell back on the bed. I thought something was wrong. It scared me half to death. But he was just disappointed in me."
Bryant asked his coaches about the wandering quarterback.
"He said all the coaches except one voted to keep me on the team and discipline me some other way. He said, 'I could do that if you want to do it that way. But then I'd have to retire, because it goes against everything I stand for.' "
Imagine that. The kid from Beaver Falls makes the Bear quit. The wonder is, the kid believed it would happen that way. Bryant could sell Howard Cosell a dictionary.
"Coach told me to move out of the dormitory, and if I maintained my grades, I could come back for spring practice. I did it, and I came back that spring."
No drumrolls attended Namath's return.
"I was the fifth-string quarterback," he said today, smiling at the simple genius of the Bear's work. "I had to work my way back up."
With Namath as the humbled first-stringer, Alabama won the national championship that year