Coffee didn't miss a 'Bama game from 1946-2013. (Photo: ABC 33/40 Birmingham)
Some fans, many not actually graduates from the schools that they support, claim to be diehards. Some may attend every home game, or every "big game," but eventually miss the action in person once or twice. Alabama fan Dick Coffee was unlike any other fan. He attended 781 consecutive Alabama Crimson Tide games - home and away - and 51 consecutive bowl games. AL.com reported that Coffee died last week at the age of 91, his last in-person memory of the Tide being their 42-14 walkover against Notre Dame.
Coffee's streak began in 1946 when he was a freshman at Alabama and saw the Tide beat Furman 26-7 in the season-opener. Coffee would've seen more Alabama games if he had started school at Alabama when he was 18 and didn't serve in World War II.
“He was a great American and a great Alabama fan,” Oakley Melton, who became friends with Coffee in 1946 at Alabama, told AL.com. “There’s never been anyone greater. He would go if it was raining, snowing, sleeting. Dick Coffee would be there, and his record was unblemished."
Coffee began to receive some nationwide attention for his fandom. ESPN named Coffee the No. 1 college football superfan in 2010.
Among the 781 games he attended, 65 of them were Iron Bowls. But if it weren't for Coffee and Melton, there might not be the yearly "Iron Bowl" rivalry game between Alabama and Auburn. The teams had stopped playing after a disputed result in 1907, and Southerners aren't really known for forgetting grudges very easily.
“Dick and I worked from 1946 to ’48 trying to get the professors and presidents and everybody on both campuses to resume the relationship,” Melton said, per AL.com. “He was instrumental in getting that done.
“Dick and I both worked on a committee from the University of Alabama. Auburn had a student committee working on their administrators and professional people over there, and finally the two presidents had a secret meeting at the University of Alabama farm in Coosa County. They both shook hands on it and agreed to resume the series.
“Dick Coffee was a major reason for the resumption of that relationship.”
According to AL.com, Coffee's record is only the second-longest streak. University of Southern California ultra-fan Giles Pellerin attended 797 consecutive Trojans games, starting in 1926, and holds the Guinness record for his streak. Pellerin died in 1998 while attending a USC-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl.
Even though USC won this title over Alabama, I'm sure the Tide fans will claim it for themselves. Alabama football just won't be the same without Dick Coffee.